Tight Lines: State Water Board could increase water flows in Delta region

SACRAMENTO — California’s State Water Resources Control Board will consider a final draft of a plan to increase water flows through the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries in August, it was announced. The drafted plan, according to state water officials, would prevent an ecological crisis and the total collapse of fisheries.

State officials said the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta was the result of nine years of hearings, public outreach and research; more than 1,400 comment letters were reportedly reviewed.

“The San Francisco Bay-Delta is an ecosystem in crisis. The Board’s challenge is to balance multiple valuable uses of water – for fish and wildlife, agriculture, urban, recreation, and other uses,” State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a released statement. “Californians want a healthy environment, healthy agriculture, and healthy communities, not one at the expense of the others. That requires the water wars to yield to collective efforts to help fish and wildlife through voluntary action, which the proposed plan seeks to reward.”

The state plan proposes a 40-percent unimpaired flow requirement, which would be enough to “improve conditions for fish and wildlife considerably without more challenging impacts to other water users.”

“Currently, flows remaining in the rivers can run as low as 10 to 20 percent of unimpaired flow at critical times of the year and range from 21 to 40 percent on average for the three tributaries,” state water officials said.

The adult Chinook salmon population in the Delta region is among the species on “the brink of extinction,” according to state water officials. There were nearly 70,000 adult Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin basin in 1984. The population reportedly dropped to 40,000 in 2010 and 8,000 in 2014.

An Associated Press news report on the Water Board plan shortly after it was announced revealed the plan is met with mixed reactions, with agricultural interests against the proposal on one side and fishing advocacy groups searching for details of how increased water flows would help deliver more fish.

Photo Credit: worldislandinfo.com

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