22 May 2014

Ecosystem restoration: Are you on or off the bus?

As a comment on this article about water releases into the San Joaquin River, RM writes:
Ah, this will create chaos in the valley. One group wants to defund the San Joaquin Restoration program so they can gain access to water and the BOR then turns around and uses the same water plus more for the Exchange Contractors which will limit access for those other farmers. Now – will DiFi stick her nose into this mess?
CM responded:
Not sure I get the reference about the group that wants to "defund" the Restoration Program - the program has no funds currently and that is not the fault of any of the ag groups. The program - out of its own Settlement - was supposed to complete 10 physical projects in the river on or before 12/31/13. Not one of the projects has even been started and the total cost of the 10 is $580 million. The program doesn't have the funding at all. The fact that NRDC continues to release large amounts of water into the river with none of the physical projects completed is crazy. From 3/1/13 to 2/1/14 they released over 180 TAF into the river that has not had one improvement that they themselves deemed "necessary" for the success of the program (keep in mind "success" means the return of 500 fish). The water picture would be much different had they not done so. RM needs an update on his understanding of the program.

There is no joy in taking water from Friant [CM is an Exchange Contractor]. It only illustrates how badly the system has been impacted by mismanagement and over regulation. All hydrologic conditions are better than they were in 1977, except all allocations are much worse. An excessive amount of water flowed out to the ocean for no beneficial purpose during this time of drought - a real shame. There is no good reason that we should be having to call on Friant.

...I would add that the lack of funding for the Restoration Program is no one's fault. The program was sold to Feinstein as a $250 million dollar project by NRDC. At the time of the Settlement in 2006, she felt she would be able to use earmarks to secure the necessary funding. But, the Settlement had to be implemented with legislation and that took longer than expected and was not finalized until 2009. Between 2006 and 2009, the 2008 financial crisis occurred. This not only eliminated earmarks, but also gave rise to the PAYGO process. These two issues effectively eliminated the funding streams that Feinstein had hoped to capture. Once the Bureau took over and began carefully analyzing all that needed to be done to meet the restoration goals, the total finished project cost ballooned to $2.2 billion (that is an estimate from the Bureau from a couple of years ago, so it is surely higher now). The bottom line is that there is no where near the funding to complete the restoration as planned in the Settlement and there isn't even funding to complete the initial physical projects that I mentioned earlier.

While the funding and timelines are all out of sync, NRDC still chooses to ignore those realities and stick with the releases into the river. They truck fish around the unimproved river and take pictures of them below the dam. Friant has not really complained much about the releases because until the river is completed the releases are fairly moderate. They have also been allowed to take a credit in the San Luis Reservoir for river releases that have been consumed in the Mendota Pool. The program floundering along hasn't been too big of an issue until now when supplies have become constrained. More Friant users are now seeing how bad it is to release water for the restoration program when it could have been kept in storage. There are a growing number of Friant Districts that are starting to push for a reevaluation of the program.

ESA regs in the Delta are taking a big toll on exports and the system as well - but that is another post altogether. This figure tells the story:
DZ's Bottom Line: Half-measures are worse than none at all. Set priorities, then make sure there's enough water to meet them. Co-equal goals mean double failure.
Addendum from here:
East San Joaquin Valley farmers, facing a zero water allocation this summer, are asking a judge to stop unprecedented water releases that started last week at Millerton Lake. The Friant Water Authority, representing 15,000 east-side growers, says federal leaders are not following a long-established water-rights pecking order in releasing Millerton water, which would help save thousands of acres of east-side orchards. The water is instead headed to a group of west Valley farmers who hold rights dating back to the 1800s. The lawsuit filed Tuesday says a Northern California water supply is available to help the west-side growers, but it is going to junior water-rights holders -- wildlife refuges and the State Water Project.
None Much less of this would be happening if California had a water market like the one in the Murray Darling River Basin in Australia

1 comment:

  1. A broken hub wheels no water. It is reasonable to assume the Delta is broken and water must flow through the Delta. Water that passes beyond the Golden Gate is NOT wasted. Rather, sustaining the hydrologic cycle.


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