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.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a
winter of heavy rains could inundate about 1,200 acres of
riverside woodland for the first time in 60 years. That’s by
design: Here, a few miles west of Modesto, work crews removed
or broke several miles of levee last spring and replanted the
land with tens of thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs.
Fish biologists bringing back salmon runs on the San Joaquin
River say a record number of fish nests have been found in the
river below Friant Dam east of Fresno. The number of nests,
called redds, created by spring-run Chinook salmon reached 41
this year, compared to just 13 last year. … Several fish
biologists, lawyers and members of the public recently toured
the river with the Water Education Foundation, based in
This event guided attendees on a virtual journey along the San Joaquin River to learn about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
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 groups.
Under the now $1.2 billion plan, efforts are aimed at restoring flows to a 60-mile, mostly dry stretch of the San Joaquin River to revive chinook salmon runs while reducing or avoiding adverse water supply impacts to farmers.
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
Under pressure from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, state
regulators once again postponed a vote on a contentious plan to
force San Francisco and several big San Joaquin Valley
irrigation districts to give up some of their water supplies
for environmental protection. On the eve of Wednesday’s
scheduled vote, Brown and the man who will succeed him next
year, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked for a month’s delay and
promised to get involved in ongoing settlement negotiations.
When county officials from California flew across the country
last month to hear President Trump speak at the White House,
they got an earful from the commander in chief. Trump slammed
the Golden State, which has suffered through more than five
years of severe drought that ended only last year, for sending
its water out to sea rather than using it to nourish crops.
… The latest water struggle involves the California
State Water Resources Control Board, which is set to decide
whether to allow more water to flow through the San Joaquin
River and its tributaries.
Jake Wenger grows walnuts on land where early settlers arrived
in search of gold and instead found rich soil. His orchards
just west of Modesto stretch 700 acres and supply a nut company
that has remained in his family for four generations. Like
other farmers in this congressional district at the northern
end of the San Joaquin Valley, Wenger, 34, said he fears his
livelihood is under siege by a state plan to reduce the waters
diverted from Northern California rivers for irrigation.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors issued a rare rebuke of
the city water department Tuesday, claiming the agency is on
the wrong side of a state water debate that pits California
against President Trump. The San Francisco Public Utilities
Commission, which provides water to the city and more than two
dozen suburbs, has fiercely opposed a far-reaching state plan
to revive California’s river system, including the languishing
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, because it means giving up
precious water supplies.
San Francisco has always been on the periphery of California’s
water wars — until last week. That’s when San Francisco
Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced with three co-sponsors a
resolution to the Board of Supervisors that San Francisco
should help maintain river flows in the San Joaquin by reducing
its take from the Tuolumne, a tributary.
The rivers that once poured from the Sierra Nevada, thick with
snowmelt and salmon, now languish amid relentless pumping,
sometimes shriveling to a trickle and sparking a crisis for
fish, wildlife and the people who rely on a healthy California
delta. A state plan to improve these flows and avert disaster,
however, has been mired in conflict and delays.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and some state representatives in the Bay
Area are calling for voluntary settlement agreements, rather
than a State Water Board proposal, to bolster the salmon
population in tributaries of the San Joaquin River. In a letter
Friday to water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus, Feinstein said
a voluntary settlement will achieve more in restoring fish in
the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers.
It’s rare that Westlands Water District and San Francisco face
identical problems, but plans to keep more water flowing in the
San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers – leaving less for irrigators
and cities – is bringing the two together. … The drama
started in July when the State Water Resources Control
Board issued a new water plan for the lower San
Joaquin River recommending that 30 to 50 percent of the water
— 40 percent is the target — would stay in the river as
The State Water Resources Control Board, composed of five
people appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will hold two days of
hearings starting Tuesday on a proposal to leave more of the
water in the lower San Joaquin River and its three tributaries,
the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus. The mandate would mean
more water will follow its natural course through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and out to the ocean.
California Resources Secretary John Laird is making a final
attempt to negotiate a deal with major water users to
voluntarily reduce use before a separate agency imposes
regulations. Remind me: In July, the State Water Resources
Control Board proposed dedicating much more water from the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries to the environment and less
to farms, industry, and individuals. A vote was set for
The Sacramento and San Joaquin
rivers are the two major Central Valley waterways that feed the
Delta, the hub of California’s water supply
network. Our last water tours of
2018 will look in-depth at how these rivers are managed and
used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see
infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and
talk to people with expertise on these rivers.
The backdrop of [President Donald] Trump’s tweets is a charged
debate before the State Water Resources Control Board, the
agency tasked with allocating California’s water supplies. It
is set to vote this month on a plan to increase flows in the
San Joaquin River and its tributaries, which would help fish
but hurt farmers.
A Modesto councilman called on the city to contribute toward
efforts to resist a state water grab that’s become an
emotionally charged issue in the region. Councilman Mani Grewal
said at Tuesday’s council meeting the state plan to take large
amounts of Tuolumne River water to rejuvenate the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta would create a “regulatory
drought” in Stanislaus County.
A final draft plan for the San Joaquin River system has been
released by state water regulators. … But Friday the State
Water Board also released a “framework” for a similar plan
being prepared for the Sacramento River watershed, which would
see even larger reductions of diversions in the north valley.
State regulators proposed sweeping changes in the allocation of
California’s water Friday, leaving more water in Northern
California’s major rivers to help ailing fish populations — and
giving less to farming and human consumption.
California water officials announced an ambitious plan Friday
to revive some of the state’s biggest rivers, a move that seeks
to stave off major devastation to wetlands and fish, but on the
back of cities and farms.