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Water - It's all about the water

  Updated: Monday, January 3, 2005 1:20 PM PST

YREKA - With what appears to be an abundance of rain and snow this time a year, questions comes to mind such as how do the water levels compare to last year, and will there be enough water to get us through the dry months of summer?

To get an early preview of the water situation for the coming year, the Daily News contacted the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento and talked with Public Relations Officer Jeff McCracken.

Although McCracken said it is still too early in the season to see the total picture, he can make some comparisons to previous years.

"We are sitting at 140 percent of normal snowpack in the Shasta Lake drainage from this time last year," McCracken said. "At this date, it is pretty strong. If it stays cold and we hold onto that snow through the winter and don't get a pineapple express, we look solid for the water year."

While things are looking good for Shasta Lake and the Central Valley Project (CVP), the same cannot be said for the Klamath River.

"The Klamath is only 66-percent of where it could be, but we have a lot of winter left," McCracken said. "We can't stop counting now; we are only a third of the way through the rainy season. Right now it is up to the weather. If we get natural precipitation we could be solid."

For the total CVP, McCracken said water storage is 93-percent of the 15-year average, with Shasta Lake at 80 percent.

"At this point we look at the water in the mountains, not the water in the reservoirs," he said. "Shasta fills by rain and we had 125-percent of average for rain. That is good news."

McCracken said it is still too early to make a prediction about available water this summer because it still depends on spring rain. The Bureau of Reclamation plans to issue its preliminary forecast for water use on Jan. 21.

"Last year we started out nice and wet like this year, but it dried up in March and April," he said.

Shasta Lake, with its primary watershed source in Siskiyou County, is a part of the massive Central Valley Project (CVP), originally conceived as a state project to protect the Central Valley from crippling water shortages and devastating floods.

California attracted early settlers were because of its mild climate, abundant natural resources and scenic beauty. However, the only thing that seemed to be missing was a reliable water supply. The state's arid conditions and unreliable precipitation made it difficult for farmers to grow crops. By the turn of the 20th century, it was evident that California not only needed a special system for water storage and delivery, but also for protection from periodic floods.

The basic concept and facilities of today's massive CVP project were formulated in the 1930s. Work began in 1937, with the Contra Costa Canal, which began delivering water in 1940. The next facility built was Shasta Dam, the keystone of the project. Work on the dam began in 1938, and water storage started even before its completion in 1945. Congress subsequently passed 13 separate measures to authorize the development of other major project facilities over the next three decades. The final dam, New Melones, was completed in 1979.

The Major CVP dam and reservoir river system storage capacity in acre feet are:

Shasta Dam and Reservoir and Sacramento River at 4,552,000 acre feet;

Trinity Dam and Reservoir and Trinity River at 2,448,000 acre feet;

Folsom Dam and Reservoir and American River at 977,000 acre feet;

New Melones Dam and Reservoir and Stanislaus River at 2,420,000 acre feet;

Friant Dam and Millerton Reservoir and San Joaquin River at 520,000 acre feet; and

San Luis Dam and Reservoir with off-stream storage at 966,000 acre feet.

McCracken said that the CVP serves water and provides flood protection and electricity for farms, homes, and industry in California's Central Valley, as well as the major urban centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is also the primary source of water for much of California's wetlands.

The massive CVP system manages 9 million acre-feet of water in 20 dams and reservoirs, 11 power plants, and 500 miles of major canal, as well as conduits, tunnels, and related facilities. From that, the CVP provides about 5 million acre-feet for farms, furnishes about 600,000 acre-feet for municipal and industrial use, generates 5.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually to meet the needs of about 2 million people, dedicates 800,000 acre-feet per year to fish and wildlife and their habitat, and 410,00- acre-feet to state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands.

Irrigation of agricultural lands in the area now comprising the Klamath Project was initiated in 1882, with construction of an irrigation ditch to the land from White Lake. Private interests further developed the project by constructing the Adams Canal in 1886, which was supplied also from White Lake, and the Ankeny Canal in 1887, which diverted water from Link River. By 1903, approximately 13,000 acres were irrigated by private interests.

The Federal Klamath Project now irrigates 240,000 acres of cropland in south-central Oregon and north-central California. Its two main sources of water are the Upper Klamath Lake, the Klamath River and the Clear Lake Reservoir, Gerber Reservoir and Lost River which are located in a closed basin. The Lost River and the Klamath River watersheds are approximately 5,700 square miles.

In 1903 Bureau of Reclamation investigations led to the development of this federal irrigation project. Construction began on the Klamath Project in 1906, with the building of the main "A" canal, followed by the completion of Clear Lake Dam in 1910, the Lost River Diversion Dam and many of the distribution structures in 1912, and the Lower Lost River Diversion Dam in 1921. The Malone Diversion Dam on Lost River was built in 1923, to divert water to Langell Valley. The Gerber Dam on Miller Creek was completed in 1925.

In 1917, the California-Oregon Power Company, now Pacific Power, was authorized to construct the Link River Dam for the benefit of the project and for the company's use. The dam was completed in 1921 and the contract amended and further extended for a 50-year period in 1956. The Iron Gate and Copco dams are owned and operated by Pacific Power and not a part of the Klamath Project.







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