The San Joaquin River, which helps
drain California’s Central Valley, has been negatively impacted
by construction of dams, inadequate streamflows and poor water
quality. Efforts are now underway to restore the river and
continue providing agricultural lands with vital irrigation,
among other water demands.
After an 18-year lawsuit to restore water flows to a 60-mile dry
stretch of river and to boost the dwindling salmon populations,
the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement is underway.
Water releases are now used to restore the San Joaquin River and
to provide habitat for naturally-reproducing populations of
self-sustaining Chinook salmon and other fish in the San Joaquin
River. Long-term efforts also include measures to reduce or avoid
adverse water supply impacts from the restoration flows.
In appreciation of the critical role the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta plays in California’s economy and environment,
Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, is recognizing the last week of
September as Delta Week. “The Delta is a cherished watershed
and the very lifeblood of California’s water system,” Dodd said
in a news release. … Dodd’s Senate Concurrent Resolution 119
established Delta Week, which this year kicks off Sunday. As
part of the annual tradition, it will be preceded on Saturday
by Coastal Cleanup Day, which offers Californians a chance to
participate in local waterway cleanup events.
Residents of a senior community in east Lodi want to know which
agency is responsible for removing downed trees from the
Mokelumne River. Joyce and Mike Tracy said the heavy storms
that hit Lodi at the beginning of the year caused three trees
to fall into the river in March, blocking water flow
downstream. As a result, water levels have risen to the top of
the riverbank, causing damage to properties in the Casa de Lodi
community at 29 Rio Vista Drive.
Tribal members celebrated the return of more than 1,200 acres
of their ancestral lands in the jagged hills above Weldon on
Saturday in a ceremony marked with gratitude, emotion and
prayer. Chairman Robert Gomez opened the event by thanking a
large number of people who helped find, purchase and deed the
land back to the Tübatulabal tribe, which has called the Kern
River Valley home for more than 5,000 years. Western Rivers
Conservancy was chief among those Gomez called out for their
help in obtaining the land. Western Rivers, a non profit
dedicated to restoring rivers, helped secure funding through
the state Wildlife Conservation Board and Sierra
Nevada Conservancy and facilitated the handover of the land to
Despite a record snowpack that has kept the South Fork of the
Tule River flowing at a steady clip, residents of the Tule
River Reservation – who get 60 percent of their supplies
directly from the river – were recently without water for eight
days. The problem, ironically, was too much water.
Specifically, from Hurricane Hilary. When the late summer storm
drenched dry, burn-scarred mountainsides, the runoff brought a
torrent of muck with it and fouled the reservation’s intake and
treatment system. But Hilary was just the tribe’s most recent
go-round with water problems from an outdated system built to
serve a fraction of the homes now on the reservation.
Central Valley water districts subject to a state plan that
diverts flows from the San Joaquin River tributaries downstream
for fish are working to achieve a more holistic approach for
the fishery through voluntary agreements, while also
challenging the state’s flows-only approach in court. Central
to the issue is a plan adopted in 2018 by the California State
Water Resources Control Board that requires affected water
users to leave unimpaired flows of 30% to 50% in three San
Joaquin tributaries—the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The work is the first phase of the state’s water quality
control plan update for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento–San
Joaquin Delta, known as the Bay-Delta plan.
On Wednesday, Stockton East Water District and the California
Department of Water Resources (DWR) joined local and federal
officials to highlight a $12.2 million project that will
support groundwater recharge, water quality and habitat
restoration project along the Calaveras River. … The
event was held at the Bellota Weir Modification Project site on
the Calaveras River. Funded by DWR’s Urban Community
Drought Relief Program, the project will make conveyance
improvements and install a modern fish screen at the Stockton
East Water District’s Bellota municipal diversion intake on the
Calaveras River. The conveyance improvements would double the
amount of groundwater recharge per year and improve water
reliability and quality for the city of Stockton’s drinking
water. Additionally, the fish screen and new fishways will
restore fish habitats along the Calaveras River and allow safe
passage through the river for the threatened Central Valley
Steelhead and Chinook Salmon.
The state approved funding for a range of floodplain projects
in the San Joaquin Valley, clearing the way for work to
potentially begin as soon as this week. The state budget
included $40 million for floodplain restoration projects in the
San Joaquin Valley, which would let rivers spread out over
large swaths of undeveloped land to slow the flow and absorb
the water. On August 24, the California Wildlife
Conservation Board voted to spend $21 million of the funding
which will be doled out to six on-the-ground projects and 10
planning projects, all overseen by the nonprofit River
Partners. The rest of the money will be voted on in November at
another board meeting and is proposed for two land
Darcy and Darcy welcome Steve Chedester, the Director of Policy
and Programs for the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors
Water Authority into the We Grow California Studios. Steve has
been with the Exchange Contractors for 28 years and provides a
great background and status report on the San Joaquin River
Restoration Project. After litigation, settlements, and decades
of planning, this project is not even at the starting
line. Tune in and learn why.
[W]hat makes the Killer Kern so dangerous? It’s a
combination of several factors, according to WX Research,
a weather and climate research group. One of the river’s
defining features is its swift currents, which often reach over
8,000 cubic feet per second. Spring and summer are the most
dangerous times, as snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
adds speed and lowers the water temperature — sometimes to 38
F. Swimmers are at risk of hypothermia or drowning by
inhaling water in an instinctive gasp response to the cold.
They can also get trapped by underwater hazards or caught in
hydraulics, holes that form when the current turns back on
itself as it meets an obstacle.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced
Wednesday it has completed its release of approximately 23
million fall-run Chinook salmon raised in Central Valley fish
hatcheries. The 23 million salmon raised and released by state
officials this year is a 15% increase from the count in 2022.
This year’s production goals were expanded to try to help
Chinook salmon overcome the consequences of the drought in
which water temperatures rose and water flows fell throughout
the Valley during critical salmon spawning periods, officials
said. Those conditions, coupled with a thiamine deficiency that
affects reproduction, have reduced in-river spawning success
over the past several fall runs.
A group of water users on the east side of the San Joaquin
Valley is continuing its unlikely quest to stop a proposed new
dam on the west side of the valley. Back in Oct. 2022, a
Stanislaus County Superior Court judge dismissed a host of
environmental challenges against the project as well as
concerns brought by the Friant Water Supply Protection
Association. On July 24, the Friant group filed an appeal in
the Fifth District Court of Appeals. It’s not that the Friant
group wouldn’t like to see more water storage, it would. But
the group is concerned with how that stored water will be
counted and how that accounting could affect Friant, according
to the appeal. The proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir
would allow water users that are part of the San Joaquin River
Exchange Contractor Authority to store up to 84,000 acre
feet in the hills above Patterson, west of Interstate 5.
Growing up in the shadow of the
Rocky Mountains, Andrew Schwartz never missed an opportunity to
play in – or study – a Colorado snowstorm. During major
blizzards, he would traipse out into the icy wind and heavy
drifts of snow pretending to be a scientist researching in
Decades later, still armed with an obsession for extreme weather,
Schwartz has landed in one of the snowiest places in the West,
leading a research lab whose mission is to give California water
managers instant information on the depth and quality of snow
draping the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand
about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most
contentious legal battles in California water history,
ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government,
Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental
Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
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This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Land and waterway managers labored
hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly
rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their
water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing
some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore
the state’s major floodplains.
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
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
The San Joaquin Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket, grows a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and
other agricultural products.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April
3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare
the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that
helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through
hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams,
reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.