Executive Summary for July 15th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought, including a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over Delta pumping restrictions. We also look at new efforts to save coho salmon and progress on a controversial desert water transfer.

Published on July 15, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Desert Water Transfer Clears Another Hurdle

The battle over a Mojave Desert water transfer plan, the Cadiz Water Project, in Southern California took another turn this week as the window of time for legal challenges to the project has passed.

The Cadiz Water Project would use 34 wells to pump 75,000 acre-feet (92.5 million cubic meters) a year of groundwater from the Cadiz and Fenner valleys in San Bernardino County. The water would be piped more than 40 miles (65km) to the Colorado River aqueduct, which helps funnel drinking water to millions in Southern California.

Despite opposition from environmental groups, the project has survived legal challenges. A statement from the company said, “As a result, all challenges to the environmental review and approval of the Cadiz Water Project under the California Environmental Quality Act, the toughest environmental law in the U.S., are now final having withstood scrutiny by state superior and appellate courts.”

There is still one more issue for the project, though, and that’s the delivery of the water. As the Press Enterprise reported, “The Cadiz statement ignores the fact that last October, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ruled that the project’s proposed use of railroad right of way for the pipeline is outside the use scope of grants held under an 1875 railroad act.”

Engaging the Public in Saving Salmon

Charlotte Ambrose, a fisheries biologist working with NOAA wants to use the model that saved the condor from the brink of extinction to help aid endangered Central California Coast coho salmon.

“It’s basically ‘condor time’ for coho,” said Ambrose, “We need to recognize this could very well be our last chance to save a species that once thrived in many of California’s rivers and streams.”

The fish’s numbers have plummeted in recent decades, falling from as much as 500,000 in the 1940s, to 6,000 in the 1990s. The population hit a low of 500 in 2009 and is now estimated to be less than 3,000.

Lawsuit Over Delta Pumping

A lawsuit filed last week by a large water agency claims that when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cut water to contractors the agency failed to consider other plans that would have had less impact.

San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority has taken issue with restrictions to Delta pumping enacted to protect endangered fish populations and the impact it has had on farmers who rely on water delivered through the Central Valley Project.

“Jason Peltier, the authority’s executive director, said in an interview Friday that in spite of the pumping restrictions, fish populations continue on a precipitous decline,” the Sacramento Bee reported.

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