Zombie tanks: dead storage is California’s next water emergency


Forget to pray for rain.

Instead, pray for divine intervention so that the thinking heads who run the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project loosen their grip on their bureaucratic bible better known as their plan of operations for the northern reservoirs of the delta.

Unless you are in denial, it is clear that we now have a water problem that goes beyond the drought we find ourselves in now.

We clearly cannot get away with building more dams. Besides the fact that the 100 Years War took less time than an environmental impact report for a river storage facility would take in today’s political climate, perfect for litigation, not problem solving, more reservoirs on rivers will not do humans well. much good. As for the fish, build enough of them and they may well survive the next two mega-droughts of 50 to 100 years.

It seems counterintuitive until you realize that there are other ways to maintain native fish numbers than pulling the plug and emptying the proverbial tub during critical periods of fish migration. In fact, there is scientific evidence to indicate that reducing the number of ‘imported’ predatory fish and improving riverbed environments are much more effective long-term solutions given that Mother Nature never provided. to fish a crutch such as the Shasta Dam to overcome the drought.

When it comes to the predatory fish we are talking about, no one wants to see people in the multi-million dollar bass fishing industry having huge coronaries, so we won’t mention the predatory fish species no. native.

A non-native predatory fish species that, based on science, prompts the simplistic decision to increase water flows so that the remaining native salmon and other fish that bass devour can hopefully be postponed during critical periods of their life cycle.

As for reservoirs like Shasta – who are regularly accused of being the greatest threat to their continued existence – being Chinook Salmon’s best friend, put your thinking hats on.

The reservoirs made things pretty consistent for the fish after we left behind the dark ages of water management, which was basically me the man, you (as in fish, environment, birds, etc.) of no importance.

Sadly, many of us on all sides of the California on-water edition of the Tower of Babel forget that the devil is in the details.

In recent droughts, there were concerns that the abandonment of reservoirs like New Melones could turn streams like the Stanislaus River into fish fryers. This is because as water levels drop, warmer water is released and, at the same time, river flows decrease. These are basic scientific principles at work. Shallower water with a shrinking surface heats the water more under a merciless sun. Experts say warmer water discharged into the river at the wrong time of year – think fall salmon runs – has the potential to heat the water by a degree or two, which is enough to transform the water of the Stanislaus River that they need to swim in to face the characteristics of a hot, sweltering blanket literally depriving them of oxygen.

Between water evaporation, expense, actual environmental angst, and dead storage – more on that in a second – reservoirs are literally the most inefficient way for humans to store water for fill prolonged dry spills. Dams, once everything is taken into account, work well for fish in a state of 40 million people.

This is why groundwater recharge makes a lot of sense.

When it comes to dead storage, when a 2.4 million acre tank like New Melones is reduced to half its capacity, that doesn’t mean it has 1.2 million feet of water left. that can be used. There are literally hundreds of thousands of acre-feet below the outlets that will remain.

Of course, if we get to this point, the long awaited water apocalypse in California will have arrived.

This brings us back to a small army of bureaucrats in Sacramento and Washington, DC who haven’t received the memo that the western United States has been in a mega-drought for 20 years and are blissfully ignorant of one thing. called climate change which has almost the whole world in a tizzy.

In fairness to the bureaucrats, there is nothing they can do unless the high priests and priestesses of Sacramento heed the advice given to them by people who follow science.

One of those scientists who has been ignored as if he was the invisible man is Francis Chung.

The work he did overseeing the Bay Delta Modeling Water Resources Department in 2009 and 2010 should scare you.

They took hydrology from 1922 to 2003 to determine the number of months of dead storage that would have occurred for reservoirs in the northern delta due to climate change and other scenarios based on water use in 2010.

The scenarios included the combination of climate change with Obama’s biological opinion in 2009 – don’t worry, Trump had one too and the people at Biden are probably working on one of theirs – one with the twin tunnels that are reconditioned into a larger tunnel, adding one to the north of Storage in the delta and an increase in groundwater banks to the south of the delta.

The good news with climate change itself, there would have been 15 months from 1922 to 2003 with dead storage at Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs.

Now for the bad news: It would have reached 113 months when climate change was combined with more aggressive groundwater recharge south of the delta.

With the Obama administration’s biological opinion of fish streams, this would have resulted in 79 months of dead storage. When climate change was associated with the Twin Tunnels, it was going on for 82 months.

Imagine the myopic tunnel – the repackaged Twin Tunnel plan – combined with Obama’s biological opinion being implemented simultaneously.

It is plausible that if these two operational models were in place, as were the four reservoirs from 1922 to 2003, based on the recorded hydrology of those years, the overall result would have been almost 15 years of months of dead storage. .

We haven’t gotten to dead storage yet, but if the current operational plans are still in place with climate change modeling, there is a high level of consensus is okay, we’ll be in the toilet before you know it. Add in the fish flow changes as proposed and add the tunnel plan and there will be no water left in the proverbial toilet or tank for 161 months in an 81 year period of hydrology assuming we are lucky enough to repeat the time 1922-2003 models for the next eight decades.

In a colossal understatement, Chung concluded, “The results seem unbearable. The relative frequency of dead storage conditions in upstream reservoirs indicates that significantly modified operations will be required with climate change recommendations. “

In 2010, Chung urged the Ministry of Water Resources to develop a reoperation plan to mitigate the impact of climate change on reservoirs north of the Delta reservoirs before considering increasing the flow of fish according to the opinion. Obama organic or add a tunnel or two to the mix.

It didn’t happen.

In other words, the leaders and bureaucrats in Sacramento who continue to sound the alarm bells about climate change are not following the science. Instead, they get into bed with those who would benefit from a tunnel when it is built and implement fish flow policies based on a world where change.org’s petitions carry more weight than they do. science actually says.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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