Executive Summary for August 5th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought including the new biological assessment released regarding the tunnels plan. We also look at the latest conservation numbers and a key win for fishing groups.

Published on Aug. 5, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Delta Tunnels Next Step

The California Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation released its biological assessment for how endangered species would be impacted by California Water Fix, the Delta tunnels project.

The document, as required under the Endangered Species Act, will be assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, to see how fish species such as the delta smelt, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and green sturgeon would be affected. It also covers other species ranging from the killer whale to the Vernal pool fairy shrimp to the San Joaquin kit fox.

While the project has been in the works for years, time is now of the essence. “State officials are eager to secure a decision before President Barack Obama leaves office in January,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “Otherwise, the process would essentially have to start over with a new administration, potentially squandering years of work.”

Last week, another part of the tunnel process kicked off: hearings began over water rights issues in the Delta pertaining to new intakes for the project.

Conservation Numbers Fall

The state water board released the most recent water conservation numbers for California – the first since the state’s water mandate was suspended – and it showed savings of 21.5 percent.

Californians are still saving water, just not as much as they used to. The numbers from the previous month (May 2016), showed savings of 28.1 percent. And compared to the same time last year (June 2015), the savings were 27.5 percent.

Instead of mandatory conservation, water suppliers have submitted “stress tests” to prove the reliability of their water supply and many are opting not to require any conservation from water users. Association of California Water Agencies executive director Timothy Quinn says this is a good thing and shows efforts by water suppliers to have diverse water suppliers has paid off. But others have been more critical.

Fishing Groups Key Win

Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a ruling concerning water deliveries by the Bureau of Reclamation via the Delta that was good news for a group of commercial fishing organizations.

The court found that the bureau broke environmental law when it renewed two-year contracts for water delivery. “The court said the bureau should have given ‘full and meaningful consideration’ to the idea of reducing the amount of water available for delivery in the contracts,” the Sacramento Bee reported. The decision could lead to future curtailment of water deliveries.

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