Water Agencies’ Drought Plan Needs Balance
SACRAMENTO (April 9, 2014) – The California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today released their proposed 2014 Drought Operations Plan, a proposal that waives key environmental standards to the detriment of the majority of Californians.
The following is the statement of Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Kate Poole on the proposal:
“This proposal falls far short of being a balanced plan that will provide reliable water supplies for California families, farms, and wildlife. It calls for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project to violate upstream water temperature requirements, waive water quality standards, and violate pumping restrictions in the Delta, all of which are critically important to protect California’s fisheries, Delta farmers and communities, and fishing families up and down the coast.
“The State Water Resources Control Board should put their thinking caps back on and require the agencies to model alternative operational scenarios for the rest of the year. We need them to offer a balanced plan that analyzes contract allocations and needs while providing critical protections for fish, wildlife, farms, and California families.”
Even as the projects propose to waive these minimum environmental protections the CVP and SWP plan to deliver between 2 and 3 million acre feet of water to senior contractors (as well as to some junior water contractors on the Stanislaus River), and are holding out the potential for increasing water supply allocations. These deliveries are in addition to public health and safety needs which the agencies acknowledge are largely met this year.
As the State and Federal agencies admit, the number of fish killed at the pumps is merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the take of salmon and other native fisheries caused by the SWP and CVP. The plan acknowledges that these changes will further imperil California’s endangered salmon and other listed native fisheries, including a strong likelihood of losing the entire year class of winter run Chinook salmon due to insufficient cold water dedicated to spawning and rearing. The plan also lacks virtually any discussion of the impacts on fall run Chinook salmon, which form the backbone of the state’s salmon fishery and which will suffer from lack of sufficient cold water resources.