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Folsom Dam water releases concern scientists

By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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Pumping of water from the Sacramento and tributary rivers out of the river Delta is jeopardizing survival of the threatened Delta smelt, according to a new opinion by federal scientists. Folsom Dam, and the reservoir contained behind the dam, are key players in the health of the Delta. Modifying pumping operations of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project could reverse conditions that might kill off the species entirely, U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists announced Dec. 15. The American River, with releases made at Folsom Dam, is cited in the new “biological opinion” as a sore spot, because demands from the American River before it joins the Sacramento are expected to rise and leave less water for the Delta. “Under the proposed CVP-SWP operations, inflows to the Delta are likely to be further reduced, as water demands upstream of the Delta increase, most notably on the American River,” the opinion states. However, it’s too early to say whether any action that might come after the opinion would bring about any increase or decrease in water releases from Folsom Lake, said Lynette Wirth, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, dam operator. The opinion recommends reducing pumping of fresh water out of the Delta to serve Southern California agriculture, rather than relying on increasing flows into the Delta from the American and other rivers. Steve Martarano, spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said, “This is a very adaptive plan – it can change with conditions.”