More Water Flows into San Joaquin River Channel

November 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The bone dry San Joaquin River channel West of Fresno is changing. Water is pouring in."We turned on our 96 inch hollow jet valve yesterday to 700 cubic feet per second, which is equivalent to releasing 7 hundred basketballs every second," explains Tony Buelna, of the Bureau of Reclamation.

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The Bureau released half that amount on October first, and since then the water has moved 40 miles, covering nearly a dozen miles of previously dry riverbed. The new release will push it even further down a dry channel that hasn't seen water in years. The eventual goal is restore nearly 150 miles of the river, to where the channel joins the Merced River, en route to the Sacramento Delta. This second stage of the release is just part of a test.

"If you look at the river channel it probably increased the water depth by about a foot. From three feet to four feet within four hours," Buelna said.

The water release remains controversial. Different water agencies downstream are still upset that irrigation water is being diverted and some are threatening legal action to try to delay the restoration project. But Buelna is confident the program will continue.

Buelna said, "Everybody downstream wants to sign agreements regarding these interim flows, how they are going to operate Mendota Dam and Sack Dam, we are in the process of negotiating those agreements right now."

The restoration process is expected to take five years. These interim releases of water will continue for most of November, then the flow will be reduced to its previous low level until next February.



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