Threats and Opportunities on California's Rivers
There are many opportunities and threats to the Bay Delta and Klamath, Sacramento, Bay Delta and Trinity Rivers right now. While Klamath dam removal moves forward, several water diversion plans threaten the river. There are chances to get involved.
Here is a quick overview. Key facts to remember is that the Klamath Irrigation Project is in the Upper Basin of the Klamath River and the Trinity River diversion is part of the federal Central Valley Project and goes in the Sacramento River. It then feeds Central Valley farmers and urban areas.
Klamath Dam Removal
California is now taking comments on the 401 (Clean Water Act) certification for dam removal. States have the right to issue (or deny) a Clean Water Act permit through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dam relicensing process. For the last couple of years FERC has been processing a new permit application to remove four of the Klamath dams. Before that the dam owners PacifiCorp had a permit application in to relicense these dams.
This process is not related to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBA) or water negotiations. Oregon has issued their permit. California will likely issue theirs after this round of public comment. Then FERC has to release their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and decision. The dams are expected to come down in 2021.
New Klamath and Central Valley Projects
The Bureau of Reclamation recently issued a Biological Assessment (BA), or water plan, for the Klamath Irrigation Project and Central Valley Projects recently . Now the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will review this BAs and issue their own plan called a Biological Opinion (BO). The BOs deal with coho salmon and Lost River and shortnose suckers (for the Klamath) winter and spring run chinook and coho (for the Delta). Fish that are not listed as endangered, such as the 64,000 fall chinook that died during the 2002 Klamath fish kill are not addressed except through a limited assessment of Tribal Trust impacts in the Klamath. There will be an opportunities to comment on the BOs in the spring and summer.
The Pacific Connector Pipeline
This pipeline would go from a Coos Bay LNG terminal to near Klamath Falls, Oregon and would cross over 400 waterways, including the Klamath River. The pipeline been denied twice, and is going through the FERC process for the third time because Trump supports it.
Humboldt County’s 50,000 Acre Feet Water Contract
In 2013 Humboldt County (with the help of local Tribes) received a federal legal opinion that its right to 50,000 acre feet that was guaranteed when the Trinity River dams went in needs to be honored. Since then this water has been being used to help avert Klamath River adult fish kills; however some want to use it for seasonal fishery needs that are not covered by the Trinity River Record of Decision (ROD). Humboldt may soon have a public process on this water.
The Trump Water Plan
The new Trump Water Plan would maximize water deliveries and power generation to the federal Central Valley Project in order to provide more Sacramento, San Joaquin and Trinity River water and power to Central Valley farmers and power companies. The BOR held a scoping hearing last January and an Environmental Impact Statement and public hearings are expected this spring. The president has issued a memo and negotiated a revised Coordinated Operating Agreement with California to support this process.
The Twin Tunnels (Now One Tunnel)
The Twin Tunnels was Jerry Brown’s project to build two new massive diversion tunnels in the north Sacramento Bay Delta. Now the proposal is for one tunnel. The idea came from the unpopular peripheral canal proposal, which was defeated by voters decades ago. Currently, the state and federal water projects pump a large amount of water from Southern Delta. This has led to an ecological crisis in the Delta. At first the Twin Tunnels project was called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, but after awhile all the restoration was dropped, and it was renamed the California Water Fix. A state agency, the Delta Stewardship Council, recently issued a decision against the tunnels, and no one knows if the new governor will continue to push for two tunnels, one tunnel or no tunnels. The Twin Tunnels will negatively impact Trinity and Sacramento River flows, temperatures and reservoir storage.
The Sites Reservoir and New Diversions
The Sites Project is 4.7 billion dollar proposal to build two new reservoirs on 14,000 acres off of the Sacramento River. Building a large new diversion and two additional pumps at an existing diversion is part of this proposal. Last year the Sites Project Authority took comments on a state Environmental Impact Review that was meant to double as a federal environmental review. The California Water Commission recently agreed to award almost a billion dollars in taxpayer money to Sites. The DIER revealed impacts to flows and salmon in the Trinity and Sacramento Rivers.
The Shasta Dam Raise
Westlands Water District, the public water agency that irrigates the poisoned lands of the arid Western San Joaquin Valley with Trinity River water, recently held public scoping hearings under California’s Environmental Quality Act for a plan to raise California’s largest dam, the Shasta Dam, by 18 feet. This project has already gone through a federal process, but no decision has been issued. The next step is for Westlands to release a full environmental impact report for public comment. This dam raise would not just harm salmon and flood ceremonial lands for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, it is also violates the state Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because it would flood the lower McCloud River. This has led to many questions about how a state funded water district can legally pursue the project. This project could impact the Trinity River.
TO GET INVOLVED EMAIL: Regina@californiasalmon.org.