San Joaquin Valley farmers who received a gift of many thousands of acre-feet of water necessary to support fisheries and meet water quality standards, have sued and secured a temporary injunction preventing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from releasing water in the Trinity River to prevent a repeat of the massive 2002 Klamath River fish kill.
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance has recently learned that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (collectively, the Department of Interior) inexplicably gave away 451,000 acre-feet of water in 2011 to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley that could have been stored in Shasta Reservoir to provide critical relief for fisheries in 2012 (below normal year) and 2013 (dry year). Over half of the available spawning habitat on the Sacramento River for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon has been eliminated this year because of a lack of available cold water in Shasta Reservoir. Lack of flow this year has also caused serious violations of water quality standards in the Delta and impacted endangered Delta smelt.
San Joaquin Valley farmers also received considerable additional water this year because water quality standards in the Delta were ignored and violated. In April, May and June 2013, the Bureau and Department of Water Resources (Department) violated water quality standards for salinity at Emmaton and in June violated salinity standards at Jersey Point. These compliance points are located in the western Delta. Southern Delta salinity standards were also violated June, July through 15 August. Disregarding compliance with Delta water quality standards allowed the Bureau and Department to increase water exports and reduce Delta outflow. The reduced Delta outflow caused the low salinity zone to move upstream and Delta smelt were drawn into the Western Delta to perish.
CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings said, “It is outrageous that the Department of Interior gave away many thousands of acre-feet of fishery water to San Joaquin Valley farmers that could have mitigated serious impacts to salmon and Delta smelt this year. These same South of Delta farmers also received considerable additional exported water this year because water quality standards in the Delta were ignored and violated. It is abominable and scandalous that the recipients of these gifts have now turned around and sued Interior for proposing to release a small amount of water on the Trinity to prevent a repeat of the massive Klamath fish kill of 2002” “They have no shame,” he said.