Constructed long ago by federal effort to help create farmland,
the Central Valley Project is one of the biggest water and
transport systems in the entire world.
In years of normal precipitation, it stores and distributes about
20 percent of the state’s developed water through its massive
system of reservoirs and canals.Water is transported 450 miles
from Lake Shasta in Northern California to Bakersfield in the
southern San Joaquin Valley.
Along the way, the CVP encompasses 18 dams and reservoirs with a
combined storage capacity of 11 million acre-feet, 11 power
plants and three fish hatcheries. As part of this, the Delta
Mendota Canal and Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River deliver
water to farms in the Central Valley.
A rapid-fire review of potential fixes to the Friant-Kern Canal
favors building a replacement canal for 20 miles alongside the
existing canal where land subsidence has caused it to sag,
severely restricting water flow, according to final
environmental documents released Friday.
This bipartisan legislation (H.R.8217) would amend the Water
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 to
make public water projects like the off-stream Sites Reservoir
Project eligible for low-interest, longer-term federal loans
from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Reclamation announces a virtual open house website for the
Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement. Website visitors will be able
to learn more about the project, review summaries of Draft
Supplemental EIS chapters, and submit comments.
California EcoRestore is an initiative started in 2015 under
the Brown Administration with the ambitious goal of advancing
at least 30,000 acres of critical habitat restoration in the
Delta and Suisun Marsh by 2020. … At the August meeting of
the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, Bill Harrell, gave
an update on the Eco Restore program and the progress that has
been made over the past five years.
San Luis Reservoir and O’Neill Forebay are open in Merced
County, after being shuttered by regional wildfires. However,
state Department of Water Resources officials say that’s not an
invitation to go in the water. DWR on Tuesday issued a harmful
algal bloom warning advisory at the O’Neill Forebay, plus a
caution is in effect for the San Luis Reservoir.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, like governors before him, wants to overhaul
how water moves through the delta. He’s proposing a 30-mile
tunnel that would streamline the delivery of water from the
Sacramento River, a bid to halt the ongoing devastation of the
delta’s wetlands and wildlife while ensuring its flows continue
to provide for the rest of the state. The pressures of climate
change on water supplies have only increased the urgency to
act. And the coronavirus pandemic and months of
shelter-in-place orders haven’t slowed the planning. ….The
tunnel, as much as anything, is the very symbol of the state’s
never-ending water wars.
A bill that would have provided funding for the Friant-Kern
Canal was abandoned by the California State Legislature on
Sunday. It’s route to abandonment is a short, but confusing one
centering on California’s wildfires
Water is the lifeblood of our region and there are immense
challenges to providing and maintaining a reliable and
resilient water supply for both farms and communities in the
Central Valley. As your congressional representatives, we’ve
been working together to bring resources back home to address
our collective needs.
The Bureau of Reclamation has released the Final Feasibility
Report, which documents potential costs and benefits of the Los
Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project. … Reclamation and the
Contra Costa Water District worked together on the project to
increase capacity to 275,000 acre-feet and add new conveyance
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday a 30-day public
comment period for a 35-year contract renewal of the transfer
of operation, maintenance and replacement activities related to
Friant-Kern Canal and other associated works to the Friant
At the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) virtual
conference last week, one of the keynote speakers was Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. In her keynote address,
Commissioner Burman ran down the list of the Bureau’s
accomplishments as well as what is in the works for the rest of
The decades-long battle over an effort to raise the height of
Shasta Dam took another turn Thursday when the Trump
Administration released a new environmental report on the plan,
just five years after completing a similar study.
The Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee is
comprised of high-ranking members of 18 state, federal, and
regional agencies… At the July 2020 committee meeting,
members heard presentations on the Central Valley Project
Improvement Act and the state’s new Incidental Take Permit and
how those programs utilize principles of ecosystem-based
Feinstein’s Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act would
authorize $800 million in federal funding to repair critical
canals in the San Joaquin Valley damaged by land sinking from
overpumping of groundwater, known as subsidence, and for
Westlands, an agricultural powerhouse in the San Joaquin Valley
… is seeking ownership of 1,034 miles of buried pipeline,
multiple pumping plants and canals, and two field offices. The
Bureau of Reclamation confirmed it is moving forward with the
On July 6, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency
that oversees the canal, finalized a feasibility report for
Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project.
Under section 4007 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for
the Nation Act, the bureau’s report means up to 50% of the
total project costs can be requested from the U.S. Department
of the Interior and subsequently appropriated by Congress for
The “Guardians of the Reservoir” challenge seeks ideas to
remove or transport the amount of sediment building up in the
reservoirs, replacing available space for water storage, that
provide critical water supplies for the country. There will be
up to a total of $550,000 in cash prizes available for the
three-phase the competition.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman says
she’d like to see more cooperation from California officials as
talks aim to resolve a legal dispute over competing biological
opinions governing the management of their respective water
U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd of the Eastern District of
California, who is based in Fresno, denied environmental
groups’ request for an injunction that would have required the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the CVP, to reduce
water allocations as needed to manage water temperatures in the
Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. The groups sought more cold
water for spring- and winter-run chinook salmon.
South San Joaquin Valley farmers have a reason to celebrate
this week: Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives
appropriated $200 million to fix the Friant-Kern Canal. The
bill also includes funding to repair the Delta-Mendota Canal
and for two Northern California reservoirs.
More federal funds may be flowing to fix the Friant-Kern Canal.
On June 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) sent a
letter to Congress requesting $134 million for water storage
projects be funded through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. More
than half of the funding, $71 million, was requested for
preconstruction and construction of the Friant-Kern Canal
Capacity Correction project.
The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
has approved H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. The legislative
package would provide $1.5 trillion for the nation’s
infrastructure needs. Included in the bill is funding for
Central Valley water needs and Friant-Kern Canal repairs. The
package is expected to be passed by the U.S. House of
Representatives next week.
The Department of Interior has requested $71 million be spent
on improvements for the Friant-Kern Canal for the 2021 fiscal
year. The funding for the Friant-Kern Canal accounts for most
of the $108.7 of funding for water storage projects in
California the Department of Interior is requesting. Congress
will now consider approving the funding in the 2021 fiscal year
energy and water appropriations bill.
The issue of subsidence on the Friant-Kern Canal, the attention
it has garnered, and accompanying solutions are apparently void
of the usual partisanship experienced in California’s water
world as both state and Federal legislation has been introduced
to authorize significant funding for the project.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, plans to begin construction of the Lower
Clear Creek Floodplain and Stream Channel Restoration Project
Phase 3C on the week of June 22. This project is funded through
the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the Friant-Kern
Canal, is seeking public input on plans to repair a 33-mile
stretch of canal between Lindsay and McFarland. This stretch of
the canal has lost 60% of its original conveyance capacity due
to subsidence—a sinking of the earth from groundwater
extraction – which was accelerated during California’s historic
drought from 2012-2017.
If there’s one certainty in these uncertain times, it’s that
nature is resilient, and one needn’t look further than the San
Joaquin River as an example. For a second year in a row, and
for only the second year in over 65 years, spring-run Chinook
salmon have returned from the ocean to spawn in the river and
bring forth the next generation.
Projected higher inflows to Shasta Lake caused the Bureau of
Reclamation earlier this month to rescind its “Shasta Critical
Year” designation after hydrologic conditions changed
sufficiently. … For growers with senior water rights under
the Exchange and Settlement contracts with the Central Valley
Project, this means full allocation water deliveries will be
Tulare County farmers will get more water than expected from a
dry winter but far less than needed to avoid depleting an
aquifer that is already drying up. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation’s Central Valley Project announced the Friant
Division … will receive 60% instead of 55% of its Class 1
water supply thanks to improved hydrologic conditions and the
forecasted snowmelt runoff in the Upper San Joaquin River
With supplies curtailed from California’s largest water
projects, farmers have been reducing acreage, water districts
have been working to secure additional supplies, and everyone
has been keeping an eye on the continued dispute between state
and federal governments on managing the Delta.
The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $16.6 million to nine
congressionally authorized Title XVI Water Reclamation and
Reuse projects in California and Hawaii. This funding, part of
the WaterSMART Program, is for the planning, design, and
construction of water recycling and reuse projects in
partnership with local government entities.
The Bureau of Reclamation executed another set of
congressionally-mandated contract conversions with Central
Valley Project contractors pursuant to the Water Infrastructure
Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. … These completed
contract conversions include the City of West Sacramento and
four contract assignments for Westlands Water District.
New legislation was recently introduced that will address
several issues facing San Joaquin Valley canals. The
Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act was introduced by
Senator Dianne Feinstein as a means for repairing water
conveyance damaged by subsidence.
California and federal water regulators are trying to quickly
resolve their legal dispute over competing biological opinions
governing the management of their respective water projects, a
top state official says. The talks are proceeding after Gov.
Gavin Newsom filed suit in February to nullify new federal
opinions that would ease restrictions on surface water for San
Joaquin Valley growers.
The latest dustup In California’s water wars, as noted in Dan
Walters’ commentary, revolves principally around the federal
government’s efforts to increase the amount of water supplied
to farms and cities by the Central Valley Project, and a
breakdown in cooperation between the state and federal
government. It seems like everyone is suing each other. But
what are they really fighting over?
The gravity-fed Friant-Kern Canal that is key to survival for
15,000 east side San Joaquin Valley farms continues to be
impacted by subsidence. Land near Porterville appears to be
most worrisome where the land has sunk so much due to adjacent
water pumping that the canal has lost 60% of its capacity. As
of July 2018, it was estimated the canal is approximately 12
feet below the original constructed elevation.
A local non-profit is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
a Southern California water district, over a long term water
transfer program. AquAlliance works to protect the Sacramento
River watershed. It is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit that
charges the proposed transfer would send too much water out of
Northern California and would cause severe impacts on area
communities, farms, and the environment.
Three environmental groups sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Wednesday to dispute the award of permanent federal water
contracts to water users supplied by the Central Valley
Project. The suit brought by the Center for Biological
Diversity, Restore the Delta and Planning and Conservation
League challenges the Trump administration’s moves to make
permanent 14 existing short-term Central Valley Project
contracts and ongoing work to convert dozens of others.
Following spring storms, the Bureau of Reclamation today issued
updated allocations for Central Valley Project contractors for
the 2020 contract year. … The allocation for south-of-Delta
agricultural water service contractors is increased from 15% to
20% of their contract total. Municipal and Industrial water
service contractors south-of-Delta are now allocated 70% of
their historic use, up from 65%, or health and safety needs,
whichever is greater.
On the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $19 billion in
budget cuts to his 2020-2021 budget, two of California’s
environmental protection agencies filed a request to fund a
lawsuit against the Federal government over its boost in water
supplies sent to the San Joaquin Valley.
The conflict over California water, often compared to a war,
rather resembles a geological process. As along an earthquake
fault, surface spasms come and go. The latest twitch is an
injunction momentarily halting some Trump Administration water
plans. But the underlying pressures are a constant. They never
stop exerting themselves.
A judge issued a preliminary injunction in two lawsuits brought
against the administration by California’s Natural Resources
Agency and Environmental Protection Agency and by a half-dozen
environmental groups. The order bars the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation until May 31 from going ahead with expanding the
amount of water it pumps from the San Joaquin Delta through the
federal Central Valley Project.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Friant Water Authority seek
public input on alternatives to repair a 33-mile stretch of the
Friant-Kern Canal in California’s eastern San Joaquin Valley.
This stretch of canal has lost over half of its original
capacity to convey water due to subsidence—a sinking of the
earth from groundwater extraction.
Bureau of Reclamation employees from its Technical Service
Center were able to use visual and digital technology as they
worked remotely to complete and transmit the 60% design
specifications and drawings for the B. F. Sisk dam safety
modification. This modification, estimated to cost $1.1
billion, is the largest in the history of Reclamation’s Dam
During the marathon hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dale
Drozd hinted the environmental groups’ requests for a ruling by
May 11 will be a tall task. Not only is the case complex and
involves dozens of parties, he said the chaos caused by the
pandemic is impeding the court’s ability to move swiftly.
The Bureau of Reclamation has released a funding opportunity
for communities to take a proactive approach to drought through
building projects that increase water supply reliability,
improve water management, or provide benefits for fish,
wildlife and the environment.
A long awaited $74 million project to enlarge the Success
Reservoir will expand water storage along the Tule River from
82,000 to 110,000 acre feet and provide additional flood
protection for residents of Porterville and surrounding
On the campaign trail in 2016, President Trump swung into
California’s agricultural hub and vowed to deliver more water
to the drought-ridden state’s farmers. … Three years into his
administration, Trump is now opening the floodgate to deliver
on that promise, setting up the most intense water war between
the federal government and California in the state’s history.
Two separate letters sent to President Donald Trump and members
of Congress highlight the importance of providing support for
enhancing water management, particularly in light of the
tumultuous conditions created by COVID-19.
U.S. Representative T.J. Cox, Senator Dianne Fenstein and
Represenatives Jim Costa, Josh Harder and John Garamendi on
Thursday called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Gov.
Newsom to come up with a coordinated effort to manage the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
Voluntary agreements in California
have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve
environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows
and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be
diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state
The state recently got a new permit for water delivery
operations from its wildlife agency. In the past, that kind of
authority came from adhering to federal rules. Now, with a
dispute between the state and federal government over water
management and endangered species act protections, the state
issued its own permit. Critics of the state’s move say they
plan to file lawsuits.
In a recent announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
(USBR), Friant Division contractors will be receiving an
increased water allocation. USBR has doubled the Class 1
allocation to 40 percent for Friant Division Central Valley
Project contracts for the 2020 contract year.
In the century-long “us-versus-them” mentality of California
water, a plan released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of
Water Resources last week achieved something perhaps never
accomplished before in the Golden State’s water industry. It
incited universal scorn.
According to the Washington Post’s fact checker, as of January,
2020, President Trump had made 16,241 false or misleading
claims during his first three years in office. Sadly, this lack
of regard for truth seems to be trickling down and infecting
the Trump Administration’s management of the federal Central
Valley Project in California, one of the largest water storage
and diversion projects in the country.
Taking advantage of recently approved rules, the federal
government is quickly following through on President Donald
Trump’s promise to quiet environmentalists and “open up the
water” to California farmers. … The pumps in the south of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta aren’t just whizzing during
what will likely end up being classified a “critically dry”
hydrological year, they are churning — and killing — endangered
salmon during a critical migration period.
The water transfers could occur on an annual basis sending
water from willing sellers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to water users south of the Delta and in the San
Francisco Bay Area. Based on annual approvals, the transfers
could occur through 2024. In addition, the transfers could
occur by various methods, including groundwater substitution,
cropland idling, reservoir releases and conservation.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe applauded Fresno County Superior Court’s
refusal to validate a proposed contract between Westlands Water
District and the Bureau of Reclamation. … The contract would
have allocated up to 1,150,000 acre-feet of water annually to
Westlands, most of which would be imported from the Trinity
River, which has sustained the Hupa people since time
The Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of
Water Resources are conducting exploratory work, including
clearing, excavation and controlled blasting of rock material
in the Basalt Hill area near B.F. Sisk Dam, located between Los
Banos and Gilroy, between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during April and
May. The exploratory findings on Reclamation lands will help
identify size and quality of granular material for the planned
Safety of Dams Modification project.
Two lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s
authorization of plans to increase water pumping from the
Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds will be moved from the
Northern District of California to the Eastern District of
California, a federal judge ruled.
The new rules allow the federal Central Valley Project to kill
100 percent of baby winter run Chinook salmon below Shasta Dam
for three years running. Chinook salmon live for three
years, so authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to kill every
endangered winter run for three years amounts to an extinction
plan for this species.
The Sacramento splittail is a lovely, silvery-white fish that
lives primarily in Suisun Marsh, the north Delta and other
parts of the San Francisco Estuary (SFE; Moyle et al. 2004).
The name comes from its unusual tail, in which the upper lobe
is larger than the lower lobe. It is a distinctive endemic
species that for decades has fascinated those of us who work in
It was a busy time for California water issues last month when
Trump visited the San Joaquin Valley, signed the Record of the
Decision on the biological opinions which govern the operations
of the state and federal water projects (along with another
Presidential memo), which was promptly followed by the state
filing of a lawsuit the next day. … So not surprisingly, the
voluntary agreement was top of the agenda the following week at
the February meeting of Metropolitan’s Bay Delta Committee.
If you live in Southern California or Silicon Valley, you might
be surprised to learn that your local water district (a member
agency of the State Water Contractors) is siding with the Trump
Administration, and defending Trump’s plan to increase water
diversions, despite the widespread acknowledgement that this
plan is likely to drive salmon and Delta smelt extinct.
The Trump administration on Friday awarded a permanent water
delivery contract to the country’s largest agricultural
district, brushing aside environmentalists’ concerns about
California’s uncertain water future in the face of climate
change. At issue is irrigation water that flows through the
Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project to the Westlands
Water District, a Rhode Island-sized agricultural powerhouse
and former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
The Interior Department on Friday awarded the nation’s largest
farm water district a permanent entitlement to annual
irrigation deliveries that amount to roughly twice as much
water as the nearly 4 million residents of Los Angeles use in a
year. … The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the
federal project, also signed permanent contracts on Friday with
a handful of municipal districts that it supplies.
California’s complaint challenges the biological opinions
issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
as well as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s EIS and record of
decision completed pursuant to the National Environmental
Turns out President Donald Trump is no match for another
California drought. Less than a week after Trump told San
Joaquin Valley farmers in Bakersfield that he was taking bold
steps to increase their water supply, his administration
announced Tuesday farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin
Valley may only receive about 15 percent of their contracted
water supply for the upcoming growing season.
Protecting the North Coast’s waters and the communities that
depend on them is a top priority, Congressman Jared Huffman
told a town hall at the Eureka High School auditorium Friday
night. Making sure fishermen get timely compensation when
they’re barred from fishing and ensuring there is enough water
in the area to protect fisheries are two key issues, the San
Rafael Democrat said.
The Folsom Lake Intake Improvement Project delivers district
water supplies available at Folsom Lake to the El Dorado Hills
Water Treatment Plant and is critical to service reliability
for the El Dorado Hills service area. In service since the late
1950s, significant portions of the pump station have reached
the end of their useful life.
Recently, the Department of Water Resources released a report
to supplement the 2017 California Aqueduct Subsidence Study
that addresses specific issues within a 10-mile-wide study
corridor… At the February meeting of Metropolitan’s Water
Planning and Stewardship Committee, Ted Craddock, DWR Assistant
Deputy Director of the State Water Project, provided an
overview of the report.
Hoisting the spoils of victories in California’s hard-fought
water wars, President Donald Trump is directing more of the
state’s precious water to wealthy farmers and other agriculture
interests when he visits their Republican Central Valley
Reps. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) and TJ Cox (D–Fresno) joined fellow
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee to grant
wide-ranging subpoena power to the committee’s chair, Raul
Grijalva (D–Ariz.)… A key inquiry likely to be explored by
Grijalva … is to dig into the Trump administration’s issuance
of new biological opinions governing the Central Valley
President Trump will splash into California’s perpetually
roiled water world next week when he drops by the southern San
Joaquin Valley city that’s home to his biggest House booster
and proximate to some of the state’s biggest dilemmas. With his
expected visit to Bakersfield, Trump can affirm support for
increased irrigation water deliveries, troll Democratic Gov.
Gavin Newsom and reward House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(R-Calif.) in his hometown.
Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled
to vote on a resolution granting Committee Chair Raul Grijalva
(D–Ariz.) wide-ranging subpoena power over the Interior
Department. One inquiry in the hopper: a closer look at the
process that yielded the Trump Administration’s
freshly-released biological opinions governing the
federally-operated Central Valley Project.
Repair work on the Friant-Kern Canal is getting $11 million in
new federal funding, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said
Tuesday. The funds are coming from the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. … McCarthy also announced $8 million in funding
for design and other pre-construction work to raise Shasta Dam
in northern California by 18.5 feet at a cost of $1.4 billion.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last year lost a major partner
willing to help pay for raising the height of Shasta Dam, but
that hasn’t stopped the agency from going forward with the
project. The federal agency continues to look for new partners
after the Fresno-based Westlands Water District backed out, and
the bureau continues to do “pre-construction” and design work
on the dam.
Democratic congressman from Fresno introduced two pieces of
legislation that aim to repair aging canals and water
infrastructure in California that’s been damaged by sinking
ground levels – called subsidence, caused by groundwater
Congress began the process of providing relief to the San
Joaquin Valley when it comes to the Friant-Kern Canal and clean
drinking water in rural communities when a subcommittee held a
hearing on two bills sponsored by T.J. Cox.
The main focus of the program are the barriers to fish passage
for salmon from Friant Dam to the ocean and back again. There
are three key barriers: the East Side Bypass Control Structure
which is in the flood bypass; Sack Dam, which is the intake for
Arroyo Canal for Henry Miller irrigation system; and Mendota
Dam which controls Mendota Pool. The program also needs to
ensure enough habitat for the fish when they return to complete
their life cycle,
Now Trump’s team is set to impose new environmentally damaging
Bay-Delta water diversion and pumping rules. … These new
rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing
wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to
a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin
With virtually no public notice, state officials quietly gave
away a significant portion of Southern California’s water
supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with
the Trump administration in December 2018. One year later, it
remains unclear why the California Department of Water
Resources signed the agreement…
At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council,
Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the San Francisco Estuary
Partnership, briefed the Council on the 2019 update to the
State of the Estuary report. She began with some background on
The Bureau of Reclamation today released the Central Valley
Project Final Cost Allocation Study, which determines how to
distribute costs of the multipurpose CVP facilities to project
beneficiaries. … This final cost allocation study will
replace the 1975 interim allocation to reflect additional
project construction, as well as regulatory, operational, legal
and ecological changes that have taken place over the last half
The factors causing the decline of many fish and fisheries in
the upper San Francisco Estuary have made their management
controversial, usually because of the correlation of declines
with increased water exports from the Delta and upstream of the
Delta… To address this problem better, the California Fish
and Game Commission is developing new policies for managing
Delta fish and fisheries, with a special focus on striped bass.
A duo of bills, at the state and federal level, will likely
determine the fate of the Friant-Kern Canal in a legislative
year that is shaping up to be pivotal for Central Valley
growers and ag communities.
The governor’s apparent willingness to play into the hands of
monied, agri-business players at the expense of the health of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta remains the biggest
mystery of his short tenure. It also threatens to trash his
reputation as a strong protector of California’s environment.
The new guidelines call for diverting more water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and urban
areas further south. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the group
Restore the Delta, says despite Newsom indicating he was going
to sue over the new federal guidelines, that hasn’t happened
Environmental groups, tribes and upstream water users in
California yesterday sought to block a permanent water delivery
contract between the Interior Department and the Westlands
Water District. At issue is a proposed deal between Westlands,
an agricultural powerhouse in California’s San Joaquin Valley,
and the Bureau of Reclamation in which Westlands pays off its
debt to the government to guarantee deliveries in perpetuity
without future contract renewals.
House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple
possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may
vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior
Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to
send more water to his district.
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are
pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final
spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco
Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but
without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final
It was welcome news for Kern County farmers, but word last week
that the process of fixing the Friant-Kern Canal has finally
begun may have obscured the fact that a great deal of work lies
ahead — including finding money to complete the job.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
Plans to exercise federal county-of-origin rights to tap New
Melones waters are in the works. According to documents for
next Tuesday’s Tuolumne Utilities District board of directors
meeting, staff will be recommending the board authorize General
Manager Ed Pattison to submit a formal letter of request to the
United States Bureau of Reclamation for a water supply
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
The health of North America’s largest estuary, the San
Francisco Estuary, is showing some signs of improvement, but
much of the historic damage caused to the massive watershed has
either not improved or worsened, according to a new report.
Change is hard. It’s human nature to resist it. So it’s not
surprising that some Central Valley farmers and water managers
are raising alarm bells about the most sweeping change to state
water law in a century, saying in a recent Fresno Bee series
that the consequences will be “excruciating” and
The Action Plan identifies four areas for improvement: enhance
weather forecasts to improve water prediction; improve and
expand the use of water forecast information to benefit water
management outcomes; improve science and technology for water
prediction; and implement integrated water availability
assessments at national and local basin scales.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris
Scheuring said the strong 2019 water year should not distract
from “the public-policy issues that never go away in California
water.” Scheuring said he thinks water deliveries may remain
good for the next year or two, but farmers should be prepared
for another multiyear drought.
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
The threats came in a dispute over reintroducing winter-run
Chinook salmon into the McCloud River, a pristine river above
Shasta Dam, as part of a federal plan approved under the Obama
administration to try to stave off extinction for the
critically endangered fish.
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
Commodity prices across some crops, record cotton yields and
ample water supplies combined to catapult Fresno County’s gross
crop value to a record $7.88 billion in 2018, eclipsing last
year’s figure by over 12 percent, and besting the previous
record by nearly as much.
In March, newly-elected Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger)
proposed a $400 million windfall to finance repairs for the
canal under Senate Bill 559… But the bipartisan bill, much
like canal it was designed to fix, is sunk — for now. The bill
failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote before the Sept. 13
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
The Friant-Kern Canal, which delivers water to farms and
communities on the east side of the Valley, is literally
sinking in some areas due to groundwater pumping. And with one
week to go before the California legislature wraps up its 2019
session, many hope the state will help fund the canal’s repair.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
Water deliveries in the Fresno Irrigation District typically
end in September, but they could last until November this year.
The extra deliveries will allow growers to not only irrigate
but also to bank some water for future use.
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
Funding is available for projects that: Increase the
reliability of water supplies through infrastructure
improvements; improve water management through decision support
tools, modeling and measurement; provide protection for fish,
wildlife and the environment. Up to $300,000 per agreement is
available for a project that can be completed within two years.
Up to $750,000 per agreement is available for a project that
can be completed within three years.
A plan to raise and expand California’s largest reservoir is on
hold as federal officials look for partners to share in the
$1.4 billion cost. The federal Bureau of Reclamation also must
grapple with opponents who have sued, saying the Shasta Dam
project violates state law.
It’s hard for U.S. Representative T.J. Cox to understand why
the Friant-Kern Canal is just at 40 percent capacity. … Cox
said funding is provided to maintain the Friant-Kern Canal
that’s supposed to be reimbursed by the Federal Government, but
those reimbursements haven’t been coming.
In California, money does grow on trees. Almonds constitute a
$5.6 billion industry, and 2.26 billion pounds were shipped
from California last year to be roasted and salted, or turned
into anything from frothy, barista-friendly almond milk to
marzipan sold on the streets of Berlin.
People may want to think twice before taking a dip in the
green-tinted water near the Parrotts Ferry Bridge at New
Melones Reservoir, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
officials. The water’s greenish hue is due to a cyanobacteria
bloom that was first detected in the Middle Fork of the
Stanislaus River upstream of the reservoir on July 17.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
If credibility were measured like rainfall, the Trump
administration would be in the midst of a prolonged drought —
as evidenced most recently in its handling of plans to send
more water to California’s Central Valley.
An earthquake doesn’t have to happen in your neighborhood or
city, or even your region, for it to have an impact, especially
on Southern California’s water supply. According to UCLA
Professor Jon Stewart, the three main water systems that bring
water to Southern California each cross the San Andreas Fault
at least once.
The Coleman National Fish Hatchery is expecting good returns of
their fish in the foreseeable future after a few lean years of
comebacks. … Mother Nature worked with the hatchery this year
providing high water levels and spring storms, said Galyean.
When nature was not working in the hatchery’s favor was during
the recent drought.
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
The Friant Water Authority is confident a parallel canal is the
best solution. This new one will be built in a way that
prepares for subsidence. A new canal would also benefit from
the Ground Water Management Act of 2014, which will regulate
how much and when water is pumped out of the ground, preventing
what some believe is the main cause of subsidence.
A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district’s
request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta
Dam to Fresno County. Westlands Water District, based in
Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home
county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) urged people to avoid
physical contact with the water at San Luis Reservoir in Merced
County until further notice and avoid eating fish from the lake
due to the presence of blue-green algae. DWR increased the
advisory from warning to danger after detecting an increased
amount of microcystins.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
Seeking to implement updated scientific methods to its
operations in the Golden State, the Bureau of Reclamation
released a draft environmental impact report on the coordinated
operations between the federal Central Valley Project and
California’s State Water Project on Thursday.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
A massive flow of fresh water is being released from Friant Dam
on Tuesday as Millerton Lake reached capacity. … Officials
are releasing 1,700-1,000 cubic feet per second into the San
Joaquin River. Stroup said Millerton Lake has received above
average snow melt forcing them to release the water to make
room for more run off.
We estimate that nearly 20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated
cropland in the valley has no access to surface water. … With
groundwater cuts looming and no other water supply to fall back
on, groundwater-only areas are on the front line of the effort
to bring basins into balance.
Pistachio trees require somewhere between one-third and
one-half as much water as almond trees. Unlike almond trees,
pistachio trees don’t die during extended droughts. Their
metabolism merely slows and when water returns, they start
producing nuts again. … Pistachios can also handle, as
Duarte’s team discovered, levels of salt that have already
killed many an almond tree.