[env-trinity] California Drought Is A Big Snow Job

Dan Bacher 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  
dams proposal.

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  
Monterey Agreement."

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  
Water Act.

“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  
spiraling deficit.

For more information on DWR’s "overblown" drought, read Mike  
Fitzergerald’s superb article in the Stockton record. http:// 

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