Washington, DC — Shortly after US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke toured New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs, his office sent a scathing seven page letter criticizing a state plan to divert more water from local rivers like the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne.
It argues that the State Water Resources Control Board’s plan to implement a 40-percent un-impaired flow standard will reduce storage at New Melones by 315,000 acre feet per year and likely diminish power generation and recreational opportunities.
The letter adds that the plan will “essentially elevate the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”
The Interior Department is asking the state to reconsider the plan and also postpone a public meeting scheduled for August 21-22 until there has been additional due diligence and dialogue. The letter also hints that legal action could be on the horizon, as Zinke has the ability to review whether state standards are consistent with congressional directives, and if inconsistencies are found, he can request that the US Attorney General’s Office get involved in the process.
Click here to view an earlier story detailing Zinke’s tour.