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KIRBY’S KATCH

Katching up on some local stuff
By: Kirby Desha for The News Messenger
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Finally some rain. Now we see the real changing of the seasons in the local fishing opportunities.

As waters get stained and cold, the patterns will change, and right now things are going to be unsettled for a while until we get past this current wave of storms.

I thought this might be a chance to follow up on some area stories we’ve been following.

California Department of Water Resources has promised that Oroville Dam Road (across the top of the dam) and the spillway boat ramp launch will reopen to the public once construction is complete. In a recent statement from DWR, the agency said they understand the importance of access to these areas by residents in Oroville and around the region.

The road across the dam actually opened a few months ago, allowing vehicles access to several turnouts, but a no-parking order is still in effect. The timeline to reopen the spillway boat ramp is still uncertain, but hopefully it will be sometime this spring. The construction on the spillway itself is nearing completion.

The continuing saga surrounding the implementation of the contentious Twin Tunnels Project aka: WaterFix, continues amid lawsuits and complaints about projected cost overruns and back room dealings.

The project is Governor Jerry Brown’s ambitious plan to deliver water to Southern California. According to an August article in the Sac Bee, the estimated cost of the Delta tunnels project has jumped to nearly $20 billion, when accounting for inflation.

Project backers say the higher cost reflects the impact from inflation over 16 years, not cost over-runs or design changes and isn’t expected to hurt the project’s ability to move ahead. The latest $19.9 billion price tag represents a 22 percent increase from the estimated $16.3 billion released by state officials last year. That $16.3 billion figure was provided in 2017 dollars.

In a July 27 letter to the federal government from the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority, the finance authority expressed interest in applying for a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The money would be used to jump start the long-awaited project.

Besides the financial issues, the project is still without crucial water-rights permits and resolution of pending lawsuits from environmentalists and Northern California local governments opposing the tunnels.
Brown’s administration said WaterFix would shore up reliability of water deliveries to the southern half of the state by improving water flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The massive Delta pumping stations that move water south are so powerful they can draw Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish toward predators or into the pumps themselves. Because the fish are protected by the Endangered Species Act, the pumps sometimes have to be shut off or throttled back at critical times.

When that happens, water flows out to the ocean, to the frustration of metropolitan and other south-of-Delta water agencies expecting deliveries. By re-routing a portion of the Sacramento River through the twin underground tunnels, Brown’s aides say WaterFix would protect the fish.

Opponents say the project would actually worsen conditions in the Delta, in part because the tunnels would divert fresh Sacramento River water from the heart of the estuary and degrade water quality.