By Friday, a working group comprising state representatives, federal officials from the U.S. and Mexico, and environmental groups will submit a plan for using a high-volume surge of water in the Colorado River to revive its delta.
The goal is to begin releasing the water – called a pulse flow – from U.S. dams by late March, said Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rose Davis in an email to Circle of Blue. The International Boundary and Water Commission, which manages water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, will consider the plan at its meeting on Friday.
Since 1998 little water has flowed into the delta. It is all diverted upstream. In November 2012, the two countries signed Minute 319, an agreement that, among other items, stipulated that a one-time release of 129.5 million cubic meters (105,000 acre-feet) of water – each country contributing half – would be sent through the delta. In addition, a water trust led by the Sonoran Institute, an Arizona-based environmental group, is securing up to 62 million cubic meters (50,000 acre-feet) per year to supply a constant base flow into the beleaguered habitat.
The drought in California has agitated the state’s congressional blocs. Three Republican members representing districts in the Central Valley, an agricultural champion, teamed with House speaker John Boehner to propose legislation that would send more water to farmers at the expense of a river restoration project.
The proposal would halt the use of water to revive the San Joaquin River for the next two years. Farmers in the valley will receive little to no water from the two major canal systems if the dry winter continues. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is 13 percent of normal.
Democrats in northern California fired back, equating the pitch to a water grab and trumpeting their own water concerns.
“This proposal is nothing more than a shallow attempt to use the state-wide drought as an excuse to steal water from the delta,” said Mike Thompson, who represents California’s 5th District. “It shows zero regard for the fishers, farmers, families and businesses who depend on the delta for their livelihoods, ignores a half-century of established science, guts environmental protections, harms drinking water and will cause enormous economic hardships across the delta region.”
President Obama has ordered federal agencies to begin work on the first four-year review of the nation’s energy infrastructure. Modeled on similar reviews by the Defense Department and the State Department, the quadrennial energy review will assess the aging pipes and wires that transport and deliver energy. The document will offer recommendations for meeting the challenges of cybersecurity, climate change, and water use.
The first review will be delivered January 31, 2015.
Carbon Capture Funding
Can industrial facilities trap carbon cheaply enough to encourage widespread commercial use of the technology? The Department of Energy is betting so. The department announced it will spend $US 1 billion on the FutureGen 2.0 project, a $US 1.7 billion facility to capture 90 percent of the carbon emissions from a power station in western Illinois. The carbon will be compressed, sent through a new 48-kilometer (30-mile) pipeline and injected 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) underground.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 281 counties in 11 states to be federal drought disaster areas, making them eligible for low-interest loans. Counties in the southern plains and the Southwest make the list, as do counties in California and Hawaii.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton