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.
Toxic sludge is collecting in corners, around boats and
floating in patches through the Delta, turning the water bright
green. “We’re watching it every year, with climate change
becoming worse and worse,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla with
Restore the Delta. Barrigan-Parrilla said this year’s bloom is
the worst it’s ever been.
With state and federal administrations fighting in court about
delta water operations—and with a pandemic and election year
both underway—work has slowed on voluntary agreements meant to
avoid severe cuts to northern San Joaquin Valley water
supplies. At issue is the first phase of a State Water
Resources Control Board plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The City of Lathrop wants to secure a permit that will allow
for the discharge of treated wastewater into the San Joaquin
River. And last week they agreed to spend more than $400,000 to
take steps towards achieving that longstanding goal.
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
Less than a week before Christmas in 2016, the State Water
Resources Control Board held a single public hearing in our
community. The topic? Draining our community’s water supply and
sending it to the Bay Delta.
This brown bag seminar is part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. The position with
the Delta Stewardship Council will provide leadership in
advancing collaborative partnerships and initiatives and in
catalyzing and implementing social science research to inform
management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region of
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today awarded $11
million in grants to five projects that will improve the
habitat and chances of survival for native fish species within
the lower San Joaquin River watershed.
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.
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 Delta is changing much faster than we can respond to, and
if we want to start to get ahead of things, we need to think
about what changes lie ahead and what managers and decision
makers will need to manage those changes. That was the topic
for the second Science Needs Workshop hosted by the Delta
Science Program which brought together Jennifer Pierre with the
State Water Contractors, Paul Souza with the US Fish and
Wildlife Service, and Campbell Ingram with the Delta
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.
Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife in the Central Valley just completed the final release
of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million
young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run
hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the
Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo
Bay and into a coastal net pen.
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.
With a global pandemic, a catastrophic economic recession and
record-high unemployment, one would think the state has enough
issues to tackle. But proponents of a state water grab that I
have been fighting since the day I was sworn into office in
2012 disagree. Where others see turmoil and anguish, they see
opportunity. Apparently, they believe in the adage, “Never let
a crisis go to waste.”
The creation of the Council was, in many ways, an experiment in
governance by the California State Legislature and
Schwarzenegger administration to address years of gridlock over
how to manage the Delta’s limited natural resources and chart a
science-based path forward for future management. After ten
years with the Council, I can say, with conviction, the
experiment is working.
After being docked for three months due to COVID-19
restrictions, the Department of Water Resources relaunched its
research vessel monitoring program, the Sentinel. It was the
first time since the 1970s that DWR didn’t have a monitoring
vessel taking field samples in the waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Estuaries.
Saying in a project description that there is a demand for
high-quality construction supplies, … the company proposes to
modify the cement plant and quarry on Friant Road and use
explosives to mine hard rock that sits below the gravel, sand
and rock that’s currently mined a half-mile from the river. …
But, the project is at odds with the vision of organizations
like San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust that
prioritize recreation over industry for future use along the
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.
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.