URGENT ACTION ALERT:
Friends of the Shasta River needs your support in helping us stop a potentially harmful and wasteful irrigation infrastructure project in the Shasta River basin as part of NOAA Fisheries’ Shasta River Safe Harbor Agreement. On April 22nd the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) will be reviewing grant proposals for instream flow projects including the proposed Grenada Irrigation District (GID) Pipeline—a project for which we have ample evidence showing should not be funded.
The Shasta River Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) was approved in secret last November and only disclosed to the public in mid-March of this year. Now the GID Pipeline, one of the worst and most deceptive of the Shasta River SHA-linked projects slated for funding, is being rushed through the approval process with inadequate opportunity for public review or input. (For more on the Shasta River SHA, and to download our briefing paper and letters to public agencies, see: https://www.shastariver.org/safe-harbor/)
Grenada Irrigation District Pipeline Project: Specific Points of Concern:
- Instream flow benefits are overstated, using as a baseline diversion quantities not supported by GID’s own data.
- Even if claims were true, this is a premature and bad investment. As the most junior water user of any size in the over-allocated Shasta River system, GID is restricted in water availability in nearly all years. The soon-to-be-completed California Water Action Plan instream-flow effort for the Shasta is set for release next year and is likely to be followed by efforts to secure sufficient water for instream flows. As a junior user, GID will likely be first to be cut back, making their pipeline and its promises moot. Beyond that, groundwater, the foundation of all Shasta River instream flows, is increasingly being drawn upon, resulting in decreased water reaching the river. Looking forwards, as groundwater inflows decrease, GID won’t even have anything to give back to instream flows.
- Funding this project with Prop 1 Bond Act money violates good practice principles for enhancing fish flows. Such funds are intended for supplementation of river water flows for fish over and above legally required minimums, not for meeting legal standards. GID’s application tacitly acknowledges that the amount of water left in the river is inadequate to keep fish in good condition–a violation of DFG code 5937. This is a misuse of public funds.
- This pipeline will increase water demand within GID by making it cheaper to irrigate. At present, while GID is generally prohibited by stream flow levels from pumping their full paper water right, they can pump some water in all years. But most properties in the district are not currently irrigated due to the high costs of lifting water plus the substantial leakage from their ditch on top of their inefficient flood irrigation. This makes agriculture uneconomical—the water cost is more than the value of the crop justifies. But if the delivered cost of water could be cut by reducing both the lift and the leakage, more people in the district will likely irrigate and GID could then pump continuously, rather than intermittently as they now do, ultimately depleting more river flow, not adding to it. Total diversion would actually increase.
- GID proposes to install an oversized pipe–capable of 35 cfs–while promising to pump no more than 24 cfs “for the life of the project.” This vague commitment provides no assurance that GID won’t initiate pumping larger amounts at some point in the future—even possibly in the near future if, for instance, GID was to unilaterally decide to withdraw from the SHA, as it is allowed to do without consequences. Confirming this concern, GID is only offering a “permissive” transfer of water to instream flows, meaning they can decide not to do it at any time and thus make sure they retain the option of using the pipeline to its full 35 cfs capacity in the future.
In March of this year NOAA issued a press release lauding its recently completed bundle of 14 Safe Harbor Agreements in the Shasta River basin. While those agreements are predicated on the delivery of tens of million dollars in “pork” for the participating landowners, the fish aren’t really even getting “beans.” This project is typical of dozens yet to come–all expecting no challenge based on NOAA’s support as part of the SHA, hence minimal scrutiny by WCB staff. Funding of the SHA-listed projects over future years is an essential component of continuation of the SHA itself—the water diverters will drop out if they don’t get these public subsidies for projects on their properties. Many of these projects should have been made long ago by these water diverters themselves as a matter of responsible business practices, land stewardship and legal compliance.
A rushed and non-transparent process has made it almost impossible for the public, and even WCB staff, to have the time to investigate, uncover deficiencies such as those listed above and prepare proper documentation. Projects under consideration are completely obscured to the public until the internal WCB review process is completed and agendas posted. In the absence of sufficient public review and input, there is a danger that bad projects such as this will be funded by the WCB. There is no legitimate reason to hurry to fund this project. GID dragged its feet negotiating with NOAA for 8 years, while continuing business as usual with pumping. GID can wait until WCB and the public have time to uncover the truth. The people of California deserve it before they spend this $6 million.
Please join us in calling for greater accountability for all grants promising increased instream flows via a strong showing of support with emails and participation at the WCB meeting asking for close scrutiny of GID’s project before any approval of this funding. Thank you!
Contact the Wildlife Conservation Board
Attend the Meeting: