Will Gavin Newsom change the state’s water course? Fish and farmers will soon find out

In the final weeks of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, his appointees on a state board ordered some powerful water districts to cut their historic river diversions to protect endangered salmon populations.

It was a major move by a panel that in the past has often been leery of flexing its regulatory muscles.

But while the State Water Resources Control Board was demanding more water for fish, other Brown appointees were busy crafting deals that could ultimately mean less water for the environment.

Despite a flurry of activity, Brown is leaving plenty of unfinished water business as he heads to his ranch in the Sacramento Valley.

Brown-backed plans to build two giant water tunnels still need key state permits. The water board is in the midst of adopting new flow standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. Federal agencies are revising Endangered Species Act protections in the delta, the center of California’s vast water system.

After Gavin Newsom moves into the governor’s office, the state’s position could change on all of those initiatives.

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