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

Opinion: Delta tunnels bad news for salmon industry

Coalition response…Delivery of water that flows through the Delta has been interrupted in recent years by government regulations that require portions of the users’ water to remain in the Delta for environmental purposes. A recent example is the loss of more than 800,000 acre-feet ( from December to February of this year. This was at a time when heavy flows were present in rivers and reservoirs were storing water. Since that time rain and snow has dwindled and farmers along the San Joaquin Valley Westside who receive water from the federal Central Valley Project saw their deliveries cut by 80 percent. If the tunnels had been in place, that 800,000 acre-feet of water could have been sent south of the Delta and into storage for use later in the year.

These uncertainties of knowing how much water they will receive has caused farmers to delay planting their fields and eventually leave their fields fallow, which causes farm workers to lose their jobs. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan restores that certainty of water deliveries for farmers by delivering water that they have a right to and once received before the government regulations caused the interruptions. Unfortunately, the increased diversion of water has not resulted in any proven benefits to fish or the environment.

Those who benefit from the water passing through them will pay the cost of constructing the proposed tunnels.

The author compares California’s statewide salmon industry economic activity at $1.4 billion to Westlands Water District’s produce sales of $1.6 billion, which misleads and grossly understates comparative economic values. Water delivered through the Delta serves almost 4,000 farms in dozens of irrigation and water districts from Patterson to Bakersfield, which is much greater in value than measuring part of the production in just one district.

A closer look at the recent economic analysis of benefits resulting from the Plan reveals that California will receive an overall benefit of $84 billion. Part of that total is the more than a million jobs that will be created during the 50-year span of the Plan and the $11 billion in wages that will be paid, which should be a welcome addition to California’s economy.

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