Sacramento River, seen in Redding, California.

‘One-Two Punch’ of River Flow Plans Hits Rural California

Taylor Hillman Water

Sacramento River, seen in Redding, California. rural California
Plans announced to dedicate more Sacramento River flows to fish will harm farms and ranches statewide, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. By limiting the amount of water that could be stored in reservoirs, CFBF President Paul Wenger said, the draft proposal from the State Water Resources Control Board would reduce surface-water supplies on which much of California depends.

“This plan is part of a one-two punch aimed at rural California,” Wenger said. “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.”

Each of the proposed river-flow plans would require much more water to be dedicated to fishery flows, as much as 75 percent of the unimpaired flow in a stream. In addition, the Sacramento River plan would dedicate more delta outflow to fish during the winter and spring—when that water could be filling reservoirs for human and environmental uses around the state later in the year.

“For several years, environmentalists and regulators have demanded more water to benefit fish, but fish populations have not responded,” Wenger said. “If more water equaled more fish, we should be seeing results, but we’re not. We will continue to insist that water supplies dedicated to fish be subject to the same metrics and efficiency standards as those that farmers and homeowners must meet.”

Wenger said the continuing calls for additional fishery flows underline the need to expand California’s water supply to help buffer the impacts of drought.

“The state board’s river flow plans threaten to sentence rural California to perpetual drought, in the name of fishery flows that may very well prove ineffective,” he said. “Instead of redirecting the limited amount of water we have, California must move as quickly as possible to enhance available supplies through new storage, both aboveground and underground.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.