Water Policy

It is Time to Restore Salmon to the San Joaquin River

By Monty Schmitt
Natural Resources Defense Council

Reaching a great milestone: #salmon will be re-introduced in the San Joaquin River for the first time since the 1940s.

Last year marked the fifth year of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program and the two year anniversary of renewed river flows - the first since the 1940s when the operation of Friant Dam dried up the river and ended the historic salmon runs.  Thanks to years of hard work on the part of state and federal agencies, farmers, conservation groups, water districts and other stakeholders, the San Joaquin River once again flows all the way to the sea.

How to Deny that Fish Need Water

By Kate Poole
Natural Resources Defense Council

I recently came across this checklist for global warming deniers on Michael Campana’s post:

  1. Deny global warming.
  2. After global warming is determined to be real, deny that it's human caused.
  3. After it is determined to be human caused, deny that it will be harmful.
  4. After it is shown that it will be harmful, claim that it's too expensive to stop.
  5. After it is shown that it will be more expensive *not* to stop, send a threat to a climate scientist.
  6. Engage some scientists who may have ‘street creds,’ but in another field.

Insert the words “Delta ecosystem collapse” for “global warming,” and you have the playbook of some of the biggest water users in California who are driven by a desire to continue profiting from an unsustainable level of water diversions from the Bay-Delta.

LA Times Editorial Supports Lungren’s Investigation of Hetch Hetchy Use

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times was highly critical of San Francisco’s use of Hetch Hetchy water without reclamation or efficient use of its own groundwater, a source that has diminished in its importance to the City over time as San Francisco’s PUC has found it easier to simply use more water from the Tuolomne river than through rainwater reclamation or extracting groundwater from within San Francsico, San Mateo or Santa Clara counties.

The Times’ editorial claims San Francisco has broken its agreement to ‘take no more water than it needed,’ and supports Congressman Dan Lungren’s call to investigate San Francisco’s water policies, among the most inefficient in the state.

Delta Smelt Population Improves As Canal Plans Ramp Up

By Dan Bacher

The abundance of endangered Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the imperiled Bay-Delta ecosystem, was greater in 2011 than it has been any year since 2001.

Yet state fishery biologists note that population remains a small fraction of historical abundance. "The improvement is likely due in large part to higher than usual Delta outflow which resulted in more and better habitat," according to Marty Gingras, DFG fishery biologist, in a press release on December 23.

The high flows resulted in keeping the Delta smelt away from the state and federal pumping facilities in the South Delta, where millions of Sacramento splittail and other fish were killed this year. Only 51 Delta smelt were "salvaged" in the pumping facilities that export water to southern California water agencies and corporate growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in 2011.

Brown, Salazar Reaffirm 'Mutual Resolve' to Build Peripheral Canal

By Dan Bacher

California Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on December 19 reaffirmed their "strong mutual resolve" to moving forward with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal, in spite of strong opposition by Delta advocates.

They also "reinforced their joint commitment to effective action to achieve the dual goals of a healthy San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California," the same dual goals that doomed the CalFed program to failure.

Brown and Salazar announced several actions that they claimed will "ensure a fair, open and transparent process" and a full opportunity for input by all interested parties" in the development of a plan to address the future of California’s San Francisco Bay Delta. These actions included revisions to the draft BDCP Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) they contend are "responsive to the comments received by a wide range of water stakeholders in recent weeks."

Westlands Official Working for DWR on Bay Delta Conservation Plan

By Dan Bacher

An employee of the Westlands Water District is currently working “on loan” for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the plan initiated by state and federal water contractors to allow them to build a peripheral canal or tunnel in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Documents obtained by this reporter under the California Public Records Act reveal that Susan Ramos, Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, was hired in an inter-jurisdictional personal exchange agreement between the Department of Water Resources and Westlands Water District from November 15, 2009 through December 31, 2010.

The contract was extended to run through December 31, 2011 and again to continue through December 31, 2012.

New Polling Indicates Cost Factor ‘Critical’ To Passage Of Hetch Hetchy Initiative

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

Responding to a challenge from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to back-up their claim city voters support restoring the Hetch Hetch Valley, Restore Hetch Hetchy (RHH) has released polling data which appears to support the non-profit organization’s assertion.

The City of San Francisco dammed the Hetch Hetchy in 1913, destroying the valley naturalist John Muir himself called, “One of God’s greatest mountain temples.” RHH and its supporters will ask city voters to restore the valley at the November, 2012 ballot box.

The survey, conducted by David Binder Research in July of 2010, indicated that the cost of the measure is a critical factor to 60 percent of city voters while 40 percent support returning the Hetch Hetchy to the National Park Service regardless of cost.

State and Feds Announce Release of Delta Studies After Massive Complaints

By Dan Bacher

The state and federal governments on November 29 announced they plan to release Delta science studies in response to the voluminous comments they received criticizing a controversial agreement that fast-tracks the construction of the peripheral canal under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Tuesday's press release from the U.S. Department of Interior claimed that Interior, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Department of Water Resources "announced a first step in responding to public comments on a draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with California water agencies that will enhance transparency in developing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) by speeding access to draft technical documents."

"This initial step will be followed by additional responses to public comments that have been filed on the MOA," Interior noted.

SFPUC Refuses Public Hearing on Hetch Hetchy Restoration

By Dan Aiello

In a letter to Restore Hetch Hetchy’s executive director, Mike Marshall, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has rejected a request by the non-profit to hold a public hearing on the feasibility and benefits of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

The refusal comes after poll results indicate mounting support by San Francisco’s citizens for the restoration of the valley.

Currently, Hetch Hetchy Valley is one of nine locations used by the City of San Francisco to store water and it is the only reservoir located in a national park. The cost to restore the valley is a major source of contention, with the SFPUC and California Department of Water Resources citing a cost ten times that of RHH, but without study or documentation to support their estimate.

San Francisco PUC fails to Support $9.8 Billion Estimate to Restore Hetch Hetchy

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

Preceding qualification of a 2012 San Francisco ballot measure that will ask city residents to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service for restoration, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission admits its nearly ten billion dollar cost estimate for the project was not based on any study performed by it, but rather was an esitmate for the same state agency study that cites the SFPUC as the source of the cost estimate.

Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Restore Hetch Hetchy non-profit organization, claims the nearly ten billion dollar figure comes from a 2007 California Department of Water Resources report that footnotes the estimates to undisclosed SFPUC documentation.