California Water Research has filed a Public Records Act request to the State Water Resources Control Board, requesting that the Board disclose Ex Parte communications with the Governor’s office and the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) to the WaterFix Hearing parties.
Communications regarding the WaterFix hearing, or permit terms for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, are requested, according to a news release from California Water Research.
California Water Research’s principal, Deirdre Des Jardins, stated, “the issue of providing increased flows to restore the Sacramento Delta estuary has become extremely politicized. The Board’s WaterFix Water Right Change Petition hearing is a quasi-judicial process and there needs to be better transparency.”
California Water Research has requested a continuance of the WaterFix hearing until the documents are produced and any Ex Parte issues that are uncovered are resolved. The motion, filed in the WaterFix Hearing, states in part,
“California Water Research recently ran across the February 11, 2016 Hearing Officers ruling that communications about any issues concerning the WaterFix” relevant to the Phase 2 update of the Bay-Delta planning process would be consistent with the Ex Parte rule:
We acknowledge the concerns raised by some of the parties regarding how application of the prohibition against ex parte communications in this proceeding could restrict otherwise permissible communications in the Bay-Delta planning process. At this time, it is not clear to what extent, if any, issues concerning the WaterFix will be relevant in the larger planning process. If this becomes a problem as Phase 2 progresses, the State Water Board will reach out to stakeholders and parties and determine the best way to allow any necessary open dialogue in the planning arena consistent with the ex parte rule applicable to the WaterFix hearing. (February 11, 2016 Hearing ruling, p. 5, underlining added.)
While the Phase 2 Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update (“Phase 2 update”) is not considering the WaterFix, the Phase 2 update is considering amendment of the permits of the SWP and CVP, which has significant overlap with the Board’s consideration of adoption of “appropriate Delta flow criteria” in the WaterFix Water Right Change Petition hearing (“WaterFix hearing”.)
The State Water Resources Control Board has not, to date, reached out to WaterFix hearing parties and stakeholders to “determine the best way to allow any necessary open dialogue in the planning arena consistent with the ex parte rule applicable to the WaterFix hearing,” nor has the Board disclosed any Ex Parte communications regarding proposed permit terms for the SWP and CVP to the WaterFix hearing parties. Ex Parte issues regarding parallel processes should be addressed and resolved before the WaterFix hearing proceeds.
To allow WaterFix hearing parties the chance to resolve any Ex Parte issues that are uncovered, California Water Research hereby moves that the Hearing Officers continue the hearing until Ex Parte correspondence and documents in the attached document, “Public Records Act request for Ex Parte communications by other agencies” is produced. (This continuance motion is moot if the stay requested by Save the California Delta Alliance and Sacramento County et. al. is granted.)