[env-trinity] State Water Board Ruling - Modesto Bee

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Feb 21 16:23:01 PST 2006

Board orders enforcement of delta salt limits; Agencies told to meet rules
or face fines and shutdown of pumps

Modesto Bee - 2/20/06

By Juliana Barbassa, staff writer


SAN FRANCISCO - Regulations on salt levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta must be enforced, even if it means cutting back on water pumped to
Southern California and to Central Valley farm fields, water regulators


Wednesday's order marked the first time the California Water Resources Board
has taken a firm stand enforcing salt levels in the delta, which first were
discussed almost 25 years ago. 


The agency ordered federal and state agencies drawing water from the
environmentally troubled region to meet water quality requirements or face
fines and a possible shutdown of their pumps. 


The state and federal water projects contribute to the degradation of the
delta's water by sucking out water, decreasing circulation and hurting fish
populations, as well as farmers in the region, said activists who applauded
the move. 


Stopping pumps to LA? 


"It's a historic decision," said Bill Jennings, a water-quality advocate who
heads the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "The state board,
having been reasonable for 25 years, in exasperation decided to finally
enforce the law." 


The decision requires the agencies operating the pumps to tell the board
when they expect delta water to exceed the salt standard and to draw up a
plan to resolve the problem, which could include letting more water out of
reservoirs and into the delta, or stopping the pumps that deliver water as
far south as Los Angeles. 


Representatives of the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the state's
Department of Water Resources, the two agencies told to comply with the
salinity standards, said the order was not fair. 


"They're putting the burden of maintaining water quality on the southeastern
corner of the delta on our shoulders, when much of the degradation is beyond
our control," said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Jeff McCracken. 


Cities such as Tracy and Manteca release waste water into the delta,
contributing to pollution and salt concentration, he said. State and federal
pumps help keep the water fresh by keeping the water moving and fighting
stagnation that contributes to salinity in some areas, McCracken said. 


"We're really disappointed with this decision," said Jerry Johns, deputy
director of the state's Department of Water Resources. "We don't affect
water quality much with our export pumps, but they're saying that it's
totally the responsibility of these two projects." 


Delta farmers applaud move 


This decision comes one week after a state appellate court issued a complex
ruling ordering the water board to uphold water-quality standards in the San
Joaquin River, one of the waterways leading to the delta, so conditions
would be more appropriate for salmon. 


Farmers further south in the Central Valley might see access to water
curtailed in very dry years because of this action, but farmers toiling on
the delta's peat soil said it was about time the state board stepped in to
protect their water. 


Delta farmers who irrigate asparagus, corn and other crops with water from
nearby channels have suffered during dry years, when little freshwater
flushes out the maze of channels and the salt content increases. 


"The water we get now is nowhere near what we got before these projects
messed everything up," said John Herrick, attorney for the South Delta Water
Agency, which includes 150,000 acres of mostly agricultural land. "In times
of drought, it becomes a serious problem, and you can see areas where crops
are damaged or destroyed because salinity levels are so high." 


The board's decision can be appealed within 30 days. The agencies operating
the pumps are considering their options and might appeal.



Byron Leydecker

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Advisor, California Trout, Inc

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org





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