Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: West

USBR raises fish flows while humans go without water

The Sacramento River as it flows into Shasta Lake in August 2014
<p>The Sacramento River as it flows into Shasta Lake in August, 2014.</p>

California’s January drought declaration by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. may have declared that “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in California due to water shortage and drought conditions…” but apparently the federal government didn’t get that memo.

That, or they're willfully ignoring it as third-world conditions continue to increase throughout California.

A recent story in the Manteca Bulletin illustrates the pure lunacy I find evident within the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

According to the newspaper account, the USBR plans to release 23,000 acre feet of water in October from New Melones reservoir into the Stanislaus River because the fall run of Chinook salmon need it. New Melones is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Modesto.

Shhhhh! Don’t tell that to the people in Porterville, living under “conditions of extreme peril” as wells there continue to go dry.

This really rubs me raw!

Human beings in California are experiencing third-world conditions because fish that taste good baked with lemon butter drizzled over them are apparently more important than human beings, according to a bunch of misguided bureaucrats.

That is precisely the premise behind the USBR’s decision. Am I wrong? Please tell me I’m wrong.

Porterville is well over 100 miles south of the towns of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon, that do rely on the Stanislaus River for their drinking water. Yet right now – today – Porterville residents are out of water; their wells have run dry. Emergency measures are in place to provide life-giving sustenance to these people.

But the fish – not to worry: they’ll be just fine.

Earlier this year we read of how California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife was spending untold amounts of money to truck fish from one part of the state to another in order to save them.

If California has the kind of money necessary to ferry fish around in tanker trucks, California certainly could make money available to hire tankers to truck water from New Melones to Porterville? California simply needs to pump some water from New Melones, treat it then deliver it to Porterville in food-grade tankers for human consumption.

If the USBR can expend with 23,000 acre feet of water for fish it means the water is available today – right now – for human beings, which in my book are much more valuable than fish that should be allowed to fend for themselves.

The grand part of my idea is it apparently won’t take 23,000 acre feet of water to meet Porterville’s needs. The Manteca Bulletin reports that the water being flushed down the Stanislaus River for the fish is enough to meet the needs of 331,000 Californians for a year. The population of the entire city of Porterville is 55,000.

The latest agricultural news each day to your Inbox. Click here for the free Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

While this won’t solve the groundwater issues that earlier this year rose to critical mass in the Porterville area for residents and growers alike, the health and safety needs of the human beings in that area is a glaring issue that state and federal officials should be moving Heaven and Earth to immediately address.


Feel free to share your constructive thoughts with me at [email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.