Council Welcomes Order by Newsom to Increase Delta Water Deliveries
Capturing water from atmospheric river storms and storing it for future use by people and the environment is more important than ever amid the climate whiplash in which we now find ourselves. In the last decade, California has experienced six of the ten driest years ever recorded and two of the wettest. On February 13, Governor Newsom issued an executive order calling on the State Water Resources Control Board to quickly consider a temporary urgency change petition from the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The petition was to modify a rule that governs the operations of the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project regarding when water is released through the Bay Delta and into the ocean. On February 20, the Water Board rightly approved the petition.
In 2022, early season storms in December gave hope for relief from drought, but the remainder of the wet season was dry. In 2021, we began April with a near-normal snowpack and ended it with no snowpack and little runoff to reservoirs. We hope the rain continues, but the last two years taught us that hope is a poor substitute for good planning. With critical reservoirs like Shasta and Oroville at 60 and 70 percent respectively and a snowpack that is vulnerable to higher temperatures and rapid evaporation, we must remain nimble to respond to changing conditions. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife found that the operational changes requested will not result in unreasonable impacts to fish and wildlife and would be no more than incremental.
Reservoir storage is critical to maintaining water temperatures for salmon should the drought continue. Governor Newsom and his administration were right to act now in case we end April in a continued drought. It is the most responsible action for people and the environment.