Newsom Takes Several Executive Actions in Response to Winter Storm Impacts
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to exist in Alameda, Marin, Modoc and Shasta counties resulting from a series of severe winter storms which have resulted in “significant storm-related impacts, including flooding, toppled trees, downed power lines and power outages, damage to commercial and residential structures, roads, and other critical infrastructure.”
States of emergency had previously been proclaimed for 43 other counties (the only counties not presently under a state of emergency are Colusa, Contra Costa, Lassen, Riverside, San Diego, Siskiyou, Solano, Sutter, Tehama, Ventura and Yolo counties). The proclamations activate the California National Guard and tap “All agencies of the state government” to assist in disaster response and relief efforts in the counties designated as suffering a state of emergency.
Governor Newsom on Tuesday also issued a request to President Joe Biden for “a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the emergency response and recovery in the counties of Calaveras, Kern, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Tulare, and Tuolumne,” according to a press release. Newsom’s letter also requests that “U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans and funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Emergency Loan Program” be made available within impacted counties.
As of press time, President Biden had yet to act on the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration request. While an Emergency Declaration was issued on March 10, assistance granted under an Emergency Declaration is narrower than that provided under a Major Disaster Declaration.
Finally, Governor Newsom on Friday issued an executive order to support Tulare Lake Basin flood response. The order suspends statutes relating to lake and streambed alteration and the California Environmental Quality Act within the Tulare Lake Basin “to expedite preparation and recovery efforts” and boosts emergency-response staffing, according to a press release.
BLM Releases Proposed Rule on “Conservation and Landscape Health”
This morning, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a Proposed Rule, titled “Conservation and Landscape Health,” which makes significant changes to the agency’s authority under the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA).
The Proposed Rule would clarify that conservation of land is a “use” within the meaning of FLPMA’s multiple-use mandate. This is concerning in light of historical practice at the BLM: in the 1990s, the agency sought to incorporate conservation use into its grazing regulations as a means to reduce grazing levels throughout the west. In the Proposed Rule published this morning, BLM proposes a “conservation lease” which would allow entities to lease BLM ground for “restoration or land enhancement” or for “mitigation.” While BLM maintains that the Proposed Rule “does not prioritize conservation above other uses [but rather] puts conservation on an equal footing with other uses,” CCA is concerned that the conservation lease “use” could be utilized by the agency to justify further decreases in permitted grazing.
The Proposed Rule would also ramp up identification and designation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). This is in response to a Biden Administration directive that federal agencies incorporate wildlife habitat connectivity into their planning activities, and is primarily concerning because some environmental groups have proposed widespread designation of ACECs to radically restrict management via activities such as grazing.
One potential advantage of the Proposed Rule is that it proposes to apply land health standards to all BLM lands. Currently, BLM only uses land health standards to evaluate grazing permits, and does not apply those standards to other uses. According to CCA partner the Public Lands Council (PLC), “Applying this concept across the landscape will create a more equitable representation of land health and ensure BLM can prioritize funding and resources adequately.”
BLM will accept comments on the Proposed Rule through June 20, and anticipates hosting three in-person meetings across the West in addition to two virtual meetings during the comment period. CCA will work with our partners at PLC to ensure the Proposed Rule does not further restrict grazing access on BLM lands.
Water Allocations Increase Under SWP & CVP as Governor Eases Drought Restrictions
As reported in last week’s Legislative Bulletin, Governor Gavin Newsom late last month issued an Executive Order terminating many of the drought restrictions imposed by his administration in recent years. Not all restrictions have been lifted, though; for instance, orders imposing drought restrictions within the Klamath River basin and Colorado River basin remain in effect, as do the Governor’s emergency orders governing groundwater supplies.
On the day of the Governor’s Executive Order, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reacted to favorable water supply forecasts by announcing that the agency “now expects to deliver 75 percent of requested water supplies [to State Water Project contractors], up from 35 percent announced in February” and the highest allocation since 2017. For more information, see DWR’s press release, here.
On Tuesday, the federal Bureau of Reclamation similarly announced an increase in 2023 water supply allocations delivered to contractors under the Central Valley Project. Irrigation contractors can now expect water deliveries of 80% of their contract totals, a significant increase over the 35% previously announced in February. This is likewise the greatest allocation since 2017, when federal officials were able to deliver 100% of water under Central Valley Project contracts.
Curtailment Orders Rescinded for Russian River Watershed; Curtailment Suspensions Extended in Scott and Shasta River Watersheds
On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced that it had “rescinded all curtailment orders…implementing the drought emergency regulation in the Russian River watershed.” Russian River watershed water rights curtailments were initially imposed in June of 2022; while the curtailments had been suspended in recent months, Wednesday’s order rescinds the curtailment orders within that watershed entirely.
On Thursday, the SWRCB announced that “the temporary suspension of all curtailments in the Scott River watershed is extended through…Friday, April 14” as long as minimum flows of 150 cubic feet per second (cfs) are maintained at the Fort Jones gage.
As reported in last week’s Legislative Bulletin, curtailments within the Shasta River watershed remain temporarily suspended through April 30 so long as minimum flows of 70 cfs are maintained at the Yreka gage. The SWRCB has also suspended its prohibition against “inefficient livestock watering” within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds provided diverters comply with the conditions previously detailed in Legislative Bulletin. For additional details, review the Scott River and Shasta River Watersheds Drought Response webpage.
Previously-reported water rights curtailment suspensions and conditional curtailments remain in effect for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Deer Creek and Mill Creek watersheds.
New Episode of Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast
A New episode of Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast is out now. Tune into this episode to hear an industry update from the California Cattle Council, the work they are funding and key priorities of the Council moving through the rest of the year. To listen to the episode, click here.