The Biden administration’s environmental justice office is launching an investigation into claims that California’s water agency has disproportionately affected Native Americans and people of color by failing to safeguard water quality in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Complaint and Concerns
- Triggered by a complaint filed by tribes and environmental justice groups, the investigation revolves around the water board’s alleged neglect of its statutory duty to update water quality standards in the Bay Delta region over more than a decade.
- The complainants assert that the water board’s actions have led to an environmental crisis that disproportionately affects communities of color, especially Native tribes.
- The groups also claim that local Native Tribes, as well as Black, Asian, and Latino residents, have been systematically excluded from the policymaking process linked to the Bay-Delta Plan.
State’s Response and EPA’s Decision
- The California State Water Board intends to fully cooperate with the investigation and maintains its belief that it has acted appropriately.
The tweet below verifies the news:
Breaking: The Biden administration’s environmental justice office is investigating whether California’s water agency has discriminated against Native Americans and other people of color https://t.co/rYbtcwwXBu
— CalMatters (@CalMatters) August 10, 2023
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will evaluate whether the water board’s actions violate civil rights. The EPA’s decision to investigate follows as the water board prepares a staff report for updating the Bay Delta’s water quality plan.
Significance and Cultural Impact
- The Bay Delta watershed plays a crucial role in California’s water supply, serving millions of residents and vast acres of farmland. Its deterioration has led to ecological decline and endangered species.
- The impact reaches far beyond environmental issues, affecting Native tribes’ cultural practices, community well-being, and recreational activities for people of color.
Path Forward and Resolution
- While the investigation proceeds, both sides have an opportunity to engage in resolving the issue informally. The EPA is set to release its findings within six months unless an alternative agreement is reached.
- The case highlights the complex nexus of water management, environmental justice, cultural preservation, and civil rights concerns.
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