Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada should be at its peak this time of year. But the water content for the snow is just 32-percent of average. Frank Gehrke with the California Department of Water Resources says the recent snow can be deceptive.
“It’s very unlikely that we’ll get anything after this. It’s certainly not the improvement that would have been needed to get anywhere close to reasonable conditions for water supply next spring and summer,” says Gehrke.
Snowmelt is carried through rivers and reservoirs and delivered south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through the state and federal water projects. DWR Director Mark Cowin says recent precipitation hasn’t ended the drought. But it will provide some temporary relief. He says the department will quadruple the amount of water it pumps south for at least a week.
“The adjustment will remain in effect as long as the rivers carrying storm water into the Delta continue to run relatively high," says Cowin.
Kate Poole, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the move violates the agencies’ obligation to protect threatened and endangered fish. She says there are reasons pumping levels should be low this time of year.
“By ignoring those requirements and ramping up pumping right now what the agencies are doing is pulling those salmon and steelhead off their migratory path and into the pumps where they die,” says Poole.The National Marine Fisheries Service says the change will still protect migrating steelhead and other fish. It says the adjustments are based on sound science.
If a flood were to hit Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta it would threaten much of California’s water supply. It’s why emergency management agencies are holding flood-fighting exercises during a drought.
UC Davis researchers have identified 'high priority' dams in California where releasing water may be a key for the survival of native fish species.
California Governor Jerry Brown says the state can lead the way with its water policies just as California is leading the way with initiatives for renewable energy and climate change.
A winter forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center Thursday shows the California drought may persist or intensify in parts of the state.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday for not responding to a petition to protect 16 amphibian and reptile species in California