[env-trinity] Trinity Journal: Long-term answers needed on flow augmentations

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Sep 4 08:03:12 PDT 2013


Long-term answers needed on flow augmentations
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Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:15 am
A federal district court judge in Fresno late last month authorized increased Trinity River flows to help with a large late summer/early fall salmon run in the Klamath/Trinity basins. We applaud the decision; one of those rare ones in which both sides claimed victory.Environmentalists, tribes and the fisheries got needed water to protect an expected large run of salmon in the lower Klamath River from overcrowding and disease and to help prevent another fish die-off similar to 2002. Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority — which supply Central Valley Project water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and had filed suit to block the releases — were able to claim they got releases reduced from a maximum of 101,000 acre-feet to somewhere around 20,000, though in reality water releases were likely to fall in the 40,000-50,000 acre-feet range had the suit not delayed release.
While the 19-page decision had plenty of legal citations and such, the reality was no one in the courtroom was willing to roll the dice on the possibility of another massive fish kill over 20,000 acre-feet of water. It would have been a political and public relations nightmare for the plaintiffs and an economic and social nightmare for the North State.
Still, while all sides were claiming victory, several important issues linger:
► What happens the next time river flow augmentations might be needed? Do we have to go through all of this all over again? There needs to be a system in place, backed by scientific review, to allow occasional augmentations as needed.
► Humboldt County for years has tried to get resolution of its claim to 50,000 acre-feet of water. Yet the federal government can’t seem to provide a solid yes or no on the intent of its legislation. Was it 50,000 acre-feet above and beyond any river releases, or is it, as the government now claims, contained within current river releases? The legislation seems to indicate above and beyond.
Even the judge noted the lack of federal government action on legislation passed in 1955. One would think 58 years would be enough time for the feds to reach a conclusion. Apparently not.
Providing Humboldt County its 50,000 acre-feet would all but make augmentation requests a moot point as Humboldt officials said most if not all of the allocation would go to fishery enhancement.
► The judge cited the plaintiffs’ “dire” water supply situation. That has less to do with what flows down the Trinity than the complete over-allocation of water supplies in this state. The valley has received a disproportional share of Trinity water for decades, even after the 2000 Record of Decision added some area-of-origin protections. It is long past time the state comes up with a system of water allocation that actually matches available supplies.
► And, we always like to bring up the fact that Trinity County has never been compensated for one drop of its water (outside of cheaper electrical rates), even when thirsty valley water districts resell it at 20 times cost. There’s something we’d like a judge to take a look at.
These long-term issues need to be resolved. But given the history of California water battles, we’re not holding our breath.
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