The State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) has given notice of its public informational proceeding necessary to begin developing the flow criteria for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (“Delta”) ecosystem as directed by Senate Bill No. 1 of the 2009-2010 Seventh Extraordinary Session (2009 Cal. Stat. (7th Ex. Sess.), ch. 5, § 39) (“SB 1”).

As part of the State’s historic water legislation package enacted on November 12, 2009, SB 1 directs the Water Board to develop new flow criteria for the Delta ecosystem necessary to protect public trust resources. (See the November 9, 2009 client alert and past webinar materials on the Water Deal of 2009 and Land Use Implications.)

SB 1 adds the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009 (“Act”) to the Water Code. Section 39 of the Act establishes Water Code § 85086, which directs the Water Board to develop the new flow criteria. The Act is the legislative response and recognition of the crisis in the Delta and California’s water supply collapse.

SB 1 requires development, adoption and commencement of implementation of a “Delta Plan” by January 1, 2012. SB 1 also requires consideration of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (“BDCP”) for inclusion in the Delta Plan. One of the conditions of including the BDCP in the Delta Plan is an analysis of flows necessary for ecosystem recovery and restoring fisheries.

The Water Board must develop the new flow criteria within nine months of enactment of SB 1. The flow criteria will need to “include the volume, quantity and timing of water necessary for the Delta ecosystem under different conditions.” Consequently, the Water Board must develop flow criteria for different hydrological conditions and seasons.

The flow criteria must be established through review of existing water quality objectives and the use of the best scientific information. Given the controversy on what is the best scientific information, this requirement alone is likely to result in serious debate during the scheduled informational hearings. The informational hearings will commence on March 22 and continue the following days if necessary.

For more information on these proceedings, click here.