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No Water for You

Water is once again scarce in California

California drought – this picture depicts any number of lakes, streams or waterways in California.  Photo:Associated Press

The parable of prodigal water regulators has become like Groundhog Day in California. But there was hope that this time might be different. Last month the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board—an arm of the state Environmental Protection Agency responsible for regulating water rights and quality—to allow delta pump operators to export more water south during heavy inflows. The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources sought to double the maximum pumping levels to a third of their capacity. They suggested that operators could ease up on pumping if salmon or smelt were found caught in the pumps. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service even concurred that higher pumping would not jeopardize endangered species.

Yet then the story followed the predictable pattern. The Natural Resources Defense Council sent a letter to State Water Resources Control Board executive director Tom Howard decrying the agencies’ proposal as “biologically unjustified” and “not being in the public interest.” Citing a “potential additional risk of entrainment” of fish, Mr. Howard rejected the request to pump more water south.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Rep. Jim Costa and five House Republicans this week importuned the five-member State Water Resources Control Board to overrule their executive director. While they’re deliberating, Governor Jerry Brown ought to deplore Mr. Howard’s failure to serve the human public interest as much as he does Californians who waste water.

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