Excerpted from Andrew Creasey/Appeal-Democrat
Until the federal government fulfills water obligations in the north, don’t send the water south.
That was the message from Sacramento River settlement contractors, through an attorney, to the Bureau of Reclamation, which recently forecasted the 60 percent water deliveries cut to the districts and water companies along the river.
The contractors, however, claim their water right allows the bureau to reduce deliveries by a maximum of only 25 percent.
“If there is simply not enough water available because of the ‘drought,’ we understand that Reclamation cannot provide what it does not have. But Reclamation has made no such showing,” the letter, signed by four attorneys representing 23 settlement contractors, read. “We are advised that Reclamation is making discretionary decisions that, among other things, deliver Sacramento River Water for use south of the Delta.”
Currently, about 3,000 acre-feet of water is being sent south of the Delta every day, and the contractors were likely to protest that delivery with another letter to the State Water Resources Control Board on Monday, said Thad Bettner, general manager of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.
“We don’t think the projects have provided a justification for that to continue,” Bettner said, adding that he heard the Bureau may voluntarily suspend that operation regardless of the contractor’s actions.
The contractors met with the Bureau on Friday morning to better understand its 40 percent allocation.
“It does appear that there are limitations to how much water can be provided,” Bettner said. “Our interest is that if the water supply in our contract could be increased, we’re going to be coordinating with Reclamation to allow that to happen.”
Bureau spokesman Louis Moore said Reclamation is doing what they can to manage a difficult drought issue. He said the bureau will be looking to issue a revised allocation forecast once the effect of the recent rain on the state’s hydrology is better known.
“We understand this is unprecedented,” Moore said. “We’re just trying to manage the water resources that are available.”
The recent rain caused an increase of about 160,000 acre-feet in the total water storage of the Bureau-operated Central Valley Project with several days of rain on the way, but the bureau is still about 1.4 million acre feet short of the water it needs for a normal year of deliveries. The Central Valley Project draws from the Shasta and Folsom reservoirs and delivers water to farms and communities as far south as Mendota in Fresno County.
Bettner said he was uncertain if the rain would cause a direct increase in the district’s water supply.
Moore said a revised allocation could be issued by late this week. “We’re hoping to see increases across the board,” Moore said.