Delta Tunnel Alternative: Embracing Flooding for Water Supply
At last! The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is seriously considering
planning for flooding the Tulare Basin and other San Joaquin Valley fields in the winter for groundwater recharge! I worked at DWR for 30 years, and there were proponents of recharge when I started in 1986…actually, since the 1977-1978 drought. I kept waiting for a pilot program to test it. Stony Creek in Glenn County was put forward in the 80’s and 90’s…and then nothing. The meadow restoration crowd said another 100,000 acre-foot “reservoir” could be made in upper Stony Creek just by building check dams, deepening and widening meadows. Between the top and bottom of just one creek, maybe 160,000 AF of new storage per year!
I worked on the proposed Sites Reservoir and personally, I am all for it. However, it’s dumb not to include every increment of winter-time storage possible. When the floods come then put some of them in the ground.
The recent news article on this quotes David Gutierrez of DWR as saying, “That will not solve everything. There will be no silver bullet,” said David Gutierrez, executive manager of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program at the California Department of Water Resources. “But it’s a combination of these ideas together that will help us do better than we’ve been doing in the past.” With due respect to Mr. Gutierrez, this is bureaucrat-speak for “We’ll add this in if the Legislature will get behind Delta Tunnels and above-ground storage first, and also stabilize DWR’s General Fund budget.” As a former bureaucrat I get it; if DWR divides its focus, that’ll let anti-tunnels interests more easily short-circuit tunnels. Come on though, bureaucrats, get behind some wins and get momentum going! To be fair, state agencies work for the Governor and can’t lobby…but they do have some latitude to do pilot projects and steer some discretionary funds where they will do good.
And about time, too, since OTHER bureaucrats want to take some water from Northern California diverters and leave it in the Sacramento River for fish. When I was watermastering, and in fact throughout my 30-year career, that was the top accusation/complaint I got: “The State of California just wants to take away our water and send it to Southern California and fish.” I was always able to say, “No, that’s not it, we’re just looking for ways to get the water that already flows downstream across the Delta, and time reservoir releases better for fisheries.” I sure can’t say that anymore!
California eyes more Sacramento River water for fish, less for farms, cities
The article in the Sacramento Bee says in part: “Water board
Chairwoman Felicia Marcus cautioned that Wednesday’s staff report is merely a draft. She said her agency wants various groups to submit comments before it makes a decision, sometime next year. She said the board will take into account human needs before adopting any comprehensive plan.“
Bull. I call cow pies (I try hard not to cuss). The Water Board is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency now, including the Division of Water Rights. Has been for some years, and many of the more balanced staff have retired, as they hire more environmental activist enforcers. From what I have seen, a majority of the non-Water Board part of Cal/EPA executive, managers, and staff believe non-humans have more right to the water than humans.
Quoting again from the article: “The water board first floated the concept of dedicating more of the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds to the environment in 2010, triggering feverish warnings from a coalition of water agencies that up to 1.7 million acres of farmland would be idled as a result. With the proposals now taking on greater urgency, water users are responding with renewed alarm.
‘It’s both predictable and troublesome,’ said Tim Quinn of the Association of California Water Agencies, which represents urban and rural districts. He argued that the state should also examine other measures to help fish, such as habitat restoration.”
As many of you diverters have predicted for years, now the troublesome proposal is nearly a reality – an anguishing, changing world for you who work at least half-days (6 A.M. to 6 P.M.) to grow our food in businesses that get thanks from a small percentage of Californians.