Executive Summary for April 14th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California including water allocations for farmers and closed salmon fisheries. We also look at a new report on the ‘endangered’ lower Colorado River.

Published on April 14, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Endangered Colorado

This week American Rivers released its annual report on America’s Most Endangered Rivers, and topping the list was the lower Colorado River, which the organization said provides water to 10 percent of the country’s population and helps irrigate 90 percent of the winter vegetables grown in the U.S.

Management of the Colorado River is divided between upper and lower basin states. The lower basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada have been working on solutions to address overallocation of the river and a “structural deficit” of 1.2 million acre-feet of water a year where claims to water far exceed what flows from the upper basin.

“This success is threatened by the Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget proposal, the implementation of which would cut funding to critical federal programs like the Bureau of Reclamations’ System Conservation Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Department of Interior’s WaterSMART program and Title XVI grants for municipal conservation and efficiency efforts,” the report found. “These cuts could potentially reverse progress made by states, cities and farmers to reduce water consumption in the Lower Colorado River Basin.”

California’s Bear River in the Sierra Nevada also made the list of the year’s most threatened rivers because of a potential dam proposal.

Central Valley Project Farmers Get Full Allocation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates one of two major water delivery systems in California, announced that its water contractors would get 100 percent of their requested allocations, something that hasn’t happened since 2006.

San Joaquin Valley farmers with allocations from the Central Valley Project received zero percent in 2014 and 2015 and only 5 percent last year, so the news of 100 percent allocations would seem to be welcomed. But as the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee reported, some farmers were not happy with the timing and thought the announcement came too late in the season, and many farmers already had to make planting decisions.

“Growers in Westlands [Water District] and other districts had blamed environmental restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for holding up deliveries of water from the Sacramento Valley,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “But federal officials said they had to be cautious about increasing the allocations.”

Salmon Fishing Closed

The Pacific Fishery Management Council decided this week to close 200 miles of the Pacific Coast in southern Oregon and Northern California to salmon fishing because of dwindling numbers of Klamath River chinook.

“West Coast salmon runs have been hit hard in recent years by drought conditions in their native rivers and El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean that reduce their food sources,” reported OPB. “Fishing groups and Native American tribes plan to ask California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a fishing disaster so they can receive federal assistance.”

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