Drought conditions show no signs of stopping this summer and it could leave the Trinity River’s already endangered fish species in warm water.
On Tuesday, North Shore Rep. Jared Huffman sent a letter to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton asking that less Trinity Lake water be sent to Central Valley farmers. The lake currently stores 775,000 acre feet of water, just 25,000 acre feet above the amount of water needed to maintain cool temperatures in the Trinity River, and that’s before the season has even started. irrigation.
“Without this cold water, juvenile salmonids in the Trinity River in the spring and summer will suffer,” Huffman wrote, “and there will be no ability for BOR to augment the lower Klamath River flows at the fall for adult chinook salmon.”
Huffman called for no lake water to be diverted to the Central Valley project until June and for the office to make significant infrastructure improvements while updating its biological assessments for water discharges based on conditions. drought.
“Conditions in the Trinity and Klamath River watershed are too dire to risk business as usual for the Central Valley Project,” Huffman wrote. “I ask that you quickly and carefully weigh all available options to preserve the cold water of the Trinity River and the fish and communities that depend on it.”
The Yurok Tribe is one of the communities that depend on the Trinity River, and Yurok Vice President Frankie Myers said in a statement that the tribe strongly supports Huffman’s proposal. There must be investments in infrastructure that “allows the Trinity River Division to improve water temperatures for salmon and other species at risk.”
“Since time immemorial, the Yurok people have relied on these salmon for their sustenance and ceremonies,” Myers said. “Today fish stocks are so low that we cannot harvest enough for our elders, let alone all of our families. If our salmon and our way of life are to survive climate change, we need these kinds of bold actions and we need them now.
California is in the midst of a historic drought and conditions are expected to continue to deteriorate as the climate crisis worsens. Climate scientists say averting disaster means updating infrastructure to meet 21st century realities like fading snowpack and periods of concentrated rain punctuating long periods of drought.
Drought conditions predictably worsen in the summer, Heejun Chang, a professor at Portland State University whose research focuses on climate change and water management, told The Times-Standard. Not only is the demand for water then higher, but the water also evaporates more easily as temperatures rise.
“You have less water available during the summer when you need it most,” Chang said. “That’s the main challenge we face.”
Addressing this challenge will require considering technological solutions, such as improving infrastructure, alongside social and ecological solutions, he said.
Technological solutions range from developing infrastructure to capture rainfall during periods of concentrated rain in underground aquifers to using smart devices that can apply just the right amount of water to crops, Chang said.
While a regional approach is needed, Chang said it’s also important to take a location-based approach because localized conditions along a river can vary.
“Some parts of a stream may be more resilient than others because there may be groundwater coming out of them,” Chang said. “That’s why we need to look at the regional and the local together to get the full picture of water sustainability.”
Behavioral changes are also needed. Switching from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet would have a huge impact on water use because animal agriculture is very water-intensive, Chang said.
Some changes are already underway to deal with water infrastructure, said environmental consultant Craig Tucker. Removing the Klamath Dam would be the biggest salmon restoration project in history.
A draft environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the removal of the dam is expected any day, he said.
“Over the summer, we expect the final permit from FERC to allow the project to proceed,” Tucker said. “We therefore expect dam dismantling activities to begin this year.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.