This just in … Feinstein, Congressional Republicans call for increased Delta pumping

From the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein:

Dianne_Feinstein,_official_Senate_photo_2Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on President Obama to direct federal agencies “to maximize pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the maximum extent allowed under the Endangered Species Act and biological opinions.”

Feinstein wrote in her letter to the president: “I believe that this year’s El Niño has highlighted a fundamental problem with our water system: A dogmatic adherence to a rigid set of operating criteria that continues to handcuff our ability to rebuild our reserves. We need a more nimble system. That’s why I included $150 million the past two years in the Energy and Water budget—so that decisions would be based on real-time data, rather than relying on intuition.”

Full text of the letter follows:

March 24, 2016

Dear Mr. President:

I ask you to direct the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service to maximize pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the maximum extent allowed under the Endangered Species Act and biological opinions. Water flows in the Sacramento River are the highest they have been in four years. Just last week, flows in the Sacramento were as high as 76,000 cubic feet per second. We’ve only seen flows that high twice in the past ten years, and not once during this drought. Yet the Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service are now considering reducing pumping due to concerns about larval smelt.

Despite these high flows, rather than pumping as much water as possible without undue harm to the smelt, pumping levels remained constant for the past month (see Chart B below). Coupled with the fact that only three individual smelt were caught at the pumps this year, and that the most recent trawls revealed no Delta smelt in the south Delta, it seems to me that the agencies operate the system in a manner that may be contrary to the available data, culled from what is already a limited monitoring regime. I understand that the biological opinions impose a ceiling of -5,000 cubic feet per second, but the agencies have the discretion to exercise at least some flexibility to pump above that level.

To put this all in context, between January 1 and March 6 last year, 1.5 million acre feet of water flowed through the Delta and 745,000 acre feet were pumped out. During the same period this year, 5.5 million acre feet of water flowed through the Delta, but only 852,000 acre feet were pumped out (see Chart A below). If we can’t increase pumping during an El Niño year, then when else can we?

The agencies have also put California and the communities that depend on this water in a catch-22: Pumping is reduced when there are concerns about the presence of smelt caught as far away as 17 miles from the pumps. Yet agencies will also reduce pumping due to the absence of smelt, based on the idea that historically low smelt populations make detection difficult.

I believe that this year’s El Niño has highlighted a fundamental problem with our water system: A dogmatic adherence to a rigid set of operating criteria that continues to handcuff our ability to rebuild our reserves. We need a more nimble system. That’s why I included $150 million the past two years in the Energy and Water budget—so that decisions would be based on real-time data, rather than relying on intuition.

There are real-world consequences to the decisions being made in the Delta. 69 communities in the Southern San Joaquin Valley reported significant water supply and quality issues. And land is caving, bridges collapsing, as a result of overdrawn ground wells and subsidence. That’s why we need to make sure we’re using every possible tool to make the right choices. Basing pumping decisions on better science and real-time monitoring is the least we can do.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

From the Office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy:

McCarthyHouse Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) led a letter with California House Republicans to President Obama calling on him to direct federal agencies to increase water exports in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta immediately. Excerpts from the letter are below followed by the full letter.

“Through El Niño, Mother Nature has blessed our state with much-needed precipitation. Unfortunately, both FWS and NMFS have severely limited the ability of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to export water from the Delta to California’s Central Valley and further south.

“In fact, while Delta outflow has been substantially higher in 2016, Reclamation has exported roughly the same amount of water this year – during an El Nino year – that it did last year, one of the hottest and driest years on record.

“It is our understanding … that that FWS will likely order Reclamation to reduce Delta exports to -3,500 cfs at Old and Middle River on March 24th, with the potential for future reductions. This is unacceptable.

“We more urgently need specific leadership from our Chief Executive.  That specific leadership is simple: a clear message to the relevant federal agencies to increase – not decrease – pumping over and above -5,000 cfs to take full advantage of these recent storms—perhaps the last of the season.

“We implore you to direct these agencies to immediately increase Delta water exports, rather than reducing them.  The fate of California and the lives and livelihoods of our constituents are at risk.”

###

Text of the letter:

March 24, 2016

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of our constituents and the residents of California, we write to request that you direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to authorize increased water exports in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta immediately.

Through El Niño, Mother Nature has blessed our state with much-needed precipitation. Unfortunately, both FWS and NMFS have severely limited the ability of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to export water from the Delta to California’s Central Valley and further south. Earlier this month, the amount of water flowing out of the Delta into the Pacific Ocean exceeded 114,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), while Delta water exports have remained at about -5,000 cfs at Old and Middle River.  In fact, while Delta outflow has been substantially higher in 2016, Reclamation has exported roughly the same amount of water this year – during an El Nino year – that it did last year, one of the hottest and driest years on record.

Recently, Federal and California state water contractors proposed to Reclamation, FWS, and NMFS that Delta exports be modestly increased to -6,000 cfs at Old and Middle River, given the amount of water flowing through the Delta to the Pacific Ocean.  It is our understanding that not only did the agencies reject this proposal, but that FWS will likely order Reclamation to reduce Delta exports to -3,500 cfs at Old and Middle River today, with the potential for future reductions. This is unacceptable.

You have traveled to our state. You have seen the devastating impacts the lack of water has caused to our communities, cities, farms and businesses.  Your Presidential Memorandum, released just two days ago, acknowledged the effects of the drought and directed federal agencies to collaborate with local governments and non-governmental entities to help lessen the impacts from the drought and expand water resources.

While we need collaboration among different levels of government, we more urgently need specific leadership from our Chief Executive.  That specific leadership is simple: a clear message to the relevant federal agencies to increase – not decrease – pumping over and above -5,000 cfs to take full advantage of these recent storms—perhaps the last of the season.

It will take years and tens of millions of acre-feet of water to replenish our groundwater resources and for Californians’ lives to get back to normal.  We cannot have Reclamation, FWS, and NMFS making our recovery all the more challenging. Accordingly, we implore you to direct these agencies to immediately increase Delta water exports, rather than reducing them.  The fate of California and the lives and livelihoods of our constituents are at risk.

The time to act is now.

Sincerely,

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23)
Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42)
Rep. David Valadao (CA-21)
Rep. Devin Nunes (CA-22)
Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04)
Rep. Mimi Walters(CA-45)
Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-10)
Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25)
Rep. Ed Royce (CA-39)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50)

 

——————————————–

Sign up for daily email service and you’ll always be one of the first to know!

  • Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts like this one, too. Sign me up!

keeping watchMaven’s Notebook
constantly watching over the world of California water

(Visited 134 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply