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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 billion gallons to save 6 fish

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand" -- Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman.

So it goes with water in California. Four decades after its last water crisis, California has another one. Its population doubled, but its water reservoirs did not. On top of that, state government officials want to waste 5 billion gallons of water to save six fish. Not six types of fish -- six fish: Wally, Bob, Ted, Mary, Lenny, and Squiggy.

OK, I made up the names.

But not the story.

From Dennis Wyatt:
Correspondence between the National Marine Fisheries Service and Congressman Jeff Denham’s office shows the Bureau of Reclamation wants to flush as much as 15,000 acre feet of water down the Stanislaus River in order to “save” six fish.
In an email Sunny Snider of the federal fish protection agency sent to Denham Chief of Staff Jason Larrabee, it indicated a previous pulse flow in March that significantly raised water levels on the Stanislaus River through Ripon despite being in the middle of a severe drought had moved out 76 percent of  the out-migrating steelhead by March 30.
The email stated that National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) only expects 29 out-migrating steelhead a year and that their plan was to release 30,000 acre feet by the end of April to help them reach the Delta.
That means there are six steelhead left that the Bureau ordered South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District to release water this week to help on their journey. The 15,000 acre feet of water based on a statewide per capita use average could supply 174,301 Californians with water for a year to the combined populations of Tracy and Santa Barbara. Combined with last month’s pulse flow release, the 30,000 acre feet of water is the equivalent of the combined annual water needs of the cities of Stockton, Lathrop, Ripon, and Escalon.
And even if the six steelhead do make it to the Delta there is no guarantee they will survive to make it to the San Francisco Bay and then the Pacific Ocean. 
The SSJID and OID on Tuesday refused a Bureau order to start releasing more water until it was clarified whose water was being released — that belonging to the Bureau or the two water districts. Modeling shows New Melones running out of water in late August or early September meaning the likelihood that future releases to keep the river flowing will be commandeered from the two irrigation districts.
The dollar value of the 15,000 acre feet based on today’s market rate of $400 an acre foot means the water — if it is indeed will  be taken from SJID and OID — has a value of $600,000.
Here is hoping Republican Congressman Denham stops this nonsense.


  1. They now have $100,000 fish to go along with the $6 Million Man.

  2. I hear tell there are lots of steelhead up in Oregon.