CSPA Urges State Water Board to Tap New Melones Now

Published 4/26/2021  |  California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

Following up on the State Water Board’s April 21, 2021 workshop on Sacramento River water temperature management, CSPA has written a letter urging the Board to enforce existing flow requirements for the lower San Joaquin River.  Water Rights Decision 1641 requires the Bureau of Reclamation to release water from New Melones Reservoir to meet seasonal San Joaquin River pulse flows.  Implementing the required releases from New Melones would also take pressure off other major reservoirs, which are struggling to maintain cold water for fish downstream.

During the April 21 workshop, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation identified storage levels at New Melones as the “shining star” of the Central Valley Project.  Meanwhile, Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs are as low as they were in the 2014 and 2015 drought years.  Nonetheless, the Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources are drawing water from those reservoirs north of the Delta to meet Delta flow and salinity requirements.

The outrage is that Decision 1641 already requires Reclamation to release enough water from New Melones to make the flow on the lower San Joaquin River greater than 3000 cubic feet per second, from April 15 through May 15.  But as it did in the last drought, Reclamation is shining on both the requirement and the State Water Board, which established and is supposed to enforce the requirement.  On April 26, 2021, flows at the San Joaquin River compliance point are less than half the required flow.

This optional compliance needs to end.  On top of that, Reclamation should increase the New Melones release simply on the grounds that it would better water management than further drawing down the north-of-Delta reservoirs, where downstream fisheries are moving towards lethal temperature conditions later this summer.

Meet the requirements and save fish!

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