The Bureau of Reclamation announced yesterday that due to this year’s heavy precipitation, Central Valley Project South-of-Delta agricultural water allocations have been increased to 65% of their contract total, up from 55%. South-of-Delta allocations for municipal and industrial contractors are increased to 90%.
While the allocation increase is welcome, logically farmers should be receiving 100% of their contracted water, given the immense amount of rain and snow California has received this water year. As of April 8, the snow water content in the northern and central Sierra Nevada were 160% and 163% of the long-term average, respectively, and the state’s major reservoirs continue to operate under flood management conditions.
Westlands Water District General Manager Thomas Birmingham captured this absurdity yesterday, stating in part: “If (the U.S. Bureau of) Reclamation’s leadership could, they would make a 100% allocation. But Reclamation’s hands are tied by restrictions imposed by biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act. These restrictions have crippled the CVP and have provided no demonstrative protection for listed fish species, all of which have continued to decline despite the draconian effect the biological opinions have had on water supply for people.”
The federal Department of Interior is currently overseeing a multi-agency review of those biological opinions, last revised in 2008 and 2009, and is expected to make recommended changes later this year.