[env-trinity] Redding.com: Redding, water purveyors want a sit-down with feds on water cutbacks

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Feb 21 07:55:26 PST 2014


Redding, water purveyors want a sit-down with feds on water cutbacks
By Jenny Espino
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Redding and other senior water rights holders say they will challenge a federal agency’s decision to slash water deliveries by as much as 60 percent for the year.
Allocations from the Sacramento River provide nearly half of Redding’s water, meaning the city will have to rely on groundwater and voluntary conservation efforts to meet demands to the levels of those from three years ago.
The decision to push back on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s supply reductions spurred by the state’s drought came today during a late afternoon conference call among some 30 water purveyors, many of whom are ranchers. Redding is a fringe member of the group.
Brian Crane, the city’s public works director, said the group disagrees with the math the bureau is using for the allotments and wants a sit-down discussion with the federal agency.
“The bottom line is that they received letters similar to ours,” Crane said of the notice the city received on Tuesday from the bureau. “They have key players in preparing the response to the bureau.”
A bureau spokesman for the Mid-Pacific Region today declined to comment on the letters, saying the agency still has to release its water allotment plan on Friday.
Water services contractors, such as the Bella Vista Water District, which serves about 6,000 customers in Redding, are bracing for bad water news.
The district on its website is expecting zero allocations for agricultural irrigation and only a minimal quantity available for all other purposes.
Redding receives about 6,000 acre-feet from the Spring Creek Conduit under its Buckeye contract with the bureau.
Crane said it's possible the cut to be announced by the bureau on Friday could be as severe as allocating the city only 600 to 800 acre-feet. And yet the city should have enough water to meet its customers' demands for the year.
Water scarcity in the state is nothing new. But conditions are far worse than they were during the historic drought of 1976-77, when all but 11 counties declared drought emergencies.
David Coxey, general manager for the Bella Vista district noted the North State is home to permanent crops. It has become more urbanized, and like the rest of California, it is grappling with stricter water quality standards. Since the mid-1970s, Shasta County’s population alone has nearly doubled.
Long before the bureau’s notifications of sharp cutbacks were delivered to water purveyors this week, the federal agency had given warnings about potential changes in water supply.
It considered the cutbacks in 2012-13. That season ended with 44.3 inches of precipitation.
Louise Moore, the bureau spokesperson, said the state is dealing with three dry years in a row. The last 13 have been among the driest.
The water system that hit the region earlier this month pushed levels at the Shasta Dam only by about a foot, not enough to make a significant impact.
Stan Wangberg, Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District general manager, the 60 percent cut in water may mean a shorter irrigation season for pasturelands of hay and alfalfa.
“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “I try to remain optimistic. But it’s very dry.”
The district uses some 100,000 acre-feet annually. The bureau proposes to cut the water supply to 50,000 acre-feet.
How the bureau responds to the purveyors’ letter remains to be seen.
“I’m more hopeful that there will be more rainfall in the next six weeks to take off some of the pressure from these decisions (by the bureau),” Wangberg said.
  © 2014 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online
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