Wednesday, March 12, 2014

'Nobody's going to get the amount of water they are hoping for,' says secretary of the interior

President Barack Obama's lead adviser on water and wildlife toured the enormous south Delta export pumps Tuesday, examining the roaring, 22,500-horsepower pumps before cautioning that no one would receive all the water they need this year. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told reporters that state and federal governments will have to be flexible to make the best use of a limited amount of water. "Mother Nature has created this drought," she said. "This drought is not created by the Bureau of Reclamation or the state of California. Working together, we can put as much flexibility in place as possible to satisfy as many users as possible, recognizing that nobody's going to get the amount of water they are hoping for." Events of the past week, however, show how difficult it might be to manage the state's vast water infrastructure in the coming months. Recent storms temporarily boosted the amount of water flowing through the Delta, west of Stockton. But by the middle of last week, San Joaquin Valley farmers had grown frustrated because most of that water was not being pumped their way. Instead, it was left in rivers flowing toward the ocean. "I ask you, is this the balance that you anticipated?" Dan Nelson, general manager of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, asked a state water official at a drought workshop in Merced last week. "Is this the balance you anticipated? I don't think so." By last weekend, exports from the state and federal pumps near Tracy had increased to more than 7,000 cubic feet per second combined. That's enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in 12 seconds. The farmers down south were getting more water. But now the additional pumping was beginning to harm fish. As the pumps cranked up, Delta streams began running backward toward the pumps at a higher rate. Endangered winter-run Chinook salmon were sucked into the pumps - a total of 121 juvenile salmon in the past week, according to government records. More than two dozen steelhead and a few splittail and longfin smelt also began to show up at the pumps. "It's crucial that pumping be restrained while baby salmon that have so far survived the drought pass through and around the Delta," said John McManus, director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association...more

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