Brown fails to discuss wholesale draining of reservoirs in drought statement

Written By: Dan Bacher, January 31, 2014

Brown fails to discuss wholesale draining of reservoirs in drought statement

Governor Jerry Brown today issued a statement after the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that State Water Project allocation is being dropped to zero - but failed to mention anything about the alarming fact that northern California reservoirs were drained last summer during the drought to fill Southern California water banks and reservoirs. 

“Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real," said Brown. "We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.” 

"When Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency earlier this month, he directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages," according to the statement. 

"This week, CAL FIRE announced it hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions, the California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought," the statement continued. 

He also used the statement as an opportunity to push the California Water Action Plan, which embraces the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. 

"Also this week, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture also released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure," the Governor's Office said. 

"Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent and the Save Our Water campaign has announced four new public service announcements that encourage residents to conserve. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California’s preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water," the statement concluded. 

I'm glad that CAL FIRE has hired 125 additional firefighters to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions, the California Department of Public Health has identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought and the Governor is calling for increased water conservation. 

However, the big question is: where were Jerry Brown, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin and other officials when the state and federal water agencies drained Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and other reservoirs last summer in order to ship water to the Kern Water Bank, the Westlands Water District, and Southern California water agencies? 

The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources systematically drained northern California reservoirs, resulting in low flows and endangering salmon and steelhead in the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers, while filling water banks and Southern California reservoirs. This is "Chinatown" all over again. I will repeat again what I wrote in the Sacramento Bee last week. 

"Last summer, high water releases down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers left Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at dangerously low levels. Shasta is at 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average; Oroville, 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average; and Folsom, 17 percent of capacity and 34 percent of average. 

Yet Pyramid Lake in Southern California is at 98 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average; and Castaic Reservoir, 86 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average. 

The state and federal water agencies exported massive quantities of water to agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies, endangering local water supplies and fish populations as the ecosystem continues to collapse." (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/22/6090426/northern-california-reservoirs.html

Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, explained how the water was mismanaged. 

“We entered 2013 with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at 115 percent, 113 percent, and 121 percent of historical average storage. In April, they were still at 101 percent, 108 percent and 96 percent of average," said Jennings. 

"With no rainfall and little snowpack, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau (of Reclamation) notified their contractors that water deliveries would be reduced. But they didn’t reduce deliveries. Instead, they actually exported 835,000 acre-feet more water than they said they would be able to deliver," said Jennings. (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/26/6097073/viewpoints-better-solutions-for.html

Ironically, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will have enough water in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to supply its users while Sacramento, Folsom and other cities have been forced to cut water use by 20 percent. 

“We’ll have plenty of water in 2015,” Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “And even if it’s still a drought, we’ll still have enough water in 2016." (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/12/6063205/california-drought-will-test-jerry.html#storylink=cpy

Now that our salmon and steelhead populations are in this crisis situation, it is crucial that Bonham and other officials meet with key leaders from the recreational and commercial fishing community, along with non-government fishery scientists and other stakeholders, to map out a drought action plan. 

Four fishery conservation groups - the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Coastside Fishing Club, Golden Gate Salmon Association and Golden Gate Fishermen's Association - have asked state and federal fishery and water officials to convene an urgent meeting to save California Central Valley Chinook salmon runs from the drought. 

“We have a potentially dire situation in which a large percentage of 2013 Central Valley salmon may be lost if no action is taken,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “Salmon have been suffering from a manmade drought for decades and this years’ lack of rainfall exacerbates the problem. We’re calling on the state and federal government to save this year’s salmon run, which can be done if we act now.” 

“All four of the Central Valley Chinook runs are in immediate peril due to the drought and a large percentage of the 2013 production may be lost if no action is taken,” said Marc Gorelnik of the Coastside Fishing Club. (http://calsport.org/news/cspa-coalition-call-for-drought-action-plan-to-save-salmon-fisheries/

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