California regulators are considering a plan that could allow more water in the Sacramento River to flow out to the ocean in order to protect fish and wildlife.
The draft proposal did not set specific requirements, but suggested anywhere from 35 to 75 percent of the flows from the watershed be allowed to wash out to sea. Currently, about half of the water is allowed to flow unimpaired.
The proposal could mean less water for Sacramento Valley farmers, who have some of the oldest and most senior water rights. Last month, the State Water Resources Control Board released recommendations for the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. That proposal could nearly double the minimum flow for fish in some of the rivers.
The California Farm Bureau Federation released a statement that calls the proposals a "one-two punch“ for rural Californians.
“When you add the Sacramento River plan to the San Joaquin River plan announced a month ago, you have a combination that strikes at the very heart of the rural environment and economy,” said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “If more water equaled more fish, we should be seeing results, but we’re not."
The proposal documents the decline of several fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, including spring-run and winter-run Chinook salmon, longfin smelt, Delta smelt, and Sacramento splittail.
The board will take public comment and conduct an independent scientific review before any final plan is adopted.