Friant Crisis ‘Didn’t Need To Happen’
Drought conditions that resulted in miniscule San Joaquin River snowpack and runoff conditions would have been tough to deal with under natural circumstances but there should be at least a little Central Valley Project water available for contractors, Friant Water Authority analysis shows.
Instead, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s water management decisions to partially supply the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors with Friant Dam releases have made a bad situation far worse.
Ronald D. Jacobsma, Friant Water Authority General Manager, said actions by Reclamation have allowed available supplies to be usurped by junior water users or earmarked for environmental purposes.
“This doesn’t need to happen,” said Jacobsma. “Despite the dry conditions, enough water is stored to meet the Exchange Contractors’ supply needs, which in turn would make available a small amount of water for Friant’s Class 1 contractors and prevent at least $3 billion in economic losses from occurring in the citrus industry alone.”
Just as importantly, by providing available project water to meet Exchange Contractor obligations, Jacobsma said, “Reclamation would be doing what CVP agreements require – to recognize and respect the Exchange Contractors’ senior rights to substitute CVP supplies.”
Friant officials are also frustrated with the most recent operations plan issued by Reclamation.
“It is very general and we’ve asked for more detail with respect to Shasta releases, including an analysis of Shasta’s cold water pool temperatures; Delta pumping; San Luis Reservoir operations; and Friant operations, said Jacobsma. “We have no argument with the allocation to the Exchange Contractors if it were met by Reclamation from the other sources but the declaration to the Exchange Contractors is apparently being met by using all available water at Friant Dam and allowing others to use the water that is earmarked for the substitute supply.
“Thus, our growers and communities along the East Side are being left with a zero allocation,” Jacobsma added. “This is wholly unacceptable. Conditions have improved over the last two months but that has not translated into any water supplies for Friant users due to Reclamation’s policy decision not to provide the required substitute water supplies to the Exchange Contractors.”