[env-trinity] Times Standard Opinion: Sundberg and Masten: Governor's tunnel plan could take Humboldt County's Trinity water, impact salmon
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Thu Apr 25 13:14:31 PDT 2013
Governor's tunnel plan could take Humboldt County's Trinity water, impact salmon
Ryan Sundberg and Leonard Masten Jr./for the Times-Standard Eureka Times Standard
There has been much talk in the media lately about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the governor's tunnel proposal. Overlooked in the discussion are the Trinity River and North Coast California communities' long-standing rights. In fact, it is rarely mentioned that the Sacramento is not the only river that will feed the governor's tunnels.
The Trinity River is the largest tributary to the Klamath River. In 1964, the Bureau of Reclamation began delivering Trinity water through a tunnel in the mountains to the Central Valley. This diversion represents the only “out of basin” water diversion to the Bay Delta. Federal and state law limited those deliveries by setting aside water for Trinity fisheries and making available an additional 50,000 acre-feet supply for economic development by Humboldt County and other users. Reclamation has failed to honor Humboldt County's water rights.
Humboldt County and the Hoopa Valley Tribe repeatedly have warned the governor and the Department of the Interior that BDCP planners are assuming that 50,000 acre-feet of Humboldt County's Trinity water is available even though federal and state decision makers allocated it to the North Coast nearly 60 years ago. We have warned the governor we are expecting a decision from the Department of the Interior regarding its water rights that could upset the BDCP process if the county water is not considered in modeling.
BDCP water models need to account for the Trinity water as a North Coast supply, not a Bay-Delta resource. By doing so, BDCP planners, participants, financiers and decision makers can know how this commitment affects the operation and feasibility of the current version of the BDCP.
Not modeling the 50,000 acre-feet consistent with the law of the Trinity risks overestimation of BDCP supplies. Moreover, failure to model correctly will create conditions for miscalculation of water quality, salinity and temperature targets/requirements now in place or to be adopted by the BDCP. The result could produce more of the same controversy that the BDCP is trying to resolve.
Ours is not a speculative concern. Last year, federal, state and tribal fishery agencies forecasted a potentially devastating fish kill in the Klamath River because of low Klamath basin water supplies and a record-high population of returning fall Chinook. In response, Reclamation set aside 92,000 acre-feet of Trinity Division water and released nearly 39,000 acre-feet of it, and the fish survived.
This year, another record return of fish is forecasted, and already, government agencies, such as the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, are considering asking for similar action. Humboldt County is willing to use our water rights to protect Klamath River fisheries.
According to Reclamation, inadequate fishery water supplies in the Klamath River basin have become the new normal. That means heightened risk of conflict over competing uses.
Many members of California's congressional delegation have decried the prospect of a water war over the BDCP, but federal and state agencies are sowing the seeds of conflict by their refusal to honor the 50,000 acre-feet water right in BDCP planning.
In the course of the last half-century, Humboldt County has stood fast for our rights and interests. We all have a right and responsibility to protect this precious resource, and urge all Californians to oppose any form of a BDCP that takes more of our water. We also urge the Department of the Interior to act to resolve this issue. To take our water is to steal our future.
If Reclamation and the state water agencies refuse to uphold this long-established right to Trinity River water, then what confidence can other Californians have that their rights will be honored in the BDCP process?
Ryan Sundberg is Humboldt County's 5th District Supervisor. Leonard Masten Jr. is chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe.
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