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But fish will benefit, right?

No.  The effect of reduced water quality and flows on salmon could be dire in a year when a record number of salmon are expected to return to spawn.

“We’re only in a second dry year, not even a declared drought, and the system is fundamentally broken,” according to Bill Jennings of CSPA.  “The State Water Board has assured the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that it won’t enforce Delta water quality and flow standards.  The temperature compliance point on the Sacramento has been moved upstream, eliminating crucial spawning habitat for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon.”

And draining reservoirs to keep water flowing to industrial agriculture in the western San Joaquin Valley means that “we’re not going to have enough cold water in the Sacramento system to keep fall-run Chinook salmon eggs alive in the gravel this fall,” according to Tom Stokely of C-WIN.

All four runs of salmon that rely on the Sacramento River – winter- and spring-run Chinook (both listed under the Endangered Species Act) and fall- and late-fall-run Chinook – are threatened this year by what will likely be inadequate flows or flows that are too warm. 

Stokely notes that various laws and regulations require sufficient cold water flows down the Sacramento system to maintain fisheries in good health. “But in May, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the state Department of Water Resources asked the Water Board to allow lower Delta outflows so more water could be sent south of the Delta,” he said.  “The Water Board agreed without due process, in violation of its own rules [for] water right decisions – and with full knowledge of the impacts to the fish.”

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