Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cut in Shasta Lake releases concerns CFBF

The state's largest ag organization is concerned that a halt in releases of warm water from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River could lead to deeper cuts in water sent to farmers.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Uncertainties have grown about the state's ability to deliver water for multiple uses, as officials reviewed river and reservoir temperature models for cold water being released from the state's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, to protect salmon.

The State Water Resources Control Board has temporarily suspended releases from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River. Officials said after four years of drought and very little snow melt, water temperatures are higher than expected.

Salmon and their eggs are very sensitive to water temperatures and are damaged or destroyed when water temperatures rise above 56 degrees. [...]

[T]emperatures in Shasta Lake are significantly warmer than expected and will likely make it impossible for the [U.S. Bureau of Reclamation] to meet the 56 degrees maximum temperature requirement at Clear Creek throughout the temperature-control season—through summer and early fall.

Chris Scheuring, an environmental attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said that while the temporary cutback in releases from Shasta Lake represents a small fraction of agricultural water supply in an average year, farmers remain concerned that the inability to manage temperature requirements could lead to longer, deeper cutbacks.

"We're in a bad situation and there's just no slack in the system for anything," Scheuring said. "We're scraping the bottom of the barrel for human use, as well as for protected fisheries. The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from this is that additional storage might help in critical drought years like this."

Scheuring said additional water storage capacity would certainly give water managers "more options to operate the system and still manipulate temperatures in a way that supports fisheries, without detracting from reliable water supplies for cities and farms."

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