U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman says she’d like to see more cooperation from California officials as talks aim to resolve a legal dispute over competing biological opinions governing the management of their respective water projects.
The talks are proceeding after Gov. Gavin Newsom filed suit in February to nullify new federal opinions that would ease restrictions on surface water for San Joaquin Valley growers.
The federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project “are so intertwined” and their officials have worked together for decades, but “I would just like to see more cooperation from the state,” Burman told Western Farm Press.
“I always want to see a collaborative solution” reached, said Burman, who was interviewed as she and U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt were visiting farms in the Klamath Basin on July 9.
Her comments came after California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said in June that “there is strong potential” for an agreement soon.
“There are some clear differences … in state and federal approach, but the men and women that do the work operating the system work really closely together,” Crowfoot told the State Board of Food and Agriculture. “They all wake up every morning wanting to maximize water reliability but also to avoid extinction of fish.”
State officials argue that new federal conclusions affecting water operations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are not scientifically adequate and fall short of protecting species. The new federal opinions were introduced in October and ratified by President Donald Trump in Bakersfield earlier this year.
California water regulators in November announced plans to use their own data to operate the SWP rather than rely on the federal opinions. Burman’s sentiments echo those of farm groups that have been pushing for Newsom to work with the federal government on water deliveries.