Rep. Denham calls on Congress to halt Sacramento Water Grab by enacting Denham Amendment
News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Recently, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), along with thirteen of his California colleagues, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make sure Rep. Denham’s House-passed amendment to stop Sacramento’s water grab is included in the next spending bill that is signed into law.
“My amendment halts the disastrous Bay-Delta Plan that would see 40 percent of our water flushed out into the ocean,” Rep. Denham said. “Congress must act to protect the Valley.”
Rep. Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally-owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.
Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years.
Sacramento’s planned water grab would do irreparable damage to Central Valley communities, directly interfering with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water and the Central Valley Project’s ability to deliver water.
Rep. Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.
David Rogers: Temperance Flat Dam Will Solve Sinking Soil
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
Speaking at last week’s California Water Commission meeting in Clovis about the need for water storage, Madera County supervisor David Rogers voiced the solution to land subsidence caused by groundwater depletion: the Temperance Flat Dam.
“We’re losing our groundwater so rapidly, the soil is sinking beneath us in a geological process called subsidence,” Rogers said. “Water is flowing out to the ocean from the San Joaquin River system, when in reality, that water needs to be delegated and allocated to farms so they don’t have to pump groundwater.”
“We’re losing the river and it’s a moot issue. We need surface water delivery; that has to happen. We cannot continue this way or we will lose the river, the communities, and the farms. There’s no question that Temperance Flat is the answer to this problem.”
Central Valley land subsidence is not new. In the mid-1900s, subsidence of the soil was occurring much like it is today. “Between 1937 and 1955,” Rogers explained, “the ground sank 28 feet in Mendota, Fresno and Madera Counties and similar regions.”
The federal Central Valley Project (CVP), which stretches 400 miles from north to south, was organized and built back then to solve the extreme and recurring water shortages, land subsidence and flooding. Operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and considered one of the world’s largest water storage and transport systems, the CVP now consists of 20 dams and reservoirs, 11 power plants, and 500 miles of major canals, as well as conduits, tunnels, and related facilities.
“The very purpose of the CVP,” Rogers emphasized, “was to stop the ground from sinking beneath our feet. We are currently in the same situation, and the much-needed extra storage is going to be created by the Temperance Flat Dam. It is the solution. It is what this Valley needs. We need it now. We don’t need it tomorrow; we need it—yesterday!”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Releases Shared Water From Trinity Reservoir Despite Making Claims Of “California’s Historic Drought”
The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority) along with Westlands Water District, according to their press release, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) from releasing Central Valley Project (CVP) water from the Trinity Division to the Klamath River.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said releases started Friday from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River, the Klamath’s primary tributary, and would continue into late September.
Yesterday, Reclamation announced the release of up to 88,000 acre-feet of CVP water from Trinity Reservoir in the hope of aiding returning non-listed Chinook salmon with the optimism of diminishing the effect of a naturally-occurring disease endemic known as “Ich” (pronounced “ick”) to the Klamath River system to which the Trinity River is connected. This action, which is outside of Reclamation’s authorized place of use, is a repeat of a similar action taken last year with the intention to help avoid an outbreak which has only been documented to have occurred once in 2002. Since 2000, a significant supply of water has been set aside each year from the Trinity Reservoir for fishery protection purposes. Specifically, over the past four years, this has equated to more than 200,000 acre-feet of water lost that was literally flushed down the Lower Klamath River.
“As our state is faced with a water supply crisis affecting every sector of people, businesses, and communities, an action like this is unthinkable. This will cause irreparable damage to drought-stricken communities already facing water restrictions,” said Dan Nelson, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.
The CVP and State Water Project (SWP) provide water for more than 25 million Californians who depend upon a reliable water supply. In the 50-year history of the Projects, water deliveries have never been lower–the CVP is experiencing its second year of a zero water allocation and the SWP sits at a mere 20 percent water allocation.
Reclamation is once again choosing to ignore the harms of its actions through the issuance of a “Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact” (FONSI) that hasn’t been properly analyzed. Further, Reclamation’s decision to release 88,000 acre-feet of CVP water for the Klamath River is a sad irony given that Reclamation is currently unable to meet its legally-mandated obligations within the CVP and SWP.
“The hardworking people of the State of California have been directed by state and federal agencies to conserve water in the form of dying lawns, fewer showers, unplanted fields, trees uprooted or turning brown, and community wells drying up. Yet Reclamation, which has been unable to deliver any water to farmers, has decided to release tens of thousands of acre feet in an arbitrary manner that the courts have previously held to be unlawful.” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District. “The fact that 88,000 acre-feet can be casually released without regard to the potential impacts on the environment, including at risk-species in the Sacramento River and the Delta, is a gross mismanagement of the state’s water supplies. The action filed today is intended to compel Reclamation to comply with its mandatory duties,” said Birmingham.
“During a time when we are experiencing the worst water management challenges in decades, when communities and agriculture throughout the state are suffering severe impacts that have negatively affected our economy, the labor force and the environment, the decision by the Bureau of Reclamation to repurpose precious Central Valley Project water resources to augment Klamath flows for non-endangered fish, an action that is of questionable benefit, is both irresponsible and incomprehensible. While the needs of cities, family farms, and endangered species that rely on CVP resources continue to go unmet, the reallocation of the Project’s limited supply of water defies all logic,” said Jeff Sutton, general manager of the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, an organization that represents seventeen Sacramento Valley water districts that hold CVP water service contracts, that are also highly critical of the action being undertaken by the Bureau of Reclamation.
The water planned for release is enough to farm 31,000 acres of food, or to serve the domestic needs of more than 175,000 families for an entire year. The devastating effects of the drought will be felt for decades to come especially if arbitrary decisions like these continue.
Assembly Member Patterson Accuses NRDC and Governor’s Office of Bias
By Laurie Greene, Editor
“We are being lied to,” declared Jim Patterson, who represents the 23rd Assembly District in the California State Assembly since 2012, at his recent drought forum in Clovis.
“I have come to the conclusion there is a power structure led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the governor’s office and in the bureaucracies,” Patterson explained. “They are not telling us the truth. They do not abide by their own agreements, and they have a bias against the very water technology and the water systems that have made California a ‘Golden State’. They are biased against dams, reservoirs and conveyance, and every time I turn around, I find another example.”
“We need to have regulatory relief from the State of California in order to buildTemperance Flat (a proposed dam project on the San Joaquin River) and its conveyance systems and to build the improvements at Shasta Dam and Reservoir and at Sites Reservoir,” said Patterson.
“And yet,” he continued, “I know for a fact that we are not going to get that regulatory relief. Nevertheless, the governor and this legislature have given that very same regulatory relief to the Kings’ Basketball Stadium in Sacramento (Golden 1 Center) and to two big NFL football stadiums in the state.”
To build water saving and conveyance systems, Patterson expects to face a gauntlet of litigation from the NRDC. “Though we have tried over and over again, unsuccessfully, to get the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reformed,” he stated, “the Democrats will do it for basketball and football, but they won’t do it for water. That demonstrates to me they are absolutely disingenuous.”
“Secondly, we were promised money in this budget for the Central California InterConnect,” Patterson said. “Putting an interconnect between the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), best illustrated by the Kings River and San Joaquin River Watersheds in the Central Valley, and the state’s California State Water Project (SWP), exemplified by the San Luis Reservoir system, is critically important. We need to connect those projects so we have water conveyance alternatives to improve water reliability and to save us from the kinds of hard decisions that we’ve had to reach now—to starve a portion of the Valley. Because we can’t get water between the two systems, the situation is real and dire.”
“The governor promised those of us who negotiated the bond the budget would include appropriations for the InterConnect,” Patterson reported. There is no such thing. It doesn’t exist, and it didn’t show up in this budget. The governor didn’t come through on his promises.”
“I have tried repeatedly to talk with the water bureaucracies—appointees of the governor—and ask how I could help them understand the importance of giving us back the water,” Patterson commented. “For example, the water behind Shasta Dam right now has been paid for and banked by our farmers. I’ve asked repeatedly, ‘Why can’t we get the InterConnect funded? You promised us that you would do that.’ I’ve asked, ‘What is it going to take for you to understand the importance of storage in the San Joaquin River Watershed?’ It’s like talking to a wall; I get no answer.”
“So, I have had to come to the conclusion that we’re being misled, and it’s on purpose,” he said. “I just don’t believe this governor anymore. That’s a sad conclusion to have to come to, but I think we are seeing a ‘behind-the-scenes hand of power’ called the NRDC, that runs the governor’s office and the state legislature.
When asked what concerned citizens can do, Patterson answered, “Today we heard a lot of passion. I think we need to turn that passion into significant efforts, politically and organizationally. We have to make a real nuisance of ourselves to the governor and to the legislature until they pay attention to us. I have learned in public life, as mayor and now in the legislature, that those people who stand up and are persistent and persuasive get heard. We have got to continue to step up in ever-increasing numbers and be heard.”
“We also have win some elections,” he emphasized. “We are under a one party-dictatorial rule right now. And I would be saying this even if Republicans were the party in rule. Our founders believed there should be separated powers in government and people in office from all walks of life. These kinds of checks and balances get us to good policy for most people, most of the time.”
“You can’t do that in a dictatorship,” Patterson explained, “and that’s really what we have—one party that has all the levels of power and is using them all against us in Central California. And we’re seeing the result of it.”
Patterson tells other members of the legislature on the committees he serves, “You are literally putting a bait fish that striped bass are eating, ahead of the lives and the wellbeing of people and their property, and you’re blaming us for it. The reality is you’re making a drought that is bad into a drought that is a nightmare.”
“If this were to be compared, for example, to a forest fire,” Patterson conjectured, “and the firefighters were told by the governor, ‘Stop trying to save lives and stop trying to save property; go make sure you save that tree over there because there’s a spotted owl in it,’ people would very quickly tell the governor where to go and what to do.”