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Comment Letter – Sacramento/Delta Draft Staff Report

Dear Chair Esquivel and Board Members:

I am writing on behalf of the members of the California Farm Water Coalition (Coalition) to express our support for the alternative proposal, the “Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes,” to the SWRCB staff recommendation for unimpaired flows. This alternative is a more promising avenue for achieving a balanced and sustainable water management strategy for California.

First, we support the emphasis on collaboration over regulation in these agreements. Unlike the more rigid mandates proposed by the Board’s staff, these agreements encourage stakeholders to work together, fostering shared responsibility. This approach promotes inclusivity and cooperation, providing a platform for finding solutions that meet both environmental needs and the requirements of the agricultural sector.

Second, the focus on innovation and investment in water infrastructure is noteworthy. Active participation in decision-making encourages participants, including farmers and environmental advocates, to invest in modern and efficient water technologies. This collaborative approach stimulates the development and implementation of cutting-edge solutions, enhancing water use efficiency and minimizing environmental impact. Third, the path outlined in these agreements allows for adaptive management, acknowledging the dynamic nature of California’s water needs influenced by factors such as climate uncertainties and population growth. The flexibility to adjust strategies in response to evolving conditions ensures that water management practices remain effective in the face of changing circumstances, contributing to long-term sustainability and resilience.

Moreover, the recognition of local expertise in the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes is commendable. Leveraging the unique insights of communities and industries across California enables the development of region-specific strategies, fostering a more nuanced and effective approach to water management.

While the Coalition acknowledges the State Water Resources Control Board staff’s recommendation for minimum flow standards aims to address significant challenges, we believe that the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes present a more holistic and promising option. Through collaboration, adaptability, innovation, and local engagement, this path respects the diverse needs of California’s communities and ecosystems. It is our sincere hope that the Board considers these comments in the pursuit of sustainable water management for the Golden State.

The Coalition appreciates the Water Board’s diligence and attention to this critical matter. It is clear that a one-size fits all strategy is not the answer to California’s diverse water supply and ecosystem challenges. With many examples of successful collaborative efforts by public water agencies, farmers, State and federal agencies, and members of the conservation community, we urge the Board to adopt the Agreements to Support Healthy Rivers and Landscapes option. It is faster, smarter, and will be more effective than a flows-only alternative.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments.