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New state water regs cause angst on all sides

 •  by Lois Henry
A truck crosses over Lokern Road above the California Aqueduct on a stormy April 6, 2020. Credit: Lois Henry

A new set of water regulations aimed at protecting California’s native fish came down from the state earlier this week to near universal condemnation from both agricultural and environmental water folks.

The regulations are contained in a 143-page “incidental take permit” issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that lays out when  — and how much —  water can be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by the State Water Project.

Agricultural contractors who get water from the project fear they could lose up to 300,000 acre feet a year under the new permit.

Environmentalists say the permit gives a “free pass” to pumpers and is a path to extinction for native fish.

For Central Valley water users, the new regulations come as they’re already struggling to reconcile excessive groundwater pumping with dwindling surface supplies.

“Our concern is, if (state and federal water users) are, collectively not meeting delta requirements under this permit, the State Water Contractors will have to make up for the federal side, making our deliveries worse,” said Jason Gianquinto, General Manager of the Semitropic Water Storage District in northwestern Kern County.

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