DRW pumps cranked up as governor seeks long term solutions for Delta

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) followed the lead of the Bureau of Reclamation and re-started its pumps Sunday, moving water from the Delta to Southern California.

Pumping was increased at the Harvey O. Banks Delta Pumping Plant from a minimal 100 cfs daily average to 1000 cfs Sunday; that will be boosted to 2,500 cfs this week as water reaches the Delta from Lake Oroville.

DWR shut down the pumps May 31 to protect fingerling Delta smelt, a tiny minnow on the endangered species list. The shutdown was supposed to be 7-10 days, but it was more than three weeks before the pumps were re-started.

Following the shutdown, contractors continued to draw water from San Luis Reservoir, and high demand quickly depleted supplies. The Bureau of Reclamation, citing a pending crisis situation for Central Valley crops at the height of the first heat wave, turned on its pumps June 11, but it took almost a week for DWR to follow suit.

The decision to increase deliveries yesterday is based on several factors, according to DWR, including more favorable tidal conditions for Delta smelt, rising water temperatures that will push the fish into cooler regions of the Bay-Delta, and growing water demands by cities and farmers throughout the state.

With the increased pumping, the State Water Project will resume making full deliveries to Bay Area communities served by the South Bay Aqueduct. Scheduled deliveries to communities and farmers in the Central Valley and Southern California will also be met with these new water supplies.

This situation also underscores the vulnerability of the Delta, whether from natural disaster, rising sea levels due to climate change, or an environmental challenge, according to the DWR news release.

Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a comprehensive solution to implement a long term Delta sustainability plan, as well new surface and groundwater storage, restoration programs, and more conservation.

Many Westlands growers felt the shutdown was partly to draw political attention to the governor’s plan, even though initially DWR said the impact of the shutdown would be insignificant.

However, 13 days after the pump shutdown, the potential economic impact was likened to the January citrus freeze that caused an $800 million loss to the California citrus industry and a lack of jobs for farm workers.

The value of crops grown in the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District is more than $1.3 billion; approximately 20 percent of that acreage is in permanent crops.

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