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STATE WATER BOARD SETS HEARING ON INTERIM DELTA STANDARDS

 STATE WATER BOARD SETS HEARING ON INTERIM DELTA STANDARDS
 SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Responding to Gov. Wilson's call for immediate measures to reverse the continuing decline of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Estuary (Delta), the State Water Resources Control Board has initiated a process to adopt interim measures for Delta protection by the end of 1992. The first stage of this process will begin on June 22, with a hearing for the board to receive testimony on the range of actions necessary to improve the Delta's ecosystem.
 "In this hearing, the State Water Board will focus on steps necessary to be taken immediately to better protect the public trust resources of the Delta," said W. Don Maughan, chairman of the State Water Board. "At the same time, the board will work to minimize the effects of these actions on water exports and water users upstream of the Delta."
 Chairman Maughan further stated: "The board will also establish this year the long-term goals for use of the waters of the Bay/Delta Estuary. We will be seeking information from interested parties at this hearing on criteria to guide our short-term actions and long-term goals. The long-term goals will help evaluate the water management alternatives for Bay/Delta waters."
 James M. Strock, secretary for Environmental Protection stated: "In his speech on April 5, Gov. Wilson made it extremely clear that a healthy Delta is absolutely critical to the well-being of all California. I cannot overemphasize the importance of the Water Board establishing, by the end of this year, measures to begin restoring the health of this vital ecosystem, while long-term measures are being assessed and put into place." Secretary Strock continued: "We must act this year both to fulfill the governor's request and to avoid the risk of a federal effort to impose the decision from afar."
 The hearing will open Monday, June 22, at 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the Resources Building, 1416 Ninth St, Sacramento. Additional hearing dates have been scheduled for June 23 (Resources Building Auditorium), July 6-10, July 15, and July 20-23. The July meetings are scheduled for the first floor hearing room of the Paul R. Bonderson building, (State Water Resources Control Board) 901 P Street, Sacramento. Background
 In 1987 the State Water Board began a process to update the water quality standards, flow requirements and operational criteria constraints necessary to protect the beneficial uses of the Delta. The ones now in force were adopted in 1978.
 Progress in updating these standards has been slow. New salinity and temperature standards for the Delta were adopted by the State Water Board in 1991. Parts of these standards were subsequently disapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency which could promulgate federal water quality standards for the Delta if the interim standards and long-term goals do not satisfy federal Clean Water Act requirements.
 The State Water Board had hoped to complete a final water right decision for the Delta this year. However, this decision will be postponed, pending the completion of the environmental analyses for new water management measures and facilities for the Delta.
 Monitoring data indicate that some of the public trust resources, notably the striped bass and natural salmon populations of the Delta, have declined. Additionally, declines in populations of the Delta smelt and other resident species have been noted. The board's action to complete the process for interim requirements responds to the immediate need to halt the decline and increase the protection of these public trust resources, until long-term measures can be developed and implemented.
 SETTING INTERIM STANDARDS FOR THE DELTA:
 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
 Q. What is the Water Resources Control Board?
 A. The State Water Board, created by the California Legislature in 1967, consists of five, full-time salaried members, each filling a different specialty position. Board members are appointed to four-year terms by the governor and confirmed by the senate. This board is charged with allocating rights to California's surface waters and protecting water quality.
 Three board members were appointed by Gov. Deukmejian. Chairman W. Don Maughan, Vice Chairman Eliseo M. Samaniego and Member John Caffrey. All reside in Sacramento. Marc Del Piero of Monterey and James M. Stubchaer of Santa Barbara are Gov. Wilson's appointees. Maughan and Stubchaer are civil engineers; Del Piero is an attorney; Caffrey has expertise in water quality issues and Samaniego is the public member.
 Q. Where does the board get its authority to set interim standards for the Delta?
 A. The board's authority is founded on several statutes and court decisions, including the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the California Constitution, Article X, Section 2 and several Water Code sections which allow the board to condition water rights. The board also has continuing authority to condition water rights under the public trust doctrine. The board has reserved jurisdiction to add specific terms and conditions to those water right permits held by the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project and recent Delta watershed appropriators since about 1965.
 Q. Could interim protective standards for the Delta mean less water for export?
 A. The State Water Board is prepared to set interim standards, not long-term standards. For the short haul, there could well be some modification to the current operations of the state and federal water projects, the two major water exporters. Such modification would not necessarily mean less water for export. Although there is much speculation now circulating on this issue, the State Water Board will need to look at evidence presented at this hearing to decide what is reasonable and workable for all Delta water users.
 Q. What actions could the State Water Board take following this hearing?
 A. Actions will depend on the evidence presented at the hearing. The board could adopt an order or other appropriate document regarding any of the key issues under both its continuing authority and the public trust doctrine. The board could also take action under its reserved jurisdiction in some of the water right permits subject to the hearing notice. Any water right order or other appropriate document would be adopted at a board meeting following the hearing.
 No action will be taken at the hearing itself.
 Q. If the State Water Board is going to take any action regarding the Delta, don't they have to follow the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
 A. Because these proceedings are being undertaken to protect the environment of the Delta and to enforce the provisions mandates of the California Constitution and the public trust doctrine, the State Water Board's adoption of interim requirements enforcing these laws would be exempt from CEQA. CEQA exempts regulatory agencies when such agencies take enforcement actions to protect the environment. It is the board's intent to have interim standards in place by the end of 1992 as Gov. Wilson has urged.
 Q. Why is the State Water Board pursuing interim standards, and why now?
 A. The State Water Board will consider interim standards both to comply with Gov. Wilson's request and to avoid the risk of having the federal government promulgate their own standards under the federal Clean Water Act.
 Q. What is the relationship of this action to the governor's overall policy (including an EIR/EIS) and to the Water Policy Task Force?
 A. As stated earlier, the State Water Board is acting in compliance with the request of Gov. Wilson in his water policy statement. Furthermore, the chairman of the State Water Board serves as a member of the Water Policy Task Force. In that capacity, he took part in the discussions and the development of recommendations to the governor regarding the overall water policy of which interim standards are a part.
 -0- 5/13/92
 /CONTACT: Fran Vitulli of State Water Resources Control Board, 916-657-2390/ CO: State Water Resources Control Board ST: California IN: SU:


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