The Sacramento Valley, the northern part of the Central Valley, spreads through 10 counties north of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Sacramento is an important agricultural region, growing citrus, nuts and rice among many other crops.
Water flows from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the region’s two major rivers — the Sacramento and American – and west into the Delta. Other rivers include the Cosumnes, which is the largest free-flowing river in the Central Valley, the lower Feather, Bear and Yuba.
The Sacramento Valley attracts more than 2 million ducks and geese each winter to its seasonal marshes along the Pacific Flyway. Species include northern pintails, snow geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, mallards, grebes, peregrine falcons, heron, egrets, and hawks.
Tuesday, I visited a couple of projects in the Sacramento Valley that are aimed at helping salmon on both ends of the life cycle. They are collaborations between farmers and environmentalists, two groups that are often at each other’s throats in the never-ending battle over who is entitled to California’s precious water supply.
Excavators, loaders and dump trucks began moving earth around the Sacramento River this week as part of the latest effort to help endangered chinook salmon. … Money for the project comes from the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
For the past two years state fisheries officials have asked the state Fish and Game Commission to close on an emergency basis a 51/2-mile section of the river to fishing from April 1 to July 31 to protect spawning winter-run chinook salmon.
An hour north of Sacramento, in a ghost town tucked into a remote mountain valley, California is poised to build a massive new reservoir – a water project of a size that hasn’t been undertaken since Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor in the 1970s. Sites Reservoir, all $4.4 billion of it, represents an about-face in a state where drought has become the norm and water users are told to scrimp and save.
Dr. Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, is the godfather of research on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. When he says it took John Sutter eight days to wind his way from San Francisco Bay through the Delta to find the narrow Sacramento River in 1839, you can bet that’s the truth. … Now, water agencies have joined together again to launch the River Arc Project.
Rains have drenched Northern California, where most of the state’s largest reservoirs are located. The state had the second wettest October since the Department [of Water Resources] began keeping records in 1921.
Last week, folks who are in the inner circle of the plans for Sites Reservoir held a get-together in Maxwell to show off the group’s new office and new logo. Also new is a website, that talks about all things Sites Reservoir — a construction schedule, facts sheets and a list of interested participants (see sidebar).
Signaling a cutback in water supplies for farming and cities, California regulators on Wednesday issued a new scientific analysis that proposes overhauling the management of the Sacramento River and devoting more water to Northern California’s dwindling fish populations. … The proposal comes a month after the water board called for people to take far less water out of the San Joaquin River system.
A project to rebuild the Wallace Weir, a century-old levee northwest of Sacramento, could help both farmers and salmon. Bringing together a coalition of unlikely allies, it promises a more sophisticated approach to water management.
California has been trying to fill its reservoirs for 5 years, and it will get a little help from a storm expected to hit later this week. Right now, Lake Shasta is only at 60% capacity and Lake Oroville is at 44%, with other reservoirs across the state even lower.
The Yuba County Water Agency board of directors on Tuesday unanimously voted to reject an initiative to redistribute revenue generated from groundwater substitution transfers — that is the sale of surface water which is then replaced locally by pumped water. … The initiative, known as the Groundwater Fairness Act, was submitted to the agency on Sept. 30.
At this point in the Sacramento River restoration game, one big fix will not change the outlook for endangered and threatened salmon. However, fish scientist Dave Vogel hopes that a series of smaller fixes will make a big difference.
Less than 50 miles northeast of Chico, California, begins the 93-mile Butte Creek – a tributary of the Sacramento River. It is named after Butte County, which was in turn named for the nearby volcanic plateaus, or “buttes,” and travels through a massive canyon on its way southwest to the Sacramento Valley.
As a watershed, it drains about 800 square miles, both for agricultural and residential use. The upper watershed is dominated by forests, while the lower watershed is primarily agricultural.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Lake Shasta, where participants take a houseboat ride.
Go deep into California’s water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that support the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The tour makes it way to San Francisco Bay, and includes a ferry ride.
Water from Northern California flows through the Delta and heads south to provide drinking water for more than 25 million Californians and irrigation to 3 million acres of farmland that contribute to the state’s $46 billion agricultural industry.
As you grunt up the path in the depths of Deer Creek Canyon, the incongruous sound of a large piece of gasoline-driven machinery becomes audible over the rhythmic rumbling of the creek. … But it’s one of those things where a temporary intrusion into the wild may end up enhancing the wild for the long term.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the go-ahead to begin a nine-part levee-improvement project for the Natomas Basin in Sacramento. … The levees are part of a system that diverts watershed runoff into the American River.
California is the country’s second-largest rice producer, after Arkansas, and the $5 billion crop is particularly well suited to the Sacramento Valley’s clay soil. … Although seeing thousands of acres of rice fields covered shin-deep in water might seem wasteful to some, not everyone sees it that way.
Regional groundwater leaders took some necessary next steps this week on the road to groundwater management and sustainability. In less than a year, local water leaders need to decide who will oversee state-mandated groundwater plans.
Plans to build the Sites Reservoir have been in the works since 1957, and if it is eventually approved, work on the project probably would not be complete for another 10 to 12 years, according to Jim Watson, the Sites Reservoir Project general manager.
With habitat for California waterbirds drying up, conservation groups and rice farmers are collaborating to flood fields and enhance waterbird habitat on roughly 550,000 acres of California’s rice fields.
Calling all water users: If you would like to buy in on water from a future Sites Reservoir, now is the time. Plans for Sites Reservoir are moving forward, with a deadline of June 2017 to ask the state Water Commission to pay for half of the estimated $4.4 billion construction cost.
Federal officials on June 29 released a temperature management plan for the Sacramento River that schedules releases from Shasta Lake in a way they believe provides adequate temperatures for winter-run Chinook salmon without cutting farm water deliveries.
With this year’s storms helping to refill the Sacramento region’s lakes and reservoirs, local water district officials and state regulators are diverting and percolating stormwater from Cache Creek into the Yolo County canal system to recharge groundwater supplies used by local farmers, city residents and UC Davis.
By this time next year a lot of work needs to be done on a regional groundwater sustainability plan. … Every big task needs to start somewhere, and this week the public is being asked to join the conversation.
Drought-stressed Capitol Park will get $1.7 million for a reclaimed water project in the new state budget, even though the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst concluded that the project won’t pencil out for more than a century and a half.
A new era of groundwater management began with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
When fully implemented, SGMA is expected to effectively administer groundwater pumping, though it remains to be seen if some of the damage done to aquifers is irreparable. Without SGMA, however, there is no hope for management.
The sounds of watercraft and families enjoying Lake Shasta on Sunday carried across the water against a vibrant backdrop of the tree line. The scene is a far cry from last year’s low water levels on the lake, which became a visual indicator of the state-wide drought and the impact to the local environment.
An estimated 1,380,000 salmon fry were to be loaded up into five 2,800-gallon tanker trucks this week at the Feather River Fish Hatchery to make their way to San Pablo Bay as part of an assisted migration.
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District hired Dragados USA to build a biological nutrient removal station, part of a larger $1.5 billion to $2 billion effort to meet stricter state standards on wastewater pollutants discharged into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Despite some reservations, the Butte County Board of Supervisors unanimously backed a conditional letter of support for the Sites Reservoir project. The letter, to be sent to the California Water Commission and the Sites Joint Powers Authority, called for using Proposition 1 money to further investigate the off-stream project west of the Sacramento River in Colusa and Glenn counties.
The rains this winter were more or less than expected, depending on where you live and what you expected. … The unequal distribution of water continues as state and federal water leaders allocate surface water supply.
Years of rumbling dump trucks and backhoes placing 2.75 million tons of rock “armor” along nearly a dozen miles of riverbank is an unpleasant thought for many who bike, jog, fish, bird-watch, golf, boat and swim along the lower American River Parkway.
With Lake Oroville rising more than 82 feet this month, the water level is now cutting into the buffer needed for flood control. … Other north state reservoirs have increased their outflows as they encroach on flood control limits.
Conaway Ranch, a 17,000-acre farm in which the Tsakopoulos family acquired controlling interest in 2010, said Monday it will work with water-use experts from Israel to experiment with drip irrigation on a small portion of its rice fields.
There may be big problems lurking in the Sacramento River for the young fish that officials want some day to hatch in Battle Creek. That was the message that some river anglers delivered to federal fisheries officials at a meeting in Red Bluff on Tuesday night.
Seasonal storms that have raised the region’s reservoir water levels to their highest points in the last two years could bolster this year’s run of Chinook salmon, water and wildlife officials said Wednesday.
Chris Rufer, 66, never has been keen on big government and always liked an underdog fight. … That perseverance has Rufer entangled in a $1.5-million battle with water regulators over waste and odors from his tomato processing plant in the Sacramento Valley town of Williams, the largest facility of its kind in the country.
Water from the rain-swollen Sacramento River began flowing over the Fremont Weir and into the Yolo Bypass on Saturday morning, according to monitors at the California Nevada River Forecast Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For more than 70 years, Coleman National Fish Hatchery has raised young salmon and steelhead trout, and released them into Battle Creek so they can migrate out to the Pacific Ocean. But there are changes happening in Battle Creek.
A few dozen baby salmon that spent the past two weeks contentedly eating – and growing – in the invertebrate stew of a flooded rice field were netted Friday, dumped into coolers and hauled by pickup several miles to a drainage canal and to the Sacramento River.
Even with unseasonably warm temperatures and little to no rain in the forecast for at least the next seven days, the operators of Folsom Dam are going to more than double the flows in the lower American River to protect against flooding.
The discovery of an invasive mudsnail downstream of the Table Mountain Boulevard bridge in Oroville, has prompted state officials to urge Feather River users to decontaminate equipment. … Officials are also setting up decontamination protocols to keep the mudsnails from entering the nearby Feather River Fish Hatchery.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by the hot, dry climate endemic to much of inland California, state drought regulators Friday proposed easing the water-conservation rules for Sacramento and other communities where it takes extra water to keep trees from dying.
Water experts in Yolo County are actively monitoring water wells to measure the groundwater supply. … The groundwater supplies about 30 percent of the water in our region, according to the Northern California Water Association, which represents water rights holders in the Sacramento Valley.
The funds, from the Department of Water Resources’ Flood Systems Repair Program, will allow the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency to improve a section of levee near Laurel Avenue south of Star Bend, further expanding a multi-year project to raise the flood protection in urban and rural areas to 200- and 100-year levels, respectively.
Scientists were knee deep in the Feather River on Friday, systematically injecting 20,000 fertilized salmon eggs into the bottom of the river. … The eggs were injected near the Oroville Wildlife Area, just a few miles north of Gridley.
The State Water Resources Control Board meets Monday on potential changes to mandatory water conservation targets should the drought persist into 2016. … The Regional Water Authority is joining several other water providers from across the state to propose an objective, science-based approach to adjust water conservation targets for climate.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply. All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: The State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
This 3-day, 2-night tour travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Lake Shasta, where participants take a houseboat ride.
It will take dozens of rain storms to alter the effects of California’s four-year drought. … With Folsom Lake now at just 15 percent of capacity, water experts are once again urging Californians to conserve.
The issue of the governor’s request came to light as part of a lawsuit against the state by farmers who accuse the state of doing an inadequate job of preventing water pollution from oil and gas drilling.
Visitors to the Feather River Fish Hatchery will find new signs with updated information. The signs replace displays that were erected when the hatchery first opened in 1967, according to Penny Crawshaw, fish hatchery manager.
Right now, migrating waterfowl are looking for wet places to land and feed. … This week, several Sacramento River farm water districts finalized a deal with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to use water later in the year, to provide water for birds in November.
One of the last wild runs of chinook salmon in California is sinking fast amid the four-year drought and now appears perilously close to oblivion after the federal agency in charge of protecting marine life documented the death of millions of young fish and eggs in the Sacramento River.
Construction is nearly complete on a $2.5 million fish barrier at the Knights Landing Outfall Gates. The project will block migrating salmon from straying off course as they make their way up the Sacramento River.
Before the founders of the Family Water Alliance began installing metal screens at the end of the big pipes that draw water from the Sacramento River to irrigate Colusa County’s rice and vegetable fields, seasonal salmon runs often included sizable helpings of fresh fish flopping in the brown dirt of farm furrows. The pumps that transported water were powerful enough to suck migrating fish into the pipes and toss them out the other end, typically startled and very much alive.
Wildlife managers are worried again this year: Will there be enough wet habitat for millions of birds in the Sacramento Valley? Before the drought, 250,000-300,000 acres of California rice lands was flooded each winter.
The last hurdle in relicensing the Oroville Dam facilities may be only a few more months away, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The agency has been working on a biological opinion to determine how the dam and facilities downstream could impact endangered and threatened fish and other issues.
Even as Sacramento waits for the soaking El Niño forecast to hit this fall, Folsom Lake continues to lose water and will almost certainly fall Thursday to its lowest level in more than 20 years, government data show.
What’s holding up the relicensing of Oroville Dam facilities? Fish. Specifically, an opinion on how three threatened species might be affected, according to local Department of Water Resources officials.
A group of Northern California water users, and now investors, have taken the next big step in the plans to build a new reservoir in Northern California. Jim Watson has been hired as the new and first general manager of the Sites Reservoir Joint Powers Authority, sitesjpa.net.
Taxed by years of drought, the lake [Folsom Lake] is currently filled to 19 percent of its total capacity, with officials from the federal Bureau of Reclamation foreseeing it may yet drop below the 1977 record-low of 150 acre feet. Low water levels change more than the lake’s aesthetics.
The gates will open Monday on the fish ladder to the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, beginning the two-month process that will see 15 million chinook salmon eggs harvested for further continuation of the species.
More than 200,000 rainbow trout suffocated in a matter of minutes Tuesday at the American River Hatchery near Rancho Cordova due to an unexpected release of gunk from Folsom Dam that clogged water intakes.
Last summer, a narrow, rock-rimmed stretch of the Sacramento River near here turned into a mass graveyard for baby salmon. Upstream releases of water from Shasta Dam were so warm that virtually an entire generation of endangered winter-run Chinook was wiped out.
The Glenn County Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed a ban on new well permits, which will slow but not halt the number of new wells drilled in the primarily agricultural county. … One project that will be put on hold, at least for the next six months, is the five new wells planned by the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, the largest supplier of ag water in the area.
Until things are back to normal, some folks in Glenn County want to see a halt to new well drilling. Tuesday, the issue will be before the Glenn County Board of Supervisors, at the request of farmer Sharron Ellis.
State officials are estimating that Bidwell Canyon’s three available concrete lanes will close this week when the lake level drops 220 feet below the top of Oroville Dam. The dam is considered full at 900 feet above sea level.
Almond farmers who planned a mid-summer getaway may need to put those plans on hold. Already the nuts are at the phase of hull split, which comes just before its time to shake the trees. Butte County Agricultural Commissioner Richard Price said all crops are early this year.
Almost half of the city [of Sacramento] utility’s nearly 126,000 residential connections don’t have meters tracking and tallying how much they use. Because of this, there’s no way of precisely knowing how much water goes missing because of leaky pipes, loose connections, theft or at city hydrants.
It’s hard to know how many people are scrambling to get water this summer. … If the long-term solution is waiting for well driller to deepen a well, the quick-fix is calling a man with a truck who will deliver water.
By now, most customers of a water district know the new conservation rules. … However, what about people who live in more rural areas and in smaller water districts that have different water conservation rules?
While harvesting 350 acres of wheat, farmer Deke Dormer collected 819 eggs in his field. The eggs were then placed in egg cartons, taken to incubators for hatching, and will be returned to wetlands when the ducklings are old enough to survive on their own.
For salmon to survive in Butte Creek, the fish will need as much water as they can get from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. … PG&E showed the Enterprise-Record that water system Tuesday during a helicopter tour.
Four years of dry, hot weather have raised lake temperatures and depleted many of the state’s reservoirs. In response, the state has cut flows from Lake Shasta to protect an endangered species of salmon and raised flows from Folsom Lake to prevent salt water from intruding into the Delta.
The new state rules for water conservation kicked in June 1, requiring residential customers in Chico to use 32 percent less water than they used during the same months in 2013. Oroville customers have to use 28 percent less.
More than one-tenth of the largest wild population of threatened salmon in the Central Valley died after repair work near a power plant led Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to cut off a cooling flow of water into a creek, wildlife and utility officials said Friday.
A search for new sources of water by the Rio Linda-Elverta Community Water District has found that wells closest to the former McClellan Air Force Base have the highest levels of hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, a known carcinogen.
State and federal fish and water managers are trying to find a way to avoid a massive die-off of young fish in the Sacramento River. … The changes in river flow might further impact the amount of water that Sacramento River Settlement Contractors are able to draw from the river for farms.
Even in dry years, water rights that date back before 1914 usually hold strong. However, Friday the State Water Resources Control Board announced water rights would be curtailed even for landowners who had rights dating back to 1903.
Yet even as California farmers eye what could be a lucrative expansion into the world’s most discriminating rice market in Japan, their ambitions have been complicated by the state’s severe drought and the surge in the dollar.
The city of Lincoln, Sacramento Suburban Water District and Georgetown Divide Public Utility District have been told they have to reduce water consumption by 32 percent over the next nine months compared to 2013.
Scientists have found new ways to reduce mercury in wetlands, providing hope that Sacramento-area waterways can be decontaminated of the potentially toxic element that dates back to Gold Rush-era mining activities.
Cattle rancher Mary Wells lives in a remote valley of summer-gold grass where eagles wheel in the sky, wild pigs roam the surrounding hills and rattlesnakes slither over a parched 14,000-acre domain that looks almost untouched by humans.
Some 3 million hatchery rainbow and brown trout are in quarantine at two North State hatcheries after captive-raised fish at the Darrah Springs Trout Hatchery in Paynes Creek tested positive for whirling disease.
In 2000, most of the Sacramento region’s water agencies and environmental groups came together in the historic Water Forum Agreement that established a framework to provide a reliable water supply through 2030 and to preserve environmental resources of the lower American River.
While state-mandated requirements of Colusa County’s groundwater are still years away, concerns about aquifer health among local farmers already exist. About 50 local residents and growers participated in a public informational meeting about groundwater at the Colusa County Fairgrounds on Tuesday night.
Blessed by its perch at the confluence of two major rivers, the Sacramento region has grown for generations in sprawling style, confident that water would be there in ample supply. Even now, amid a historic drought that has prompted deep, state-mandated water cuts for urban users, capital area leaders show no sign of backing off their plans for another major growth surge.
After spending decades trapped in the lower Yuba River, endangered Chinook salmon could once again swim the cold pools in the upper reaches of the waterway — staving off extinction and settling a dispute that has lingered for years.
On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, or EBMUD, unanimously authorized district staff to negotiate the purchase of up to 21,000 acre-feet of Sacramento River water from the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Sycamore Mutual Water Co. and Reclamation District 1004 outside of Colusa.
A revised draft of water conservation regulations released Tuesday night by the State Water Resources Control Board offered little reprieve to Sacramento-area communities that had pushed back against mandated cutbacks of up to 36 percent.
Interest in the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, also known as the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, is so brisk that the Yolo Basin Foundation has had to turn away schools that seek to introduce students to the environmental value of the more than 16,000-acre habitat.
As Californians face deepening cuts in water usage because of the drought, critics are raising concerns about tens of millions of gallons of Sacramento municipal water being tapped by a local plant that bottles and resells it at a profit.
Representatives of the Placer County Water Agency, San Juan Water District, city of Roseville and Sacramento County Water Agency, in a joint letter, took exception to being lumped in with communities that don’t have strong water rights under California law and largely import their water from other regions.
Federal and state agencies along with Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (SRSCs) agreed this week on an integrated framework of actions for Central Valley Project/State Water Project operations for mid-April through November. The actions will flexibly manage and operate the system to serve multiple beneficial purposes that include water for cities and rural communities, farms, fish and wildlife and their habitats in the Sacramento Valley. The suite of actions will also help provide water for areas of the state that are in dire need of additional water supplies.
The revised conservation mandates unveiled by state water regulators Saturday would require most Sacramento-area communities to make even bigger cuts in water use than originally proposed, disappointing area leaders who argue the state should take into account the region’s hot weather and large lot sizes.
Farmers along the Sacramento River who have long-time water rights will receive 75 percent of their historic supply again this year. Last year cutbacks occurred as well for these growers, known as Sacramento River settlement contractors.
It’s much clearer how water storage money from the Proposition 1 water bond will be spent, following Monday’s well-attended meeting in Chico hosted by a couple of members of the California Water Commission. But it’s much less clear what it will be spent on.
In separate letters to the State Water Resources Control Board this week, water agency officials in Carmichael, Fair Oaks, West Sacramento and other suburbs argued that their customers already had made significant cuts in water use in the last decade and should not be forced to reduce consumption by 35 percent over 2013 usage.
As California continues reeling from the drought, Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday headed into the farmlands north of Sacramento, where concerns about the state’s parched spell are mounting after a dry winter.
Even Northern California farmers with some of the best water rights in the state will see their water allocations decreased by 50 percent this year. Districts along the Feather River got the news Wednesday from the Department of Water Resources.
Two suburban water agencies serving half a million people combined in suburban Sacramento and Placer counties have stepped up merger negotiations, saying they can better survive the drought as a larger organization.
Gov. Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent water reduction in California, but what that means won’t be clear until the state water board sets the rules in May. … Some local entities, such as Butte College, haven’t seen new rules stemming from the governor’s order, but have already taken steps to reduce usage.
While Yuba City residents are looking at the likelihood of mandatory water restrictions for the rest of this year, Marysville citizens aren’t facing the same water challenges. … Q&A: Marysville’s Water Supply
A massive new round of levee improvements is ahead for Sacramento over the next decade, this time focusing primarily on the Sacramento River south of downtown. … The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency unveiled the package of projects recently and are planning a series of public meetings in April.