West-side farmers in Fresno County will receive a 35% water allocation from the Central Valley Project, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday.
Other districts served by the federal water project, however, will receive allocations ranging from 70% to 100%. Friant Division farmers are among those receiving 100% allocations.
In addition, 150,000 acre-feet of flood release water from Millerton Lake will be made available to eligible Friant contractors.
“Today’s announcement of a 35 percent water allocation for Fresno County’s west-side federal water contractors once again shows the brokenness of California’s water systems.” — Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of Fresno County Farm Bureau
Above normal storage, above normal precipitation, huge snowpack. We should be closer to 60%.
— Westside Farmer (@JoeDelBosque) February 20, 2019
San Joaquin River Restoration Gets 322,000 Acre-Feet
The Bureau LAO forecasts that 322,000 acre-feet of Millerton water will be used for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which seeks to restore a self-sustaining Chinook salmon fishery in the river. That is the amount released in what the Bureau calls a “normal-wet” water year.
“Though we’ve had a great start to 2019, our experience as the operator of this complex and important infrastructure dictates we act conservatively at this time of year,” said Ernest Conant, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region Director. “In particular, we are closely monitoring the current and projected storage at Shasta Lake, which is the largest reservoir in the CVP.”
Sierra Snowpack is 141% of Historical Average
The low initial allocation to west-side farmers comes despite above average precipitation this winter.
The California Department of Water Resources reported that as of Feb. 15, the statewide average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 141 percent of the historical average. Overall precipitation is about 121 percent of the historical average for the northern Central Valley.
“Today’s announcement of a 35 percent water allocation for Fresno County’s west-side federal water contractors once again shows the brokenness of California’s water systems,” said Ryan Jacobsen, who is CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.
“As I have stated many times before, federal water policy has failed everyone … it has failed to protect fish species and it’s failed to provide water to the communities, businesses, and farms who need it most. The current biological opinions in which the systems operate under are dysfunctional. They continue to cost this region a reliable water supply with no positive benefit to the species it is meant to protect in the Delta.”
Farm Bureau CEO Calls for New Water Storage Investment
Jacobsen called for new investment in California water storage.
“On the Friant system, while news of a 100 percent Class I allocation is welcomed, we are once again reminded of the need for additional storage. Water will need to be evacuated from Millerton Lake to make room for spring melt flows. With additional storage, these flows could be preserved for times when it’s needed most during the summer months.
“Over the long-term, California does receive ample precipitation, but it’s weather patterns are cyclical. Without investments in our water infrastructure as well as changes to the way the system is operated, it will be economically devastating to the Valley to make it through the dry times, particularly with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.”
What If Remainder of Winter Is Dry?
With a capacity of about 4.5 million acre-feet, Shasta Lake generally provides the majority of the water storage for the CVP. In addition, Reclamation is charged with ensuring that adequate temperatures are maintained in the Sacramento River downstream of the dam throughout the summer and fall for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon.
“Reclamation’s initial allocations this year reflect the rain and snow we’ve had to date, balanced with the need to exercise reasonable caution should the remainder of the winter turn dry,” Conant said. “We recognize the importance of providing meaningful allocations early in the year for the planning needs of our contractors and must also ensure we can meet these commitments should conditions turn dry or other contingencies arise.”