Water Wars

California Water Warrior Wonders Why Endangered Species Act Always In Drought Crosshairs

Posted by Tom Chandler 1/16/2014

I was saddened when the sharp-tongued, insight-rich On The Public Record blog ceased to be; the anonymous writer offered up some of the most-intelligent words written on California's water scene.

Well, he's back.

And yes, I'm all tingly.

His latest post concerns California's looming drought (still no water in the forecast), and in typically insightful fashion, he wonders why -- when things go bad and people start talking "emergency powers" -- it's always the environment that gets shot in the ass:

I am reading a fair amount of talk about the governor’s emergency powers. Messrs Peltier and Santoyo keep bringing them up. After an emergency is declared, they say, the governor could use his emergency powers to weaken environmental laws. I haven’t yet heard anyone speculate about any other emergency powers. Could the governor use emergency powers to choose a couple million acres of land to fallow, allowing the water we do have to go further on the remaining irrigated acreage? Could the governor decide that with what little water we have available, we can’t afford to be irrigating crops that don’t directly provide calories to Californians? Maybe the governor’s emergency powers could rule out irrigating alfalfa or almonds*. Maybe the governor should decide that in these crucial dry years, we must protect what’s left of the Central Valley aquifers by banning groundwater pumping. Maybe the discussion of what the governor’s emergency powers could do shouldn’t begin and end with ‘gut the Endangered Species Act’.

California's water landscape proves that money has a gravity all its own; water always flows towards it. And yes, barring a February/March Miracle, we're going to see more whining, posturing, pouting and backstabbing than the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Don't miss it.

See you watching the skies (and the political landscape), Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

16 comments
Great information. I knew the water agencies were not managing reservoirs with the thought last year's very sub-par precipitation would be repeated, and remember wondering just how wise that wise.Now we know. Even as stocks of native Delta fish crashed, the projects kept pumping record amounts of water from the Delta for five years. Not smart -- and not remotely sustainable -- but, you know, what ... more the hell. Brad, do you have a site somewhere I could link to?
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Wonder why Shasta, Oroville and Folsom are so low? It ain't from evaporation "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 ... more 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/...) 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/...) 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/...)
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Why not a politician? Oh wait a minute we want a positive result!
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Ag practices have change to minimize runoff. It's called drip irrigation. In 2003 UC Berkley publish a paper showing how CV farmers with the run off were intentionally creating wetlands with plants and microbes that take up selenium. But let us not for get the farmer did not contaminate the soil with selenium. It has been there since the acient ocean disappeared and left deposits of selenium. Lastly, ... more certain crops are now being grown that absorb selenium and metabolized it.
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Tom: This piece hit a nerve. A raw nerve. Living in the westside of the central sierra our fishing waters are small streams and creeks. With this drought there will likely be no fly fishing this year unless I drive 2-3 hour. There is going to be a lot of fish killed. These are naturals in small remote waters not stocked. Thank God. That means I never see someone one the water. On the other end I drive ... more into Fresno everyday to work. Nearly everybody and everything in the Central Valley is effected by Ag which is effected by water. Without water farm workers and their family's will be out of work. Farmers, just small to medium size business, will go out of exsistance. To be in business today they have had to met ridged invoromental law and continue to run a lean business. What the farms provide rollover to restaurants and numerous other concers that keep CA great. You mentioned 3 points I would like to address specificly. Alfalfa, otherwise known as hay. This feed untold number of different livestock. Without irrigation for hay, hay grows would go out of business. That would cause increased out of state trucking and prices to rise. Lastly, ground pumping. If we are in drought and there no surface water how are the plants to be watered? I am no radical on either side of this war. But it appears that the extreame position on rather end is not workable. I fear with the lack of snow and rain any good fishing in the streams I taught my two sons and a daughter may not exist for a very long time, if ever. Without rain I fear the same will be true of the lives of 1000's of families in the valley. That will have an effect on the rest of the state in many ways. I am not an expert in the area but a couple things make sence. Sharing. It is to everyone's benefit that that invivos and Ag share. In good years, most years that are not critical the balance is weighted a bit more to the inviros. In the bad and critical years Ag is protected. The survival of Ag to all oh us is important. I don't want to up at 4am to a glass of milk and would rather no the small waters of my area then clearing irrigation cannels. Lastly, it hurts to say it but dams and water storage are needed. Face it some rivers are so messed up that dams behind the current dams make sence, at least to me The river I think of is the San Juaqin that flows through fresno. It chills my spine to see pictures of men catching salmon in the city. I am awe struck to hear friends tell of there dad's and uncle's salmon fishing adventure in fresno. A grand effort is underway to get the salmon back up the river to Fresno. Truth be told it may have occued, onserved a fish not common to these parts, this year but it is not being announced so every freak in the area are not trying to catch a salmon. A main problem is letting out of Millerton Lake sufficiently cold water. Behind Millerton and all the way up the SJ River are pg&e or Edison hydroelectric power plants. It is not a free flowing river at that point. Further up it is free flowing. The fly fishing in______ using _____at _____ is enough to make a man cry. But back to the point. Temprance Flat has been planned for decades. But it does not get built. It would supply water to the valley. It would not destroy another river and the colder water comming out will provide more and colder water to be released to sustain the salmon. Tom, I just don't see the need for the drastic steps you suggest. I do think by not looking after our own interests only buy looking after the interest of others we will all be better off. Dave Ps sorry if spelling and grammar are off some my fat fingers are taping this out on a small iPhone.
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all of our single women in sis.co. are virgins . just ask any of their kids..
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It's actually a stratovolcano, but no place to toss a virgin (assuming you could find one). Might be worth doing should the thing ever become active (at least from the perspective of preserving property values). If we're going to sacrifice anything, why not a weatherman? We could feed him through the cloud seeders PG&E has in the Pit River drainage....
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Steve Z: A somewhat obvious response would be “Let’s stop trying to grow crops in the desert!” But that might be a tad too reasonable. Westlands Irrigation district is a prime example -- the area should probably never have been irrigated (early studies noted the problem with selenium in the soil which is now leading to all sorts of contamination issues). Now that they're developed, are we going ... more to fallow the land?
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JP2: …Have you tried to find virgins in Shasta County??… ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This (though it's Siskiyou County -- Shasta starts at the south end of Dunsmuir).
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Reisner's book is worth reading a couple of times -- I missed the bit you cited the first time.
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The big lakes are low, but a lot of the smaller foothill lakes are in even worse shape -- some in the single-digit percentages. And nothing but sunshine until February...
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...Have you tried to find virgins in Shasta County??...
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A somewhat obvious response would be "Let's stop trying to grow crops in the desert!" But that might be a tad too reasonable.
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Is mount shasta a volcano??? Have you thought about tossing in a couple of virgins? worth a shot.....probably better to use politicians that way if it doesn't work you're still doing a public service....
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It was Marc Reisner (Cadillac Desert) who observed that water issue turs the usual political philosophies upside down. Conservatives become fans of big-government water allocation projects and subsidies, and normally big-government liberals say hands-off, everybody has to live within their own means.
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Saw a blurb about both Lk.Oroville and Shasta at 30-something percent capacity?? Nasty, they must look like the Salton Sea....Looks like the State of Jefferson better declare preemptive water rights.....
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