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Executive Summary for May 4th

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including a delayed vote for tunnels funding, a Klamath water fight and changes in dam releases on the Colorado to aid an unlikely creature.

Published on May 4, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Key Tunnels Vote Delayed

Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board was set to vote this week on how much it would fund California Water Fix, the governor’s two-tunnel plan for Delta water conveyance, but the vote was delayed.

According to the Associated Press, after hours of public comment on the issue, the board pushed the vote to a special meeting on May 8.

In the fall of 2017, the water district was one of several major water agencies that balked at the price tag of the twin tunnels plan, and advocated instead for a smaller, less expensive project.

But the Mercury News reported this week that in a “dramatic reversal,” the Santa Clara Valley Water Agency was ready to consider giving the $650 million the governor wanted for the tunnels project. A change of heart that, perhaps not coincidentally, came just after the governor-appointed California Water Commission recommended fully funding a new dam project the water district wants to build.

Klamath Fight Over Fish and Farms

Fish got a win after a federal judge on Monday denied efforts by farmers and ranchers in Oregon’s Klamath Basin to prevent releases of water from dams meant to aid salmon health.

“A court injunction requires the Bureau of Reclamation to hold 50,000 acre-feet of stored water in Upper Klamath Lake through early June to flush away a deadly parasite that infects threatened coho salmon,” the Associated Press reported. But the Klamath Water Users Association wanted that injunction changed because it’s likely there won’t be enough water to meet all the region’s farming needs.

With snowpack less than half of average by March in the Klamath Basin, Oregon’s governor signed a drought declaration for the region. Farmers pleaded that they would suffer economic losses, and that the water wasn’t necessary this year for the fish.

“But as I have already discussed at length in the injunction orders and as is very plainly the law, I am not free to favor economic or other interests over potential harm to endangered species,” U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick wrote in his ruling.

Scientists Focus on Colorado River Bugs

Bolstering the population of bugs on stretches of the Colorado River is the focus of recent work by scientists – an effort they hope will in turn strengthen populations of fish, bats, birds and other creatures.

The researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey have experimented with releasing low but steady flows of water from Glen Canyon dam in the hopes of providing the right conditions for the bugs’ eggs to survive.

“Scientists are anticipating a 26 percent increase in black flies and midges by next summer, and the eventual return of bigger bugs seen in other stretches of the Colorado River that largely have disappeared from a prized fishery known as Lees Ferry,” the Associated Press reported. “The so-called bug flows are part of a larger plan approved in late 2016 to manage operations at Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell.”

High flows have also been used as a management tool to build up sand along the river bands to provide habitat for fish. Construction of Glen Canyon Dam radically changed flows on the river, which has impacted native species.

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