From News Line, a daily compilation of farm water news distributed to CFWC members and others upon request. To receive News Line, click here.

Extra water releases planned to protect Klamath River salmon

Coalition response…Farmers along the San Joaquin Valley westside are again seeing a portion of their water being taken away as Reclamation plans to send water down the Trinity River for fall-run Chinook salmon in the Klamath River, which is not an endangered species. Reclamation reports the extra water is expected to protect an anticipated high number of returning salmon from a disease that is already established in the Klamath. A salmon die-off occurred once back in 2002, which is what Reclamation is hoping to avoid with extra water releases this year. However, there were no supplemental releases from 2005 through 2011 and no die-off of salmon either. So, where’s the reasoning for this month’s planned action?

Taking an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 acre feet of water out of the system could further harm Valley farmers who already experienced an 80 percent cut in their water supply this year from the Central Valley Project.

Reclamation has claimed its authority to take this action comes from obligations imposed by the Trinity River Division Central Valley Project Act of 1955. However, the 2000 Trinity River Restoration Record of Decision provides the water to meet those obligations and, given proper planning, would have been sufficient to meet the needs of this action without creating further undue impacts upon Central Valley Project water and power customers, including wildlife refuges.

In July 2012, then-Regional Director Donald Glaser of Reclamation said in a letter that a supplemental release in August 2012 would not harm CVP water users this year. He stated that Reclamation would identify any effects that might result from last year’s action. He also promised a long-term strategy for addressing fish flows. Water users are still waiting for that plan in hopes that it will avoid such situations that we are facing today.

We’ve seen this before: water taken from farmers for environmental purposes with no proven benefits.

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