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Executive Summary for April 13th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including big news on Water Fix financing, water trouble in New Mexico and controversy over hydropower on the Snake River.

Published on April 13, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Funding Approved for Two Tunnels

After much back and forth in recent weeks, California’s largest water agency voted to bankroll a huge portion of both tunnels proposed for California Water Fix.

For the last several weeks, we’ve reported on a plan by Metropolitan Water Agency of Southern California that was being considered, and then not, to pay for a significant amount of the two Delta tunnels.

On Tuesday, in a huge boost to the pro-tunnels contingent, Metropolitan’s board voted in favor of the action, committing nearly $11 billion to the estimated $17 billion needed for the project. But not all of Metropolitan’s member agencies were happy with the decision – both the city of Los Angeles and the San Diego County Water Authority – were against it.

Water Fix still needs to clear some regulatory (and likely legal) challenges, but if built, it puts Metropolitan in an interesting position of power. “Metropolitan won’t have its hands on the knobs that control the state and federal water delivery systems, but it will have substantial sway in how some of the other south-of-Delta water agencies route water through the tunnels,” the Sacramento Bee reports. “That could lead to tensions among farm agencies that haven’t pitched in money for the project but still need Delta water.”

Record Lows in New Mexico

After a winter with little significant snowpack, drought conditions are expanding across New Mexico and are already impacting the state’s biggest river.

As of April 12, extreme drought conditions have climbed slightly from the week before, now impacting 46 percent of the state. NM Political Report wrote that stretches of the Middle Rio Grande, south of Socorro, New Mexico, have already dried, forcing biologists to conduct emergency rescues of stranded fish.

“Since 1996, the Middle Rio Grande has often dried during the summer, sometimes for stretches of 30, 50 or even 90 miles,” according to NM Political Report. “But drying in early April is nearly unprecedented in the river’s recorded history.”

Crunching the numbers at his blog Inkstain, John Fleck, director of the water resources program at the University of New Mexico, reported that the Rio Grande is usually rising at this time of year, but instead it’s dropping, and flows look to be the second driest on record for this period in April.

Replacing Hydro on the Lower Snake

A study released last week found that the power generated from four dams on the lower Snake River impacting salmon populations, could be replaced by other sources, but not everyone agrees with the findings.

The report was commissioned by NW Energy Coalition, and it found that if the dams were taken down, the power could be replaced by solar and wind (and reducing use during peak times), according to the Spokesman-Review. It would cost about $1 extra a month for ratepayers.

Todd Myers, the environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, disagreed with the report’s finding, according to the Spokesman-Review, including the cost to taxpayers and the amount of energy generated by renewables.

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