Voluntary Agreements California

“Voluntary agreements remain the best opportunity to address the common and non-river factors that affect our native fish and we call on public and federal authorities to continue to commit to a negotiated solution despite the State of California`s complaint,” the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts said in a joint statement on Feb. 24. The statement says that while both districts sued the state, “it hasn`t stopped us or the state from negotiating in good faith [and] we don`t see why the federal government and the state of California can`t do the same.” But finding a balance between the unassured current requirements of the State Water Board`s bay-delta water quality update and the alternative of flow obligations under voluntary agreements is not a fait accompli. Implementing unassured rivers — essentially maintaining more fresh water in rivers — to meet delta water quality standards requires a separate process of changing water rights to determine who emits how much water. The plan would reach large communities, including many urban areas. Michael Carlin, deputy chief executive of the San Francisco Utilities Commission, which buys water from the Sierra-fed Tuolumne River, said a comprehensive voluntary agreement plan for the Sacramento and San Joaquín watersheds requires many individual agreements — a comprehensive process that takes months to clear up. “This conflict, if it continues, will not only reduce water supply, just as drought could return to California, but also block the successful negotiation of voluntary agreements to meet Delta`s water quality requirements, which we support,” they wrote on April 15. Yet no one said that it would be easy to get interest groups with sometimes very divergent views – and some, such as farmers, whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on water – to reach a consensus on how to deal with the water quality and habitat needs of the delta basin. Added to the complications is the delta`s role as a switching yard for water exports, which serves vast areas of the state as far as San Diego, more than 500 miles away. .

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