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.
Caltrans is worried about the possibility of dead trees falling onto some California highways. The agency has already removed 107,000 trees. Now the agency is getting ready to remove another 54,000 trees, including some on private land.
Sacramento city council voted in favor of a proposal that makes some drought watering restrictions permanent.
Tuesday marks the start of a shortened commercial salmon fishing season in the waters off San Francisco. A smaller salmon population is one effect of the drought that could persist for years.
A wealth of weather and climate data and the jobs of the scientists who analyze it may be at risk under President Trump’s budget proposal.
The Central Sierra Nevada snowpack this year is larger than the previous four years combined, according to new data from NASA.