[env-trinity] ESTUARY NEWSLETTER ARTICLE: WATERWARS "Whither Trinity's Flows?"

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Tue Apr 19 17:21:20 PDT 2005


 

Article Courtesy of the ESTUARY NEWSLETTER

Written by Kristi Coale  

 

WATERWARS 

 

"Whither Trinity's Flows?"

 

Two salient facts about the Central Valley Project contracts stick in
Tom Stokely's craw. The first is that 314,000 acres of the farmland
belonging to contractors south of the Delta are waterlogged and salty,
or well on their way to being unable to grow crops. Second, if these
drenched, salt poisoned lands were to be officially retired (some are
already dormant), the water that could be saved would amount to as much
as one-half to three-quarters of a million acre-feet-water that could be
put to other uses, such as flows for Trinity River fish.

 

But in the new CVP contracts, the same amount of water is still being
promised to irrigation districts, says Trinity County's Stokely, despite
the fact that so much of their land is unusable. In some cases, they are
being promised even more water although they have less land needing the
water. And that has Stokely suspecting other motives are in play. 

 

"We believe the contracts and other proposals to send more water south
are predicated on emptying out the reservoirs every fall. When winter
comes they will fill up but not to overflowing [overflows would make
water available for fish]," explains Stokely. "That's their plan for
getting more water, but the rivers and the fish don't function on this
schedule."

 

At the heart of the CVP contract renewals is the fact that BurRec has
been using two sets of numbers to project contract water deliveries. In
a document submitted to fisheries agencies to determine the impact of
the CVP contracts on wildlife, delivery estimates for south of the Delta
contractors hover at a very conservative level of between 58% and 61% of
contracted amounts. But in documents on projected contract deliveries
submitted to CVP contractors, the picture is rosier: deliveries to
irrigation and water districts for their contract amounts will be
steadily ramped up, with contractors to receive 90% of their water by
2021 and 100% by 2026. 

 

In January, BurRec acknowledged this discrepancy. At the same time, when
pressed about where it would come up with the water to meet these
delivery projections in the future when it also has to uphold the
800,000 acre-feet for fish under the Central Valley Project Improvement
Act and other requirements, the agency said it was "studying ways to get
the water."

 

In February, amid little fanfare, Westlands Water District announced it
was no longer pursuing its appeal of the July 2004 Ninth Circuit Court
decision reinstating the Trinity River Record of Decision (ROD),
bringing annual releases in the range of 340,000 to 815,000 acre-feet
back to the Trinity. Since the 1960s when the federal government built
dams on the Trinity, 90% of the river's flows have been diverted to the
CVP. Westlands spokesman Tupper Hull confirmed that the district is
collaborating with the BurRec and California water officials to find a
source other than Trinity to make up its water needs.

 

Between the water needed to comply with the CVPIA and other laws and the
loss of as much of 815,000 acre-feet annually to the Trinity restoration
efforts, BurRec could need to find as much as 1.5 million acre-feet of
water to fulfill its promised delivery levels. Where is this water to
come from? Mike Orcutt of the Hoopa Valley Tribe worries that the CVP
contract renewal process and other plans in the works to get more water
through the Delta pumps could be used to circumvent the Trinity ROD by
draining Lewiston Dam. "Whatever [Westlands] perceives to have lost in
Trinity, they've gained back with CALFED, water tie-ins, and then with
CVP contracts and Napa," he says.

 

Orcutt says the Hoopa and other Trinity officials have requested that
language be put into the CVP contracts reaffirming the Trinity ROD as
the law and stating that the river has primary consideration. 

 

Hull says Trinity River officials have little to worry about from
Westlands, that it is making up for its lost water by sharing resources
between the State Water Project and the CVP. "It's not new water, and
it's not coming out of anybody's allotment," he explains.

 

Bunk, says Trinity's Stokely. "The Trinity is tied into everything."

 

Contact: Mike Orcutt (530)625-4267, ext. 13; Tom Stokely (530)628-5949
KC 

 

 

Potential Water Savings Associated with Retirement of Drainage-Impacted
CVP Land* 

 

 

Acres

Acres Requiring Drainage 

Service

% of District Requiring Drainage Service

Max CVP Contract Amount (AF)

Max CVP Contract Water Savings (AF)

2002 CVP Contract Deliveries (AF)

2002 CVP Water Savings (AF)

Broadview Water District

9,515

9,515

100.00%

27,000

27,000

18,588

18,588

Panoche Water District

39,292

27,000

68.72%

94,000

64,593

66,743

45,863

Westlands Water District

604,000

298,000

49.34%

1,154,198

569,455

776,631

383,172

Eagle Field

1,438

1,435

99.82%

4,550

4,542

2,869

2,864

Mercy Springs

3,589

2,417

67.35%

2,842

1,914

4,679

3,151

Oro Loma

1,095

1,095

100%

     4,600

4,600

3,173

3,173

Widren

881

881

100%

2,990

2,990

2,094

2,094

Firebaugh

23,457

23,457

100%

85,000

85,000

85,000

85,000

Cent. Cal ID

149,825

4,951

3.30%

532,400

17,569

532,400

17,569

Charleston Drainage District (portion of San Luis WD with drainage
problems)

4,314

3,000

69.54%

8,130

5,654

Not avail 

Not avail 

Pacheco Water District

5,175

5,000

96.62%

10,080

9,739

7,137

6,896

Total

842,581 

376,751 

NA 

1,925,790 

793,056

1,499,314

568,370

 

*From comments by the Trinity County Board of supervisors on the
EA/Draft FONSI for the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency's long term
CVP contract.

 

 

 

 

 

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