San Joaquin River Water Releases Resume

FRESNO, Calif. The roar was impressive. Water at 350 cfs - cubic feet per second - flew out of two release valves at Friant Dam. Tony Buelna of the US Bureau of Reclamation explained the volume of water this way, "We probably are seeing 350 basketballs coming out per second."

Whitewater churning downstream will raise the river level by about a foot. The water is headed forty miles west just as it traveled during its seven-week test run which ended last November. Officials want to get a sense of what it will take to restore the river and its once-thriving salmon run.

Buelna said, "They were anticipating to go further than it did. It took longer time to get to Mendota pool than they anticipated or what they had estimated and it could be because we had a couple of dry years and there was a big cavity from Gravelly Ford to the pool."

Buelna said water released from Friant Dam will take about four days to reach these dry, sandy river beds near Mendota about forty miles away.

Analysts will continue to study where water seepage is occurring, as well as the wildlife habitat along the river.

With a healthy snowpack, Buelna expects the latest release effort to move further downstream than the previous attempt. He said, "In 2014 we should have introduced salmon back into the San Joaquin River if everything goes as scheduled."

Construction of the dam dried up the salmon run. Over fifty years later, water will begin to seep into dry riverbeds.

But this continues to be a contentious issue. Many fought the release because it diverts irrigation water from valley farms.

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