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Climate and Environment

Newsom Suspends Delta Flow Rules, Environmentalists Push Back

A yellow sedan travels on a two-lane road over a levee with marshland on both sides.
A levee road in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, west of Stockton.
(David McNew
Getty Images)
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In order to meet agricultural needs, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to suspend some environmental rules protecting wildlife in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Environmentalists say it’s a death sentence for endangered fish species.

Why it matters

The governor’s order would temporarily reduce water outflow and store it for agricultural use in future dry months. But current flow standards are important for native fish and wildlife, who need a certain level of salinity to survive.

Why now

California is experiencing extreme shifts — most recently, a relatively dry February following a rain-soaked January. During the January storm season, Newsom faced criticism that excess water was being wasted when it flowed out of reservoirs. Suspending environmental rules would prioritize water supply for farmers and urban use in California’s unpredictable climate.

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What environmentalists are saying

Minimum flow requirements maintain a healthy Delta ecosystem. Modifying the rules would mean impacting delta smelt, which are considered threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the order “will not result in unreasonable impacts to fish and wildlife.”

What's next

Water board officials “are reviewing the request carefully, in coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife,” with a decision expected “within the next week,” according to an emailed statement to CalMatters.

Listen to the conversation

Our LAist 89.3 talk show AirTalk spoke to Jennifer Pierre, General Manager for the State Water Contractors (SWC), and Doug Obegi, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Listen: Delta rules waved
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