U.S. Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) released a letter to key regional federal regulators calling on them to revise plans and take actions to prevent water releases that threaten to leave New Melones reservoir dry this coming summer.
Recently, the Bureau of Reclamation announced initial 2015 water supply allocations for the Central Valley Project (CVP) based on a “conservative estimate” of the amount of water that will be available for delivery to CVP water users; these allocations will be re-examined on a monthly basis, taking into consideration a variety of factors, according to the Bureau. The allocations are based on the assumption that dry conditions will persist.
According to California Department of Water Resources reports, in comparison to similar times in previous years, the snowpack has fallen below average with snow water content throughout California currently at 20 percent, or less, of average for this time of year.
The Bureau has stated that Eastside water service contractors are set to receive zero percent of their contract quantity stating the reason being as a lack of available CVP supplies from New Melones.
The letter regarding the matter from Denham and McClintock was addressed to senior officials at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, requested that the agencies meet immediately and enter emergency consultation proceedings.
The two called for a plan that provides for reservoir and river releases to allow for conservation of water in New Melones and Tulloch Reservoirs for as long as possible, and to provide certainty that the Stanislaus River would have flow throughout the rest of 2015.
According to the letter, in early 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation drained about 60,000 acre feet of water from the New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River, approximately enough water to satisfy annual needs of 500,000 people; in context, just under the entire population of Stanislaus County which stands at 525,491 people per 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
“If the reservoir reaches dead pool, communities that rely on Lake Tulloch for their water supply will be unable to access their water, irrigators downstream of Tulloch Dam will go without water during the hottest months of the year, and ironically the fall-run salmon would end up with no flows upon their return migration,” said Denham and McClintock in the letter.
Denham has been vocal about the need to alleviate the impact of California’s drought, previously describing the new Congress as an opportunity to come together on solutions for such issues. Denham and McClintock have together vocalized the need for federal regulators to provide balance in water storage and delivery.
The two describe an alternative course of action that does not avail water to the Central Valley during warm months, or for returning fall-run salmon as a, “gross mismanagement of the river system and a failure to avert a preventable disaster.”
The letter is available here.