As California continues an epic regulatory effort to reallocate water supplies for salmon habitat, an equally big question looms over the process: How much water do salmon and other native fish really need? The question is at the core of a process led by the State Water Resources Control Board to take water from existing human uses – both agriculture and urban – and rededicate it to instream environmental flows in the San Joaquin River, the state’s second-largest river.
Archive for date: October 2nd, 2017
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Last week, President Trump’s Department of the Interior decided to exempt itself and the California State Water Project from rules protecting threatened native fish and their critical habitat in the Bay-Delta estuary. These rules are called “Fall X2,” and they require maintaining freshwater habitat in the Delta further west in wet years like 2017, when water is abundant. Right now, a request is pending with the State of California to join with Trump in weakening these rules. In 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) concluded that, “The Fall X2 action is expected to be fully implemented in future years.
The Bay Area imports most of its water and relies on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and its tributaries for about 70 percent of its supply. Those supplies face an uncertain future as a changing climate shrinks the Sierra snowpack and raises sea levels, and a declining ecosystem results in further restrictions — all while the Bay Area’s population and economy continue to grow. The stark reality is that 25 million people and 3 million acres of farmland are at risk of losing up to 20 percent of their future water supplies if the status quo continues in the delta.
Dam builders from President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration wanted to bring water to the parched eastern half of the San Joaquin Valley, but first they had to deal with a cluster of landowners whose ancestors had been there since the 1800s. The deal they cut in 1939 paved the way for much of the Central Valley Project, an engineering marvel that helped turn the Valley into one of the world’s most productive farming regions. It has also formed the basis, nearly 80 years later, of a major funding impasse that threatens to unravel California WaterFix.
California’s biggest water project in decades appears to be in limbo after a key irrigation district voted not to help underwrite Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant tunnels that would re-engineer water transport in the state. The no-vote at the Fresno-based Westlands Water District — the largest agricultural water supplier in the U.S. — puts the $17 billion project’s funding on shaky ground. Will other water districts pick up the slack? Other large water agencies considering participating in the project are set to vote soon. Another key player, Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Water District, will vote on October 10.
The pollution coming from the Tijuana region that has fouled the waters and beaches of San Diego County shouldn’t be accepted as the price of living next door to a nation with weaker environmental enforcement than the United States. That’s why area residents should welcome news that the Port of San Diego, Imperial Beach and Chula Vista have filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government for failing to address the problem adequately.
It was a year of plenty for parched California. State figures released at the end of the water year, which resets each Oct. 1, tell the story: The northern Sierra Nevada had its wettest year, 95 inches of precipitation, since record-keeping began in 1895. IN the central Sierra, it was the wettest in more than three decades. The rain at times overwhelmed the state’s water infrastructure, terrifyingly so in Orville.