Flash: OFF This site is designed for use with Macromedia Flash Player. Click here to install.   September 23, 2023 
Federal Agreement on Water to Require State Approval
Irrigation Districts and Feds reach water releases deal
that preserves Tulloch: State Water Board approval required



An  agreement of the Irrigation Districts and Bureau of Reclamation could save Lake Tulloch from draining, but it's going to require the approval of the California State Water Board. The Lake Tulloch Alliance urges you to express your support for the tentative agreement reached by OID, SSJID and the feds on New Melones releases. You can make your voice known by emailing the members of the State Water Quality Control Board at info@waterboards.ca.gov. That agency must approve the tentative plan; if it doesn't, the whole thing will fall apart -- and Tulloch's water likely would be back in play much, much sooner.

One possible approach for your emails but do not simply copy this. Use your own words:

"We urge you to support the approval in the best interests of Sierra Foothill Communities but also for agriculture and the economy. We understand the environmental objectives of the Water Board but this will allow you to continue you programs while protecting the ecology and the economy of the foothills."
Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation District Press Release

Two Central California water agencies have reached a tentative agreement with federal officials regarding water flow on the Stanislaus River.  The tentative agreement is a balanced approach to meeting the competing needs of agriculture, fish, power generation, municipal supply, recreation and storage in the watershed.
The deal is between the Oakdale and South Joaquin irrigation districts and the Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service. The bureau operates New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River and National Marine Fisheries Services manages the federal flow requirements prescribed for fish under a Biological Opinion. OID and SSJID have historic rights to surface water from the river.
At issue is how to stretch a limited supply of water behind the dam, which sits at just 24% of capacity. The reservoir near Angels Camp in Calaveras County can hold 2.4 million acre-feet of water. Monday, it had about 585,000 acre-feet. With the snowpack in the Central Sierra at an all-time low, there is little runoff expected this spring.
The agreement, announced Monday, addresses short-term releases of water down the river – called “pulse flows” – to benefit steelhead trout and salmon, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. It also calls for the two irrigation districts to work with their agricultural customers to ensure there is at least 115,000 acre-feet of water left behind New Melones at the end of September, when irrigation season ends.
For three days beginning Monday at midnight, the water volume in the Stanislaus River will be increased from 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) to about 500 cfs to help trout make their way toward the Delta. The river will return to about 200 cfs until mid-April, when another month-long pulse flow will occur to benefit young salmon.
Thousands of OID and SSJID farmers who normally equally divide 600,000 acre-feet of water in a typical irrigation season instead will have access to 450,000 acre-feet this year. Already, SSJID has capped deliveries to 36 inches per acre this summer. In April, OID is expected to adopt a similar limit for the first time in its 105-year history.
Irrigation district officials have been talking for months with their counterparts at the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Congressmen Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, and Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, also were involved, and instrumental in advocating for a balanced approach to all needs.
Monday’s agreement also is good news for thousands of homeowners and others at Lake Tulloch, downstream of New Melones. Tulloch holds about 67,000 acre-feet; it is owned and operated by OID and SSJID. It provides domestic water for about 10,000 Calaveras County customers in addition to boating, water skiing and fishing.
If federal officials had followed through on their initial plan to send more water down the river for fish, OID and SSJID officials would have had to dramatically lower Tulloch.
“Tulloch will remain high as long as possible because that’s the highest value for cold water (for fish),” said Steve Knell, OID’s general manager. “It will be the last chip to fall. We hope it doesn’t.”
As part of the agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation will file a Temporary Urgency Change Petition with the California State Water Resources Control Board this week. The water board must approve the petition at its meeting next month for the New Melones plan to be fully implemented. If the water board imposes additional terms and conditions, the delicate balance reached by the water districts and federal regulators may be lost.
“We’re very appreciative of the efforts of the federal agencies and the congressional officials to work diligently to create this balanced approach to the Stanislaus River,” said OID General Manager Steve Knell, speaking on behalf the two irrigation districts.
OID serves about 62,000 acres in northeastern Stanislaus County and southeastern San Joaquin County. Farmers dependent upon its water are part of an agricultural industry worth an estimated $3.663 billion in 2013 in Stanislaus County.
SSJID provides water to about 72,000 agricultural acres in Escalon, Ripon and Manteca, and also domestic water for the city of Tracy. The San Joaquin County farm economy had an estimated value of $2.921 billion in 2013.

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