1 Mar 2009, 9:27pm
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Officials admit violating Delta rules to favor salmon

By Matt Weiser, The Sacramento Bee, February 19, 2009 [here]

California water officials admitted this week they have already violated a key water flow standard in the Delta intended to protect imperiled fish.

The admission came in hearings Tuesday and Wednesday before the state Water Resources Control Board.

The hearings were held to consider a petition from the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to win exemptions from the standard because of drought.

Board members and Delta advocates were surprised to learn that the flow standard had already been violated while the petition was pending.

“There probably were some days where we were not meeting the outflow standards,” said Jerry Johns, deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources. “At least we had the petition in before any of these things took place.”

The agencies sought the exemption because they believe they need to retain cold water in the state’s depleted reservoirs to ensure healthy salmon runs this fall.

But in doing so, they risked violating a minimum-outflow standard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That standard is designed to protect other fish, including the Delta smelt and longfin smelt. It requires meeting flow targets over a certain number of days in a month, usually by releasing water from upstream dams.

The drought, in other words, posed a tough choice between fish species. … [more]



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