A plan intended, at least in part, to resolve decades of water conflict in the Delta has instead spawned a flood of lawsuits, with at least five separate suits filed against the plan in recent days.
The Delta Plan, as it is known, was required by 2009 state legislation, which also created the Delta Stewardship Council, the organization that adopted the plan on May 16.
Environmental groups, local organizations and water users have filed at least five lawsuits in recent days against the plan. They claim, among other things, that the plan fails to satisfy the legal requirements laid out for it and also violates the California Environmental Quality Act.
"We have different goals, we have different statutes that were (allegedly) violated," said Mike Jackson, an attorney representing three environmental groups in one lawsuit. "We all recognize the incomplete nature of the work done by the Delta Stewardship Council."
The Delta Plan took three years to complete and involved nearly 100 public meetings. It includes 14 policies that have the force of law, and 73 additional recommendations.
The plan is different from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the program in which Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to build two giant water diversion tunnels on the Sacramento River. But the Delta Plan creates a kind of framework within which the tunnels must operate, if that $24 billion project is eventually built.
Jackson and others allege that the Delta Plan fails in key respects to meet its legal mandate. One he noted is that it does not lay out clearly enforceable criteria by which the state will reduce reliance on Delta water supplies, one of the foremost requirements of the 2009 law. He represents Restore the Delta, AquAlliance and the California Water Impact Network.
Lawsuits were also filed by Delta water diverters, including Westlands Water District and the State Water Contractors. The latter group also alleges the Delta Plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act, but says the council went too far in its measures to reduce reliance on Delta water supplies.
"As it currently stands, the Delta Stewardship Council's Delta Plan goes well beyond its intended scope," Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors, said in a statement.
Other lawsuits were filed by a local group in Contra Costa County and by water agencies that serve farmers in the Delta.