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Delta Deception: Water Temperatures will be Lethal for Salmon with California WaterFix
Delta Deception: Water Temperatures will be Lethal for Salmon with California WaterFix
24 August 2016

August 24, 2016

Half-truths about California’s water system do not advance an informed public discussion. Communications that lack the proper context, omit details or distort data can lead to the wrong conclusion. The State Water Contractors launched the “Delta Deception” series to fill in the blanks with some ongoing discussions about California water supplies.

Today’s Delta Deception comes yet again from the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of its attorneys. This time it is Doug Obegi in his August 23 submission to Water Deeply entitled “Why California WaterFix is a Path to Extinction for Native Fisheries.” Obegi writes about the “biological assessment” prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a scientific overview of California WaterFix and proposed operations. In the op-ed, Obegi writes:

 “The biological assessment estimates that, once the tunnels are operational, water temperatures below Shasta dam will be so high that they will likely be lethal for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon during the critical spawning and egg incubation season more than 40 percent of the time in August, 50 percent of September and more than 90 percent of October, with the most adverse effects happening in drier years. These effects are far more severe than is authorized for these imperiled salmon in existing biological opinion.”

Truth Be Told: These are not the effects of California WaterFix. In fact, California WaterFix does not propose ANY changes in the operational criteria of upstream reservoirs, which will continue to be governed by the applicable water temperature and flow requirements set forth by the National Marine Fisheries Service. In fact, the analysis shows that the greatest modeled change in Sacramento River mean temperature below Shasta Dam with the tunnels ranges from a 0.1 degree Farenheit increase to a 0.1 degree decrease, considering all water year types combined.  Separating by water year type, the largest modeled change in mean temperature with the tunnels is a 0.4 degree decrease and the largest increase is 0.3 degreesA. (See Table 5.C.7-3 of the BA here). It is unclear where Obegi derived the percent changes he references in his op-ed.

California WaterFix analyses have repeatedly identified potential long-term impacts on native fish due to climate change that are unrelated to the proposed project. The effects of climate change and rising temperatures, both in the atmosphere and in waterways throughout California and the world, will have effects on several species. What’s missing from his op-ed is the acknowledgement that California WaterFix does not impede the ability to address these issues, nor exacerbate them. To blame upstream water temperature issues on a modernized Delta water system is deceiving.