News Release Archive

State, Federal Agencies and Sacramento River Settlement Contractors Agree on Framework for Water Operations in Fourth Year of Drought

Media Contact: Erin Curtis, 916-978-5100

For Release: April 20, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Federal and state agencies along with Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (SRSCs) agreed this week on an integrated framework of actions for Central Valley Project/State Water Project operations for mid-April through November. The actions will flexibly manage and operate the system to serve multiple beneficial purposes that include water for cities and rural communities, farms, fish and wildlife and their habitats in the Sacramento Valley. The suite of actions will also help provide water for areas of the state that are in dire need of additional water supplies.

Agencies involved in developing the plan include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies the SRSC with water from the federal Central Valley Project, the California Department of Water Resources, California State Water Resources Control Board, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The framework looks at the system as a whole and balances many needs.  Issues at play include:

  • supplies to agricultural senior water right holders like the SRSC
  • volumes and timing of transfer water to junior water right holders
  • upstream temperature management for winter-run Chinook salmon
  • in-basin habitat needs for wildlife, including giant garter snake and refuges
  • Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta outflow to benefit fish including delta smelt and longfin smelt
  • salinity management in the Delta for drinking water quality
  • a host of additional watershed requirements and competing needs in the Trinity, American and Feather rivers.

Agreement on Sacramento River and SRSC operations is the cornerstone to the overall operations of our water management system, and is a key piece needed before other decisions about volume and timing of transfers to junior water rights holders can be negotiated.

“This framework was developed through close collaboration with all the agencies and our water contractors, and builds on what we learned last year about how to manage through extreme drought,” said David Murillo, Reclamation Regional Director. “Working together is our best hope for maximizing supplies and getting through what is undoubtedly going to be a tough year.”

Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources, offered hope that the agreement and continued collaboration would help the state cope with a fourth and potentially fifth year of drought.

"This type of creative, cooperative approach among project operators, regulators, and water users is fundamental to getting the most out of our limited water resources," he said.  "We must continue close coordination as we implement the plan, reacting to real-time conditions and balancing the inevitable tradeoffs."

“Last year, endangered winter-run Chinook salmon redds in the upper Sacramento River were severely impacted by the lack of cool water," said Maria Rea, Assistant Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Central Valley Office. “This year we will continue to monitor the temperatures and operations of the Sacramento River throughout the summer.”

“Water is the heart and soul of Northern California,” said Don Bransford, a farmer, conservationist and President of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. “The Sacramento River Settlement Contractors have a deep commitment to progressive water management for multiple beneficial purposes under our contracts. By working closely with the federal and state agencies during this challenging year, we will implement these actions for the benefit of farms, birds and fish in the Sacramento Valley.”

“An integrated, collaborative plan that addresses the needs of all users, and provides much needed water for fish, wildlife and their habitats is key,” said Polly Wheeler, Assistant Deputy Regional Directors for Refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A major component of the overall framework is the temperature management plan for the Sacramento River. With the proposed temperature management plan and anticipated CVP operations assuming conservative inflow estimates, storage in Shasta Lake is projected to be approximately 1.1 million acre-feet at the end of September 2015. Water storage and releases from Shasta Lake will be managed carefully to assure the availability of water for multiple beneficial purposes during this fourth year of drought.
The suite of actions will help protect supplies for farms in the Sacramento Valley, fish and birds in the river and on refuges, and urban uses in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
In addition, water that flows past Sacramento into the Delta will serve various beneficial purposes including salinity management, fishery habitat, in-delta agricultural needs, and water supply for other portions of the State.
The federal and state agencies and SRSC’s will have regular meetings to coordinate these actions and will work closely together throughout the year to assure the effective implementation of this plan.

For more information on the agreement, click here http://www.usbr.gov/mp/drought/docs/SacRiver_Framework_FactSheet.pdf

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.