Chronicle editorial: Let’s not kill fish to water farms AND Redding.com: Editorial: If irrigators win, and salmon die, it will cost dearly

You can view the page with all the media and documents on this issue at: http://www.c-win.org/content/westlands-sues-halt-higher-trinity-flows-prevent-repeat-2002-lower-klamath-fish-kill.html

Check out the August 13 editorial in the Redding Record-Searchlight with comments as of 9:25 am August 13 here.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Let-s-not-kill-fish-to-water-farms-4724587.php

Let’s not kill fish to water farms

A decade ago, thousands of dead salmon lined the banks of the Klamath River, killed because federal dam operators steered needed water to farmers. It’s a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated.

 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the flows on the Trinity River, the Klamath’s biggest tributary, is determined to learn from the fish die-off in 2002. Beginning next week, the floodgates at the Trinity Reservoir will gradually open, creating higher flows over the next month to accommodate a record salmon run headed upriver.

It’s a sensible and justifiable course – more water for more fish – but it’s riled Central Valley farmers, whose irrigation districts more than 300 miles south want a court order stopping the water releases which would otherwise be pumped their way.

A judge will hold a hearing next week on the bid for a last-minute court order to stop the water flows and quite possibly doom the salmon run. In this case, fish should win over farms.

There’s no question that a drought year is hitting agriculture hard. The protesting irrigation districts in the Fresno area are receiving only 20 percent of normal-year water allotments, meaning acres of unplanted crops. Also, the decision to boost flows came quickly, announced on Wednesday.

But the Trinity water in question totals up to 100,000 acre-feet from a reservoir that currently holds 1.5 million acre-feet, a small amount to release in the name of safeguarding historic fish runs.

Because it’s a federal agency running the dam, the dispute has drawn in Northern California’s congressional delegation, which is deeply divided. Four House members – John Garamendi and Jim Costa, who are Democrats, and Jeff Denham and Doug LaMalfa, both Republicans – oppose the releases on behalf of their farm-heavy districts. But Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson and George Miller, all Democrats, favor the federal decision. Each group has written to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who oversees the dam-operating agency, to argue their side.

California’s water wars are constant and intractable. But in this instance, the right choice is clear: release the water needed for the salmon to survive.

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