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Releases from New Melones accelerate as drought continues
This photo shows the water level at New Melones Reservoir in mid-September near the Highway 49 bridge. - photo by Photo Contributed

The incredible shrinking New Melones Reservoir could dip below 500,000 acre feet by November thanks to what some biologists contend is a questionable decision to help fish migration.

Between now and Nov. 11 the Bureau of Reclamation is dumping 34,125 acre feet of water in a move that Fishbio biologists with 10 years of experience studying fish movements on the Stanislaus River contend will have little or no positive impact on salmon and steelhead trout migration. 

It is enough water to cover all of the urban water needs of Manteca, Tracy, Lathrop, Ripon, and Escalon for two years.

The water essentially will flow out into the Bay Area unless it is “inadvertently” diverted into the California Aqueduct and sent south to Los Angeles.

And unlike everyone else in California directed by Gov. Jerry Brown to cutback 20 percent — or in the case of many farmers not get any water at all — the water flows for fish are the same as last year. If there wasn’t a New Melones Reservoir, current water kevels would be much lower than the normal flow of 200 cubic feet per second from New Melones made possible by man and the current pulse flows that will peak at 1,200 cubic feet per second.

Had the Bureau cut back flows 20 percent that would have saved enough water to cover all of the City of Manteca’s water use for one year.

The Bureau, of course, is releasing water based on a long-standing court order that doesn’t take into account the state’s drought emergency, the fact California is entering what is shaping up as a fourth severe dry weather year, or much of anything else but making sure water flows don’t drop off for fish.

New Melones is designed to hold 2.4 million acre feet of water. It was at 22 percent of capacity or 532,752 acre feet as of Oct. 21. That is at 39 percent of the historical average of storage for Oct. 21