You can see all the millions of acre feet farmers have had to do without over the past twenty years, yet no improvement to fish populations.
Feb 25, 2015
"The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state's residents." - Mercury News
The San Jose Mercury News editorial below makes the case that sending water to the Central Valley last year was a disaster for the health of the Delta. Farmers are asking for a small amount of additional pumping during this drought to give them a little relief from the lack of water they've been getting.
The editorial writers recommend that farmers come up with "an alternate plan that does not do further damage to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta."
Let us review:
1992: Central Valley Project Improvement Ace (CVPIA) - dedicated about 1,400,000 acre-feet per year (enough to irrigate over 500,000 acres or serve 2,000,000 valley households) from the federal Central Valley Project to fish and wildlife purposes. Result: no improvement in fish populations
1993: The Endangered Species Act listing of the winter run Chinook salmon stripping away another 250,000 to 800,000 AF/yr. Result: no improvement in fish populations.
1994: The ESA listing of the delta smelt. Result: no improvement in fish populations.
1995: The CalFed Bay/Delta program that collectively stripped the CVP and State Water Project of another 1,100,000 AF/yr. Result: no improvement in fish populations.
Since 1995: There’s been even more regulatory actions the sum total of which have removed over 5,000,000 AF/yr. – more than the entire capacity of Lake Shasta or 10 times that of Millerton Lake.* Result: no improvement in fish populations.
*Stats courtesy of Lance Johnson, a friend of Families Protecting the Valley. His review of past water rules and regulations is one you should post on your wall for future reference (Water Crisis: It Really Is Fish Versus People).
You can see all the millions of acre feet farmers have had to do without over the past twenty years, yet no improvement to fish populations. All farmers asked of the State Water Resources Control Board last week was some additional marginal pumping of a couple of thousand acre feet a day for a limited time. But, the Mercury news concludes "The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state's residents."
We've heard it every year for over twenty years, but the 'estuary that provides water' never gets better. We know one thing for sure: it gets worse for us.
Mercury News editorial: Delta's health should take priority over pumping
California needs to get serious about protecting the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of Silicon Valley's most valuable water sources. The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state's residents.
California took a significant risk when it waived some environmental protections last year for the Delta in order to pump additional water south to save acres of almond orchards. The results were not pretty. Tom Howard, the executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, admitted last week that he had erred in calculating how damaging the impact would be.
The Delta smelt count ped to the lowest level in recorded history. The impact on salmon was equally horrendous. The state reported that 95 percent of the juvenile Chinook salmon that spawned in the upper Sacramento River died because of the poor water conditions. Rising water temperatures and lower river levels also resulted in the growth of invasive plants that damage water quality.
California can't let this degradation of the largest estuary west of the Mississippi continue. The state will determine in March how much water can be pumped from the Delta in the months ahead. Gov. Jerry Brown needs to demonstrate that he has his priorities straight when it comes to the Delta's delicate ecosystem.
Big Ag critics contend that limiting pumping of additional water from the Delta constitutes putting fish before people. It's a misleading argument. The Delta smelt is merely the canary in the coal mine when it comes to preserving the estuary's health. Further degradation to the Delta will ultimately threaten the quality of the drinking water for Northern California residents.
Central Valley farmers, who suck up 80 percent of the water used in California, have proved that they have an unquenchable thirst for additional water to irrigate their crops. They've already sucked dry their own aquifers and irresponsibly planted thousands of acres of almond orchards without sufficient guarantees that water would be available during California's inevitable drought years.
The public policy makers who will make the crucial decision on Delta pumping in March are the same ones who are also asking state residents to trust them to the care of the Delta with their plan to build two massive $25 billion tunnels to pump even more water south from the Delta.
California's drought shows no signs of abating as the final weeks of the rainy season approaches.
Central Valley farmers need to come up with an alternate plan that does not do further damage to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
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