The head of the federal agency controlling the Colorado River said Thursday the U.S. government will impose unprecedented restrictions on water supplies to the seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the river unless everyone agrees by Jan. 31 on a plan to deal with an expected shortage in 2020.
A water district that provides irrigation to San Joaquin Valley farmers heard mostly negative comments in Redding on Wednesday about its role in the ongoing proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam. The Fresno County-based Westlands Water District, which has stepped forward to help pay the cost to raise the dam, held a meeting at the Holiday Inn to take comments that will be used to develop an environmental impact report on the project.
November saw a hotly contested election for two of the three open seats on the Nevada Irrigation District board — in large part due to the ongoing controversy over the Centennial Dam, and whether the district needs to continue with the multimillion-dollar reservoir project.
Water managers from seven Southwestern states that depend on the Colorado River are close but haven’t finalized an unprecedented drought contingency plan they may have to enact in 2020. The federal government’s top water official, Brenda Burman, is expected to urge action Thursday at a Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas where a pact was supposed to be signed.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday approved a plan for sharing Colorado River delivery cuts if a shortage is declared on the drought-depleted river. The vote by the district, which imports water to the Southland, represents another step in a years-long attempt to forge a shortage agreement among the seven states that depend on the Colorado for drinking and irrigation supplies.
The Army Corps manages 13 dams in the Willamette Valley Project, which the agency also calls the Willamette Basin. The dams and reservoirs include Lookout Point, Hills Creek and Cougar east of Eugene-Springfield, as well as Cottage Grove Lake to the south. All of the reservoirs in the project are at or near minimum levels for this time of year, according to the agency.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which holds some of the oldest and largest rights to Colorado River water, on Monday tentatively agreed to a one-time contribution of up to 250,000 acre-feet of surplus water if needed to stave off shortages in Lake Mead. But they tacked on several last-minute conditions aimed at easing farmers’ fears of permanently losing water, and to force federal and state officials to guarantee funding for clean-up of the Salton Sea.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is joining forces with House Republicans to try to extend a controversial law that provides more water for Central Valley farms, but with a sweetener for the environment: help with protecting California’s rivers and fish. The proposed extension of the WIIN Act, or Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, would keep millions of federal dollars flowing for new dams and reservoirs across the West.
With drought entering a second decade and reservoirs continuing to shrink, seven Southwestern U.S. states that depend on the overtaxed Colorado River for crop irrigation and drinking water had been expected to ink a crucial share-the-pain contingency plan by the end of 2018. They’re not going to make it — at least not in time for upcoming meetings in Las Vegas involving representatives from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the U.S. government, officials say.
A trio of tiny salamanders could stand in the way of a massive $1.4 billion project to raise the height of Shasta Dam. An environmental organization has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking a judge to force the federal agency to make a determination on whether three salamander species living around Lake Shasta should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Dam operators are planning to store nearly 4 billion extra gallons of water this winter in Lake Mendocino, the reservoir near Ukiah that plays a critical role in providing water for residents, ranchers and fish along the upper Russian River and to communities in Sonoma and Marin counties.
Precipitation since Oct. 1 across the key watersheds of Northern California — eight areas from Lake Tahoe to Mount Shasta that feed many of the state’s largest reservoirs — are running just below average so far this winter. As of Sunday, the “Northern Sierra eight-station index” has recorded 8.4 inches of precipitation, 83 percent of normal for this time of year.
California’s most senior Democrat and most powerful Republican in Washington are teaming up to extend a federal law designed to deliver more Northern California water south, despite the objections of some of the state’s environmentalists. While controversial, the language in their proposal could help settle the contentious negotiations currently underway in Sacramento on Delta water flows — the lifeblood of California agriculture as well as endangered salmon and smelt.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future.
[Lars] Mitchell, 52, a contractor, has succinctly hit upon twin facts that have driven San Diego County water policy for 70 years: the region does not own most of its water supply, and water is often a zero-sum business — for every winner there must be a loser.
When the San Vicente Dam opened in 1943, engineers were already thinking about how to make it higher — a vision celebrated Wednesday by many who came to dedicate a new version of the venerable structure that’s 117 feet taller than the original.
Imperial Irrigation District staff was accused of trying to sell the IID’s invaluable assets short when they formally presented the broad terms of a water storage proposal at Tuesday’s IID Board of Directors meeting.