Monday, September 14, 2009

SARSAS Sac-Joaquin Delta Fish Plan Prepared by Dr. Stacy Li

SARSAS Sac-Joaquin Delta Fish Plan
Prepared by Dr. Stacy Li
Aquatic Systems Research
National Marine Fisheries Service - retired

I provide the following list of components that should be included in any Delta water solution:

1) Outflow to San Francisco Bay has been reduced by 50% of historical levels. Not only should Delta outflow not be reduced any further, it should be increased. This is a key design control consideration.

2) The design functions of the two rivers should be switched. The original fundamental design of the CVP (Central Valley Project) was to use San Joaquin River as water supply and the Sacramento River for water quality. The Sacramento River should be used as water supply because it is more than three times more abundant than the San Joaquin River. The Sacramento River should also provide flows to resist salt intrusion into the Delta, add to Delta outflow and be used to dilute pesticide and fertilizer residues in the agriculture return water in the San Joaquin River. I can’t think of another way to get water from the Sacramento River to the California Aqueduct other than a Peripheral Canal.

3) San Joaquin River should be switched from water supply to being used primarily to resist salt intrusion into the Delta. None of this water should be used as water export. If this action is adopted, there will be no flow reversals in either the Sacramento River or the San Joaquin River. Sacramento River salmonids would be unaffected because the river’s momentum and inertia would prevent flow reversals by pumping. San Joaquin salmon and steelhead smolt would finally be able to find their way to the ocean and returning adults would finally be able to find their natal streams. The San Joaquin Delta would become more of a backwater habitat as it was historically. That would benefit Delta smelt and longfin smelt. Water residence time in the Delta would also be longer, allowing plankton communities to develop that would benefit threadfin shad and young-of-the-year striped bass populations. Finally, importation of 1 million tons of salt into the San Joaquin Valley would stop by not exporting San Joaquin River water.

4) The Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River do not mix downstream of Sherman Island because of differences in many physical and water quality parameters. Therefore, through Delta water conveyance is impossible. The SWP (State Water Project) assumes through Delta conveyance. Refurbishing the present water export facilities would be a big waste of money because not only are they extremely susceptible to levee failure, but water supply capacity of the San Joaquin River is near exhaustion.

5) Present fish protection and fish salvage facilities are woefully inadequate. The present fish louvers do not work. Fish screens are needed because they are state of the art.

6) More dams are not needed at this time. Besides flows from the proposed Temperance Flat Dam would not flow north to the Delta to restore Delta health, but be exported at Friant Dam and sent south to Kern County via the Friant-Kern Canal.

7) Remember that California is a major world economy, estimates ranging from 4th to 9th largest in the world. This important world economy is dependent upon a secure water supply. Without it there will be severe economic disruptions. This is would be a consequence if political inertia continues.

8) Remember that two-thirds of the California population depends upon CVP/SWP water. If the water system fails, it will cause a negative economic ripple throughout the world. So even if you live in a California community not dependent upon CVP/SWP water, you will be adversely affected. The world will be affected.

9) Remember that the California population is still growing at a rate of about 1 million new residents a year. The State water system must account for this increase.

10) Water Rights in California need to be revised. State Water Resources Control Board has identified about 300 million acre-feet per annum of authorized consumptive water rights of different types (pre-1914, appropriative, riparian, federal reserve and pueblo). California receives only about 73 million acre-feet of runoff each year.

11) The new water system must not only function to provide water supply, improve habitat and ecological conditions, control salt intrusion, and account for climate change, it must also be compatible and integrated within the state’s flood control system.

12) Let us justify repair of Delta levees based upon public safety concerns rather than defending the state's water supply. There are 1100 miles of Delta Levee. There are 5280 feet in a mile. Current levee construction is running around $8,000/foot. Operations and maintenance budgets for levees should be 3% of the initial construction cost each year. Levees are not assets. They are liabilities.

13) Those who use the water system must pay for its use. They are the ones that should provide the revenue stream for construction, and operations and maintenance costs. No more freeloaders!

A warning: Now is the time for action. We can’t wait for the system to fail or to build something that doesn’t work. The time needed to recover from those mistakes will be too long to avoid worldwide depression caused by lack of water availability in California. Now is the time for decision based upon physics, biology, hydrology, ecology and plans that benefit the entire state not just parts of it.

A final aside: Since the vast majority of water used as water supply originates from the San Joaquin River, Southern California has not stolen water from Northern California. If they have been stealing water, they have been stealing it from themselves. The vast majority of Sacramento River water ends up in the Pacific Ocean.

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