[env-trinity] East Bay Times Protecting state watersheds is important step

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Mon Aug 15 10:38:33 PDT 2016

East Bay Times | Page A11Monday, 15 August 2016Protecting state watersheds is important step Gov. Jerry Brown’s misguided tunnel vision on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has taken the focus off other valuable water projects California should be implementing.Unlike the governor’s $17 billion twin-tunnel disaster, Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s AB 2480 would produce additional water for California, improve the state’s environment and help ward off or at least mitigate climate change.It’s a no-brainer of an idea that should have been prioritized years ago. The bill has passed the Assembly and is currently winding its way through the Senate. The Senate should pass the bill and send it to the governor forhis signature. The Santa Monica Democrat’s legislation is aimed at maintaining the health of California’s watersheds, with a particular focus on five watersheds in the Northern Sierra that account for 80 percent of the state’s water.Experts say that improvements to the Feather, McCloud, Pit, Trinity and Upper Sacramento watersheds could add an additional 5-20 percent to the state’s water supply. These watersheds already account for the water that 25 million Californians enjoy.The bill would make the state’s watersheds eligible for water-project grant funding by proclaiming them an essential part of the state’s water infrastructure. The anticipated cost, roughly $2.5-$3 billion, is a fraction of the price tag for the Delta tunnel project, less than the estimated cost of the Sites dam project and far more environmentally sound.In some areas, fire suppression tactics have allowed forests to become overgrown, hurting their capacity to absorb water. Logging and overgrazing by livestock have created areas in which erosion diminishes optimum conditions.Bloom anticipates that the funds would be used to preserve and protect private and public forest lands and restore vital meadows.It’s counterintuitive, but climate change experts believe that as Western states warm, the area where the Northern California watersheds are located will actually become cooler and likely wetter.The projections give the state a rare opportunity to take advantage of the conditions and make preparations now that will result in additional water supply in later years.Another important aspect of this is that these five watersheds provide about 80 percent of the water that flows into the San Francisco Bay. It’s essential that the state formally recognize its watersheds as part of our water infrastructure.California’s lawmakers should pass AB 2480 and work toward crafting a strategy to fully integrate watershed management into the state’s long-term water infrastructure plan. There is much work to be done in this area, and passing this measure should be an important first step.

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