[env-trinity] California Drought Is A Big Snow Job
danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Fri Apr 3 09:34:02 PDT 2009
Lester Snow, the Director of the State Department of Water Resources
(DWR), used the announcement of today's snow survey as yet another
opportunity to promote Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to
build a peripheral canal and more dams.
Photo of snow survey from DWR.
Schwarzenegger Official Tries to 'Snow' Public with Drought Claims
by Dan Bacher
Lester Snow, the State Department of Water Resources' Director, tried
to "snow" the public by making false claims of a "drought" scenario
in the Central Valley in an announcement on April 2.
The fourth snow survey of the winter season by DWR indicates that
snow pack water content statewide is 81 percent of normal for the
date. True to form, Snow cynically used the announcement to whip up
fears about a "drought" in order to boost Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger's campaign to build a peripheral canal and more dams.
“A below-average snow pack at this time of year, especially
following two consecutive dry years, is a cause for concern,” said
Snow in a news release. “Our most critical storage reservoirs remain
low, and we face severe water supply problems in many parts of our
state. Californians must continue to save water at home and in their
On February 27, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a "drought
state of emergency," directing DWR and other state agencies to
provide assistance to people and communities impacted by the drought.
On March 30, 2009, DWR provided the Governor an update on drought
conditions and recommended strategies. The report and transmittal
letter are available for viewing at http://www.water.ca.gov/news/.
Snow touted Schwarzenegger's plan to build a peripheral canal
("improved conveyance") and Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs as
the "solution" to California's water problems.
"Governor Schwarzenegger has outlined steps to safeguard the state’s
water supply through a comprehensive plan that includes water
conservation, more surface and groundwater storage, new investments
in the state’s aging water infrastructure, and improved water
conveyance to protect the environment and provide a reliable water
supply," the release stated. "Today’s drought and regulatory
restrictions underscore the need to take action to safeguard
tomorrow’s water supply."
However, a careful review of DWR data reveals that he is not telling
the entire truth about California’s water “crisis,” but is
carefully selecting the data to cultivate unfounded fears of a
“drought” and to promote Schwarzenegger's peripheral canal and
Manual survey results taken on April 2 at four locations near Lake
Tahoe, combined with electronic readings, documented statewide snow
pack water content of 81 percent. The water content is 87 percent in
the Northern Sierra, 80 percent in the Central Sierra, and 77 percent
in the Southern Sierra.
"Last year at this time, snowpack was 95 percent of normal,
reflecting a drop of over 20 percent from March 2008 caused by the
driest spring on record,” according to DWR. "
DWR blamed restrictions on Delta water exports needed to protect
delta smelt and Sacramento River chinook salmon for depriving farmers
and urban residents of their water. "Continuing dry conditions and
regulatory agency restrictions on Delta water exports are limiting
water deliveries to farms and urban areas," DWR claimed. "A
forthcoming Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries
Service to protect salmon and steelhead may further reduce pumping
capability. DWR expects it will only be able to deliver only 20
percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay
Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California."
What Snow failed to mention was the reason why many reservoirs were
at record low levels until the February rains was because DWR and the
Bureau of Reclamation nearly drained Shasta, Folsom and Oroville
reservoirs in 2007 and 2008 to supply Westlands Water District, the
Kern County Water Bank and Southern California, including Diamond
Valley Reservoir, with northern California water. Fortunately, the
February and March rain and snow runoff raised reservoir levels to
much higher levels than they were at the beginning of 2009.
The DWR release also stated, “Storage in California’s major
reservoirs is low. Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for
the State Water Project (SWP), is only at 56 percent of capacity.”
However, Bill Jennings, executive director of the California
Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), noted that Lake Oroville is
actually 75% of the 15-year average, by no means a catastrophic level
for this time of year.
DWR also failed to mention the other reservoirs that supply water for
the state and federal water projects. Central Valley Project
reservoirs are in relatively good shape, with Shasta at 77 percent of
the 15-year average, Folsom at 117 percent of the 15-year average,
New Melones at 74 percent of the 15-year average and Millerton at 95
percent of the 15-year average.
The actual precipitation in state and federal project watersheds also
tells a different tale than the one that Snow is spinning.
Precipitation on the Sacramento River at Shasta Dam is 77 percent of
average, the American River watershed at Blue Canyon is 93 percent,
the Stanislaus River at New Melones is 88 percent, and the San
Joaquin River at Huntington Lake is 83 percent.
“This is a slightly below average water year, but it is not a dry
year and not a critically dry year,” said Jennings.
The doomsday scenario that DWR has conjured up is completely
inaccurate, since most Central Valley contractors will receive 100
percent of their water.
"The Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors north of the Delta and
Friant Unit contractors in the San Joaquin Valley are receiving 100
percent of their water,” emphasized Jennings. “The only people not
receiving their full water allocations are Westlands and the
Metropolitan Water District (MWD). And MWD is receiving a reduced
amount of water because they gave up the urban preference in the
The corporate agribusiness operations that are being hurt the most
are the most junior water rights holders in Westlands, who chose to
convert from annual row crops to permanent crops.
“If there is an is economic impact to Westlands, it’s from farmers
changing from planting the row crops of the past to planting
permanent crops like fruit and nut trees - crops that can’t handle
drought years and require constant water to keep them alive,” said
Jennings. “Westlands Water District deliberately planted crops that
would suffer the most in dry years in an effort to have their junior
water rights trump the senior water rights holders and public trust
resources of rivers, streams and estuaries.”
Thus, the claims of a "drought" by Lester Snow and the Governor are
false and are being used to bolster Schwarzenegger’s claims that a
peripheral canal and dams are needed to create a “win-win”
scenario of “ecosystem restoration” and “solving” water supply
needs at the same time.
Snow’s announcement takes place as California fisheries are in their
greatest crisis ever. Salmon fishing in ocean waters off California
and Oregon will close again this year, with only the possibility of a
token recreational 10-day season off Eureka and Crescent City, due to
the collapse of Central Valley Chinook salmon populations. Coho
salmon populations in coastal streams have reached record lows
because years of clear cutting and other habitat destruction,
combined with poor ocean conditions.
Delta smelt, longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass, threadfin shad and
other California Delta fish have also reached record low population
levels, due to massive increases in water exports, increasing levels
of toxic chemicals in Central Valley rivers, and invasive species.
“There is no win, win solution,” Jennings emphasized after
receiving the “Delta Advocate” award at the Restore the Delta
Symposium in Lodi on February 28. “We live in a water-limited state
where there is only an average of 29 million acre feet of runoff in
the Central Valley, while the State Water Resources Control Board has
allocated 245 million acre feet of water rights.”
He condemned the campaign by the Governor, DWR and Senator Dianne
Feinstein to build a peripheral canal – and said that we need to
compel our regulatory agencies to enforce the water code and Clean
“The canal would transfer pumping impacts to the last viable
salmonid river in the Valley (the Sacramento), eliminate critical
habitat and send numerous species into oblivion, and increase the
concentration and bioaccumulation of pollutants,” he said. “It
would increase salinity, severely reducing yields of hundreds of
thousands of productive farmland, and eliminate tens of thousands of
fishing, recreational and agricultural jobs.”
I hope that the public and mainstream media is not "snowed" by Lester
Snow's claims of a "drought" in his announcement of the results of
the April 2 snow survey. The peripheral canal and more dams would
only drive the final nail into the coffin of collapsing salmon, delta
smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, striped bass and other fish
populations - and cost an estimated $12 billion to $24 billion to the
taypayers in a state already hit by the economic crash and a
For more information on DWR’s "overblown" drought, read Mike
Fitzergerald’s superb article in the Stockton record. http://
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