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Deal protects fish, farmers & cities through Oct. 1

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POSTED April 11, 2015 1:21 a.m.

Lake Tulloch is expected to remain at its current level until at least Oct. 1 as the result of a water agreement reached Friday regarding flows on the Stanislaus River.

The deal also assures that the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District will receive the 450,000 acre feet of water — the same amount they received in cutback deliveries in 2013.

The deal addresses the interests of fish, farmers, South County urban cities, and even Calaveras communities that tap into Stanislaus River water from Tulloch Lake.

“It was a good result from a bad situation,” SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted.

Shields added barring any unforeseen circumstance SSJID is now in a position to squeeze by this water year providing conservation measures they have put in place and that cities are preparing to implement are followed.

Shields praised the Bureau of Reclamation, State Water Recourses Control Board, and the National Marine Fisheries Service for working with SSJID and OID to come up with an outcome that benefitted everyone. Shields said Congressmen Jeff Denham and Tom McClintock played pivotal roles in setting the stage for the agreement.

As a result of Friday’s decision, pulse flows from Goodwin Dam started today (Saturday) at 1 a.m.  Releases will be ramped up from 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) over several hours to 1,500 cfs and then ramped down on Tuesday at 1 a.m. to 1,300 cfs. The pulse flows are designed to aid the migration of steelhead and Chinook salmon. The agreement allows pulse flows to be accomplished as previously scheduled  by making it clear the water being used belongs to the Bureau while protecting water supplies in New Melones Lake for later this summer for use by the SSJID and OID.

Shields cautioned stepped up water conservation is needed so adequate deliveries can still be assured for farm users through Sept. 30 and to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy through March 31, 2016.

In addition, Shields stressed water conservation is a must to assure that every drop possible will be available for carryover into 2016. What the district conserves to carry over will prove extremely critical should the drought continue for a fifth year.

The Bureau, the districts and the resource agencies will continue working cooperatively to manage operations at New Melones to meet fishery resource needs through the summer.

“I am very proud of the work we put into resolving the pulse flow concerns,” said David Murillo, Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Regional Director. “It shows what can be accomplished when people are willing to sit down, roll up their sleeves and work toward a common goal.”  

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