A new plan by the Trump Administration for increasing water deliveries through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for farmers has the potential to drain Trinity Lake and harm Trinity River fish during droughts, according to Save California Salmon, which commissioned a review of environmental documents the decision is based on.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra have sued over the federal plan. However, the lawsuit doesn’t mention the Trinity River, noted Tom Stokely, a former Trinity County Natural Resources planner who is now a board member for Save California Salmon.
“So, they’re certainly not suing on behalf of the Trinity River,” Stokely said.
Coho salmon in the Trinity River are listed under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened,” and yet they were not part of the reconsultation between agencies that preceded the decision, Stokely said.
The federal plan reduces the restrictions on pumping water through the Delta. Those restrictions have always helped to keep water in Trinity Lake, Stokely noted.
The planned change in Central Valley Project operations doesn’t alter the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision which set releases of water from Lewiston Dam to the Trinity River depending on water year type. What it does change is volumes of water released from the Trinity reservoir for diversion via pipeline to the Sacramento River, Stokely said. “It’s basically a plan to ship more water south.”
Regarding storage in Trinity Lake, Stokely said, “We had a hydrologist review it and it showed that during a multi-year drought Trinity could be up to 350,000 acre-feet lower than the current situation.”
The hydrologist hired by Save California Salmon concluded that modeling numbers from the report used in the federal decision don’t add up. Hydrologist Greg Kamman studied the comparison in the Final Environmental Impact Statement between the No Action Alternative and Alternative 1, which was selected.
Kamman found that the government modeling showed higher diversions of Trinity water in Alternative 1 over multiple years than in the No Action Alternative, and yet somehow carryover storage in the Trinity reservoir is shown as higher in Alternative 1, Stokely said. This while Trinity River releases are unchanged.
“It violates the laws of physics,” Stokely said. “It’s fake modeling.”
Stokely said this will have “a very significant negative impact on Trinity Lake which impacts recreation, hydropower generation and the ability to provide cold water for the fish.”