Legislature Invites Professor Frank to Speak on Water Board's Plan for Delta

On April 5, Professor Rick Frank testified before the California State Assembly’s Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife at the request of the State Legislature. 

Frank’s testimony focused on AB 2639 (Quirk), a bill that would set a statutory deadline of Dec. 31, 2023 for the State Water Resources Control Board to update its Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. AB 2639 further provides that if the water board fails to do so on a timely basis, a moratorium shall be placed on new -- or extensions of existing -- water rights permits until the water board completes its plan update.

AB 2639 is, along with two other pending bills in the current legislative session, the result of a background report and policy recommendations that Frank and other water law experts formulated over the past nine months and submitted to the Legislature and Gov. Newsom in February.  The group’s proposals are designed to modernize California’s outdated water rights and water quality laws.

In his testimony, Frank noted that the water board’s “Bay-Delta Plan” was most recently issued in 1995—more than a quarter century ago; that climate change, increased drought conditions and a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in dire ecological crisis all demonstrate that the board’s 1995 Bay-Delta Plan is hopelessly outdated and obsolete; that the water board has a legal obligation under both state law and the federal Clean Water Act to periodically update California’s water quality plans; and that the state’s failure to do so for more than a quarter century “represents an unacceptable public policy failure.”

Following Frank’s testimony, the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife passed AB 2639 out of committee.  The bill’s ultimate fate remains uncertain, however.

Richard M. Frank ’74 is a leader in the field of environmental law, Professor of Environmental Practice and the founding director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at UC Davis School of Law.

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