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Voluntary Agreements Natural Resources Agency

Governor Gavin Newsom has always expressed support for the success of voluntary agreements as a way forward in the Sacramento San Joaquin Bay Delta. The California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency recently called voluntary collaborative agreements a “Game Changer” for the environment. We are in complete agreement and we are ready to bring proactive decision makers to the table for water management in the delta and its tributaries. When voluntary agreements are reached, a partnership will be reached with environmental groups, water authorities and governments in all legal systems. These assets would be accompanied by additional water blocks for operating currents, funding from the local water agency for water acquisition and more than $260 million to fund additional scientific and restoration efforts. The proposal also includes a comprehensive scientific program and a structured decision-making process to guide implementation to achieve results. Voluntary agreements are unprecedented. Water authorities have pledged to contribute hundreds of thousands of hectares of water, hundreds of millions of dollars and a wide range of measures to restore habitat to restore and improve fish and wildlife habitat. These commitments will help connect streams to historic flood zones, including salmon, steelheads, ducks, geese, giant-necked snakes and many other species. This enhanced cooperation creates the necessary conditions for the extension of existing habitat restoration work. These projects include the restoration of wetlands in the Bay Delta and the Central Valley, which provides more habitat as a critical part of the Pacific Flyway.

Meanwhile, members of the Association of California Water Agencies are leading salmon recovery efforts in tributaries of Delta Bay, such as the Yuba River in Northern California and Butte Creek. Nearby, a 19-stakeholder partnership plans to flood farmland and connect it to the Yolo bypass and the Sacramento River by waterways. The results of pilot projects to restore seasonal flood zones have already yielded exciting results. While water authorities in the major watersheds of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin River – from Fresno to Redding – are using the voluntary agreement as a means of ensuring practical and reasonable compliance with national water quality rules, the idea of voluntary agreements is controversial. This is an alternative to a normative regulatory policy, which is causing concern among environmentalists and government regulators responsible for enforcing water quality in the delta. But many water users and some non-governmental organizations see them as a viable compromise that can improve fish conditions more flexibly. The package presented today is the result of further discussions in the last six weeks since Governor Gavin Newsom took office. It contains a description of the project that could mention resources and measures to support environmental and biological objectives, as well as a planning agreement that sets out an approach and conditions for the implementation of future additional work.