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U.S. EPA COMMENTS ON STATE DRAFT BAY/DELTA WATER DECISION

 SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today told the state of California in a comment letter that it supports portions of its draft decision for the San Francisco Bay and Delta estuary, but that more protective standards are needed to protect fish and wildlife in the estuary.
 "In September EPA disapproved the state's water quality standards for the estuary, and as a consequence EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to promptly propose federal standards. The standards now proposed by the state, although significant improvements, would still not be sufficient to protect the ecological health of the estuary," said Daniel W. McGovern, U.S. EPA's regional administrator.
 "However, we also continue to hope that the State Board will render a federal promulgation unnecessary by adopting approvable standards when the board takes its final action. Moreover, if the state were to adopt approvable standards after federal standards were promulgated, the federal standards could be withdrawn," McGovern continued.
 In today's comment letter, U.S. EPA praised the State Water Resources Control Board's proposal to limit exports from the Delta, but said the board should also adopt standards to prevent salinity intrusion into Suisun Bay, the productive nursery for Delta smelt, striped bass, and other fish and wildlife. U.S. EPA also said more protective standards were needed to protect migrating Chinook salmon and the spawning habitat for striped bass in the lower San Joaquin River.
 The board's draft decision, issued Dec. 10 of last year, was the latest product of six years of hearings to revise standards for the estuary, set in 1978. During the last decade, fish populations have plummeted as water exports have increased to cities and farms. The striped bass population has decreased from over 3 million in the mid- 1960s to less than a million today. Several other species, including Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, and Sacramento splittail, have experienced even greater declines, and are now being evaluated under the Endangered Species Act.
 Last spring, Gov. Pete Wilson directed the board to adopt interim standards by the end of the year to stabilize conditions in the estuary. The new standards are meant to be in place for five years until long- term solutions are developed by a newly-created state task force. In today's letter, U.S. EPA said it could not accept another delay before proposing more protective standards.
 Under the Clean Water Act, U.S. EPA must review all state-adopted water quality standards, and it is required to impose its own standards if the state's are inadequate. U.S. EPA disapproved California's water quality standards for the estuary in September 1991, and has been developing federal standards while awaiting the results of the board's latest efforts.
 -0- 1/13/93
 /CONTACT: Lois Grunwald of U.S. EPA, 415-744-1588/


CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ST: California IN: SU: EXE

TM -- SF006 -- 4559 01/13/93 16:27 EST
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Date:Jan 13, 1993
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