California News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Conservation groups are urging the state to better protect California’s wetlands in the face of imminent rollbacks by the Trump administration.
The State Water Resources Control Board has been working on a new wetlands policy for more than a decade, but has not yet released a final draft. Rachel Zwillinger, water policy adviser for the nonprofit group Defenders of Wildlife, says she hopes incoming Governor Gavin Newsom will make this a priority.
“The work has been done on the policy,” says Zwillinger. “And it’s ready to go. And so, this could be a bold first or very early move to protect California’s resources from federal rollbacks. And then, it would be a big win for anybody who cares about water quality and wildlife. ”
Ailene Voisin, spokesperson for the State Water Resources Board, says the agency is finalizing the last few details and should release the policy for public comment in early 2019. The feds recently announced a plan to strip federal Clean Water Act protections from some non-navigable waterways, including vernal pools, desert springs, oases, playas and washes.
Zwillinger says some regional water boards have allowed wetlands to be destroyed in recent years to make way for more housing developments and agriculture, so statewide guidance is critical.
“There are really important wetlands throughout the state and in the Central Valley in particular they are really important for migratory birds and other wildife,” says Zwillinger.
California has already lost 90 percent of its historical wetlands, which help filter the water supply, recharge aquifers and serve as habitat for important plant and animal species.