[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 10 27 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Oct 27 09:34:14 PDT 2009


Feds looking for extension on Trinity water permits until 2030

John Driscoll/The Times-Standard

Posted: 10/27/2009 01:48:17 AM PDT

 

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<http://www.times-standard.com/portlet/article/html/render_gallery.jsp?artic
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.1 <http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_13649472> 

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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is asking for a decades-long extension of
state water permits on the Trinity River to give it more time to find uses
for the water -- a move river advocates say could threaten the water
available for salmon and steelhead. 

The petition to the State Water Resources Control Board was first filed in
1985, but the bureau never acted further on it. Reclamation has revived the
application for an extension of its water rights on the Trinity and other
Central Valley rivers until 2030, but didn't identify in the application
what water projects are on tap that would allow it to use the water. 

The request also does not include the 2000 U.S. Interior Department's
decision to reduce diversions to the Sacramento River from the Trinity River
to aid salmon. It has led some conservationists to voice concern that
Reclamation might continue to divert large amounts of water from Trinity
Lake reservoir and risk the availability of cold water for fish. 

"I think what it shows is the bureau is not really serious about protecting
the Trinity River fishery," said Tom Stokely with the California Water
Impact Network. 

The network and Trinity County are among the parties protesting the
petition. 

The Trinity River, like most rivers in California, has more water rights
attached to it than it has water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation holds
rights to some 16 million acre feet of Trinity water -- enough to cover 16
million acres to the depth of one foot -- even though the annual runoff into
the river averages less than 1.4 million acre feet. 

Applying the full allocation of Reclamation's water rights, wrote Trinity
County in its protests, could deplete cold water needed for fish and prevent
development of local water projects. The watershed would suffer "grave harm"
if Trinity River water is used to fill in the huge deficit of water in the
Central Valley Project, into which Trinity River water is diverted. 

Reclamation's Deputy Regional Resources Manager Richard Stevenson said that
the larger project is declared "integrated" by Congress, and that the
Trinity permits and their proposed extensions can't be separated from the
permits and extensions of the other elements of the project. The extensions
are being requested because the extent of the larger project hasn't yet been
realized, Stevenson said, and can't yet be put forward for licensing. 

"We're not ready because we don't think the usage of the Central Valley
Project as a whole has been developed and defined," Stevenson said. 

State water law is based on the use-it-or-lose it concept. In Reclamation's
request, it holds that construction of projects to put the full amount of
water to use is complete, but also said that it's unable to determine what
the ultimate diversions from the Central Valley Project will be. Permitting,
conservation plans and requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act
all make such a prediction uncertain, Reclamation said. 

State Water Resources Control Board spokesman Dave Clegern said that
extensions are granted if the applicant has been diligent in trying to find
uses for the water, if progress has been delayed due to circumstances beyond
its control and whether it can provide a detailed road map of how it intends
to use the water in the near future. 

Diversions from Trinity Lake last fall and winter lowered the amount of
water to about half the reservoir's capacity. Spring rains improved the
situation slightly. Reclamation has begun diverting water to the Sacramento
River, lowering an already low reservoir, with the expectation that the past
three dry years will be the last of a drought and that winter rains will
replenish the reservoir. 

That same strategy last year was in part what pushed the reservoir so low
this summer. The bureau must make sure that the water it releases down the
river is around 50 degrees to protect salmon and steelhead. But when the
lake level drops, water at the surface is too warm to send downstream, and
it must look to the diversion's lowermost outlet to tap cold water,
bypassing the project's power plant. Trinity River water is also used to
keep temperatures down in the Sacramento River. 

While Reclamation has to confer with the National Marine Fisheries Service
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when the lake gets that low, there is
no strict procedure in place to handle the issue. That's led critics to
claim there is no plan to deal with extended drought, and question whether
water for salmon could be sacrificed in extreme circumstances. 

Mike Orcutt, senior fisheries biologist with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said
that Reclamation is betting on a good water year to refill the reservoir. 

"Nobody has a crystal ball to predict that," Orcutt said. 

Because of that, the California Water Impact Network and Trinity County want
to see the interior secretary's 2000 decision included in Reclamation's
water rights extension. Trinity County holds that Reclamation also shouldn't
be allowed to continue to hold onto water rights for water it cannot prove
it will use in the future

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

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(secondary)

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