News Feature | June 11, 2014

Feds To Tap Long Untouched Dam In California

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

fresnoreg

The federal government has crafted plans to draw water from a California dam that has not been touched in decades in an effort to palliate the effects of the record-breaking drought. 

"Water stored behind the dam north of Fresno will be tapped for the first time in decades as California and federal water officials look for ways to alleviate the effects of a third-consecutive dry year with no relief in sight," NBC 4 Los Angeles reported.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation indicated that low water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are forcing the government to tap the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River, the Associated Press reported

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said the water would begin flowing in May. "The water will be used to help California farmers as they face a dry, hot summer and low water levels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta," according to the report.

The bureau is obligated to supply water to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority. "The exchange provides irrigation water to about 240,000 acres of farmland between Patterson and Mendota, a vital agricultural area along the 5 Freeway," the report said. 

This responsibility is the result of a long-standing agreement. Under the deal, "the Central Valley Project contractors exchanged their water from the San Joaquin and Kings rivers for water from the delta," the Fresno Bee reported

The deal adds that if the feds cannot meet their end of the bargain, the San Joaquin River water cannot be used, the report said.

The decisions of the federal Bureau of Reclamation have been closely scrutinized during the drought. 

For instance, when the bureau drained the Folsom and other reservoirs in April, critics questioned whether the move was wasteful. The bureau took enough water "to meet the annual needs of a city of half a million people—for the comfort and convenience of fish," according to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-CA , in a  Wall Street Journal editorial.

The effort was aimed at directing baby salmon toward the Pacific Ocean. 

Image credit: "Fresno, CA. train station," kla4067 © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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