[env-trinity] Sacramento Bee 5/5/10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed May 5 10:18:32 PDT 2010


Plentiful snowpack boosts delivery forecasts for farms, but shortages may
persist

Sacramento Bee-5/5/10

By Matt Weiser

 

Nature blessed the Golden State with an abundant snowpack this year, and the
rivers are rushing with cold, clear melt water. But the blessings won't
include an end to California's water wars.

 

State and federal water agencies on Tuesday both boosted their water
delivery forecasts in response to the rich snowpack, which stood at 149
percent of normal statewide as of Monday.

 

Yet the state's complicated plumbing and varied geography mean some areas
may still experience shortages, either because they didn't get enough
rainfall locally to recover from three drought years, or because they can't
import enough water from elsewhere. 

 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday that one of California's
hardest-hit farming regions, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, will
get 40 percent of its contracted water deliveries. That's substantially
better than the 10 percent offered at this time last year, and better than
the 30 percent forecast last month.

 

Yet some view the new forecast, instead, as a 60 percent cut.

 

"Coming on the heels of two horrible years for water deliveries, it's still
little hope for the devastated communities that are trying to limp along on
these dismal water supplies," said Mike Wade, executive director of the
California Farm Water Coalition.

 

The California Department of Water Resources on Tuesday also increased its
delivery forecast from 30 percent to 40 percent of contract amounts.

 

Despite the improving picture, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently has no
intention of calling an end to the drought. It was he who first declared, in
June 2008, that California was suffering from one.

 

There is no official protocol for either declaring or canceling a drought.
Rather, it's a subjective call based on a variety of complex factors related
to hydrology and economics.

 

"We know there are places in California this year that will be experiencing
water shortages," said Wendy Martin, drought coordinator at the state
Department of Water Resources.

 

The Sacramento region has normal water supplies and has not imposed special,
drought-related conservation measures, although various jurisdictions have
permanent rules that allow watering only on particular days of the week.

 

Area water agencies recently told customers in a press release that the wet
winter is "not a free pass to waste water."

 

They urged residents to continue using water wisely, because they must
comply with a new state law that sets a 10 percent conservation target in
2015, then 20 percent in 2020.

 

"Our water use per capita has been dropping, and our customers have done a
spectacular job of working with us," said Shauna Lorance, general manager of
the San Juan Water District, which serves portions of Roseville, Granite
Bay, Orangevale and Folsom. "If everybody can keep that going, it's going to
make meeting the requirement much more effective."

 

Lake Oroville illustrates the need for a cautious posture. It is the primary
supply point for DWR's State Water Project, which supplies urban areas
including Los Angeles, San Diego and parts of Silicon Valley. 

 

Oroville and its Feather River watershed mysteriously missed much of the
wintertime largess this year, and this week the reservoir stood only 69
percent full.

 

At the other extreme is Lake Shasta, California's largest reservoir. It's 97
percent full, with much of the upstream snowpack still waiting to melt.

 

"It's been a dramatic recovery, really it has," Peggy Manza, a hydraulic
engineer at reclamation, said of Lake Shasta's nearly full condition.

 

Reclamation has been releasing water from Shasta to make room for snowmelt
and to meet legal requirements to maintain cool temperatures in the
Sacramento River for salmon.

 

Others see that water leaving Shasta and wonder why they can't have it. 

 

Wade criticized new federal rules, called biological opinions, that regulate
reservoir releases and water diversions from the Delta to protect salmon and
Delta smelt.

 

On Tuesday, state and federal agencies were diverting less than 1 percent of
the freshwater flowing through the Delta from its many upstream tributaries.

 

"There's plenty of water, but the water users aren't getting it," Wade said.

 

In reality, those new rules aren't yet restricting water deliveries.

 

The present limit on water diversions in the Delta, effective until May, has
been in place for a decade to protect salmon. And temperature requirements
in the Sacramento River have also existed for years.

 

Bill Kier, a fisheries biologist who consults with salmon fishermen, said it
is easy for some to complain that freshwater leaving the Delta is "wasted"
by flowing to the sea. But these flows help create conditions conducive to
food production, he said, which in turn could boost fish populations in
future years.

 

That could mean one less fight in the water war.

 

"So it's not water wasting to the sea," he said. "It's water doing what
nature intended."

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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