Sacramento, CA – The New Melones water flow fight between the feds, state and local water districts has ended with a “workable plan” according to Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell.
The agreement has allowed pulse flows to start up again at Goodwin Dam, which happened at 1 a.m. Saturday. Per the agreement, the releases are being ramped up from 200 cubic feet per second over several hours to 1,500 and then brought down to 1,300, Tuesday at 1:00 a.m. A Friday conference call brought together officials from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), State Water Control Board, the Oakdale Irrigation District and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to sort out their differences regarding pulse flows on the Stanislaus River for steelhead and Chinook salmon. “I am very proud of the work we put into resolving the pulse flow concerns,” said David Murillo, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Regional Director. “It shows what can be accomplished when people are willing to sit down, roll up their sleeves and work toward a common goal.”
After several hours, those on the line hammered out an agreement that sticks closely to an earlier proposed one, as reported in March. Knell says, “Essentially it gets everybody, I think, what they wanted at the very beginning, and that’s certainty. Certainty that the irrigation district can do the things that it needs to do to meet its farmer’s needs and then certainty for the fisheries to meet the necessary fish flows for the health of the fish, so I think we’re all happy.”
In regards to Lake Tulloch, it is expected to have normal operations through October 1. After that, Lake Drawdown will depend on inflows into New Melones. That is good news for the Calaveras County Water District’s 2,400 Copperopolis customers whose taps could have been affected. Knell says, “We have a target of having to get 150,000 acre feet of storage into New Melones at the end of September so that we can ensure that fishery water is available into next year.”
The BOR and the Districts will continue to work together to increase water conservation and water saved this year will spill over into the 2016 water year. Additionally, the groups will check the fishery needs. “There’s still going to be some [fish] stress levels that we are going to have to monitor and possibly address as the summer goes on. We’re not going to worry about that. We’re going to take those on when we run into them, if we run into them.”