Flash: ON   July 16, 2018 
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Background: Tulloch & Water
LAKE TULLOCH AND THE DROUGHT:
AN LTA BACKGROUNDER

 
California is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in recent memory and now there is a threat that the water from Lake Tulloch could be drained in order to meet outdated mandated environmental policy focused on fish, not people that forces reservoir draw downs even during drought . New Melones full would be 2.5 million acre feet. This policy will drain it to 80,000 acre feet.
 
First and foremost it will impact the people that live here threatening everything from our water supply to quality of life. However,  there are other ways this impacts our region such a tremendous impact on the economy.  We have two prime industries at risk with this policy:  agriculture and tourism: 
 
First -On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation's total agricultural output. It employs 7.3% of private sector jobs and for every 100 jobs, an additional 94 are created. The drought economic cost for agriculture is $2.2 billion and that impacts local tax revenue, jobs, and even food prices.
 
Second - Tourism is a huge economic generator in the Gold Country Region. An official state study finds that total travel spending in the region doubled from 1992 to 2013 ($4 billion) with statewide spending at over $100 billion. Tourism provides for the jobs of 36,000 people just in the Mother Lode. Tax receipts also more than doubled in this period to $212 million with $70 million in local tax receipts. The total jobs provided through tourism amounts to nearly the entire population of just Calaveras County.
 
Lake Tulloch in Context – Lake Tulloch was built in 1957 to store water for irrigation by the South San Joaquin and Oakdale Irrigation Districts. In 1926, 90 years ago, the first Melones Dam was built by the same districts.  The Melones Dam which was replaced in 1978 by the federal government with the New Melones Dam. Hence the word “new.”  The 1962 Flood Control Act outlined the purpose of the dam to provide for “irrigation, power, wildlife and fishery enhancement, recreation, and water quality as reasons for construction.”
 
When Lake Tulloch was created the irrigation districts were granted flowage easements on the private land around the lake.. The government including the irrigation districts, unlike New Melones and most reservoirs, did not purchase and/or control the land immediately adjacent to the reservoirs. Therefore, a significant part of the land surrounding Lake Tulloch was developed for private use. A population of about 10,000 grew up around the lake including a state prison.  The communities and local economy were created, all of which were heavily dependent upon the presence and resources of this beautiful lake. The removal of the water in the reservoir would effectively destroy the community, economically and have devastating social effects on the short term with major impact’s long term.
 
The Challenge Today – About two weeks ago a press release was sent to media from Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) that the district might have to drain Lake Tulloch. This warning has ignited a significant response from the community. The media coverage has done by and large an excellent job revealing the impact of failed environmental policy on our community.  Obviously the draining of the lake will have a terrible impact on the economy, people, and even the ecology of our community. The management of these reservoirs must be orchestrated carefully.   There is a balance that must be maintained for both agriculture and our community.  
                                                                                                                                                                                 
As clearly stated by the Oakdale Irrigation District,  a Federal mandate, orders massive releases of water, (aka fish flows), for the sole purpose of preserving Chinook salmon. Unfortunately this does not represent a balanced water management policy in our region.   The government fish flow strategy ignores the needs of people, during a drought, when our water is becoming increasingly scarce.  This week the OID revealed the chart at the right which clearly illustrates the problem they have created.  

 
 
(Exhibit 1) The above chart has a red line representing the amount of water that would be in Melones without fish flows. The lower “blue line” represents the water that has been  released  down our rivers   The chart shows that as of September, 2014, New Melones would have an additional 500,000 acre feet of water, if the fish flows were not utilized throughout this drought Therefore even in this extended drought – there would be limited problems and no need to even consider draining Lake Tulloch.

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