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Executive Summary for March 3rd

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California including the latest snow survey results and how much storm damages will cost to repair. We also look water allocations for the Central Valley Project.

Published on March 3, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Snow Survey Results

The season’s third official snow survey, taken on March 1 in the Sierra Nevada, shows the mountains continuing to add to the above-average snowpack readings of last month. Statewide, the snowpack is 185 percent of average and it has a snow-water content of 45.5 inches (115cm). In January that number was just 6.5 inches and in February 30.5 inches.

Readings for the northern Sierra showed 39.2 inches, which is 159 percent of average. The central region was 49 inches at 191 percent of average and the southern Sierra had 46.4, which is 201 percent of average.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the central and southern Sierra are on track with the winter of 1982 to 1983, which was the most snow on record.

A large snowpack is a great relief in California after five years of drought, but climate scientist Juliet Christian-Smith with the Union of Concerned Scientists said that higher temperatures pose a risk that snow will melt earlier in the season and not as much will be available when it’s needed most in hot summer months.

“With 2016 being the warmest year on record for the third year in a row, that spells trouble for snow,” she said. “Recent heavy rains and flooding are consistent with a warming planet, and such events are expected to become more common over time.”

Some Water Allocations Revealed

The Bureau of Reclamation announced 2017 water allocations for some contractors of the Central Valley Project, but said it may be weeks before others are notified of their initial allocations.

East side farmers in Friant Division, Eastside Division, and Municipal and Industrial Water Service Contractors in the American River Division were given 100 percent allocations.

“Reclamation is targeting districts that receive water directly from Folsom, New Melones and Millerton reservoirs given the large snow pack and unusually high projected runoff this spring and summer,” the bureau stated.

But west side farmers were not happy about having their allocation announcements delayed.

“The implications of the governmental-imposed drought continue with a vengeance,” Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau told the Fresno Bee. How, with reservoirs at their brim, flood releases happening by the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet a day, snowpack levels in most areas 150 percent-plus for this date and Delta outflows cumulatively adding up to 24 million acre-feet since October 2016, can Fresno County’s west side federal water contractors still have no initial allocation?”

Contractors of the State Water Project were told they could receive 60 percent of their allocations, but that number is likely to be adjusted higher.

Expensive Storms

California’s much-needed rain has turned out to be a mixed blessing as the price tag for damages from successive storms has grown. Reported that damages to roads and infrastructure, including dams, has reached $50 billion.

Nearly $600 million of that tally is for repairing roadways and estimates for fixing the damaged spillways at Oroville Dam are $200 million.

The state already has a backlog of repair projects that need to be funded, on top of the new and mounting problems.

“Aside from emergency road repairs, Gov. Brown said Friday that California has $187 billion in unmet needs for water and transportation infrastructure,” the AP reported. “He suggested tax increases may be required, but he wasn’t prepared to offer ‘the full answer’ to raising enough money to shore up infrastructure. That’s bad news for local communities hardest hit by the storms. They say rebuilding will cost millions of dollars they don’t have.”

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