[env-trinity] Capitol Press 3 27 09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Mar 27 12:56:08 PDT 2009
Conditions improve, but state reservoirs still below average
Capital Press - 3/27/09
By Tim Hearden
California farmers and ranchers stand a better chance of getting at least
some federal water than they did a month ago.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued its updated allocation forecast March
20, predicting that as much as 15 percent of average agricultural deliveries
may be available for Central Valley Project contractors.
Pete Lucero, the bureau's spokesman in Sacramento, said the allocations
could improve again when the agency issues its next updated allocation
forecast on or about April 20.
"This one just takes into account the March 1 snow surveys and runoff data.
It doesn't take into account this month so far," Lucero said. "We had pretty
significant rainfall early in the month and that data wasn't used."
But as they've been warning all winter, state water officials insist there's
still a long way to go before water levels are anything like normal.
If the state Department of Water Resources' prediction of 65 percent of
normal runoff for the year comes true, the three-year period ending this
year would still be among the driest 8 percent on record, said Steve Nemeth,
a civil engineer and water supply forecaster for the agency.
Unfortunately, help in the form of abundant rainstorms doesn't appear to be
on the horizon. California has returned to a drier-than-normal weather
pattern, and only one model is predicting significant rainfall next week,
National Weather Service meteorologist Cindy Palmer said.
Long-term forecasts suggest both above-average temperatures and a pattern of
periodic atmospheric troughs that produce rainfall, Palmer said.
"I'm not ready to say the rainy season's over," she said. "It's still only
April, but we are looking at a dry forecast for the next week."
In its latest update of allocations for CVP contractors, the Bureau of
Reclamation predicted March 20 that 5 percent to 15 percent of normal water
deliveries would be available for agriculture north of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta.
In the San Joaquin Valley, a zero-water scenario is still possible unless
runoff levels reach 61 percent of average, at which point all Central Valley
Project contractors would get 15 percent of what they would normally expect
North of the Delta, urban areas would get 55 percent of their water under
the dry forecast or 65 percent if the median runoff amount is reached - an
achievement that the Bureau predicts has a 50 percent chance of coming true.
South of the delta, residential areas would received 50 percent to 65
percent of their water.
Wildlife reserves and water rights holders everywhere would receive between
75 percent and 100 percent of their normal allocations, depending on the
amount of runoff that accumulates this spring.
The bureau will continue to issue monthly updates through May or later,
depending on how much new information on runoff it receives from the state,
The March 20 update followed the state Department of Water Resources'
announcement that it will increase water from state reservoirs from 15
percent of what was requested to 20 percent. Despite recent rains, state
officials have been warning that the state remains in a dangerous drought.
Much of California received above-average rainfall and copious amounts of
mountain snow in February and early March, increasing the Sierra Nevada
snowpack to about 90 percent of normal.
But state reservoirs are still well below average and precipitation totals
in March have fallen below normal in many areas.
As of Tuesday, March 24, Redding's 1.15 inches of rainfall for the month was
well below the normal amount of 4.05 inches, while Fresno's 0.24 inches lag
well below the 1.75 inches the city usually records by this time of the
Meanwhile, Shasta Lake was at 63 percent of its capacity, while Lake
Oroville was at 53 percent and Millerton Lake was at 71 percent as of
midnight Monday, March 23, according to the state Department of Water
Resources California Data Exchange Center.
Court-ordered cutbacks in diversions of water from the delta already had
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley scrambling for alternative water sources
while planning for a dry year.
The Bureau of Reclamation made farmers' prospects even bleaker on Feb. 20,
when it announced there would likely be no agricultural water available for
Central Valley Project contractors. The best the bureau could hope for at
the time was to deliver 10 percent of average allocations to farmers.
The state's latest forecast comes after the State Department of Water
Resources on March 10 predicted that California would record 65 percent of
normal runoff for the current water year and 75 percent of average runoff
from April through July.
That's 10 percent more water than the state had foreseen when looking at
Feb. 1 runoff totals, which Reclamation used as the basis for its zero-water
State officials said they still expected the Sacramento and San Joaquin
rivers to finish the season with flow levels at critical - the driest of six
designations assigned by the state.
Though February precipitation was well above average statewide, runoff was
only 65 percent of average for the month, according to the Department of
Water Resources' report.
Even a little water is better than none, said Ivar Amen, a Cottonwood hay
and livestock grower and president of the Shasta County Farm Bureau.
"It will (make a difference) for some guys," Amen said. "Any water can make
a difference. ... I just hope the rest of the state can get more than 10
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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