Citing a historically dry 2013, Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) is calling for the federal government to stop water releases from Friant Dam for the San Joaquin River Restoration program.
Since 2009 the restoration program has released water into the river on an interim basis in an effort to bring back salmon populations to a stretch of the channel that has been dry for decades. The restoration agreement calls for those flows to become permanent in 2014.
But in letters sent to President Obama and Congress, Patterson says those releases should be put on hold, because the infrastructure improvements to the river channel have yet to be completed.
"The only bathtub that's got water in it and we can rely on [Friant Dam] should not be unplugged and run out the channel. It does not have to be done in 2014, because none of the construction projects necessary to get the river at an acceptable place to take that kind of water is there, so there's no reason to do it," says Patterson.
The restoration settlement agreement calls for releases to vary based on the type of water year, from "wet" to "critical low."
Releases from Friant Dam are currently around 450 cubic feet per second.
Patterson is also calling on Governor Brown to issue an official drought proclamation, which he said would ease water transfers and other regulations.
"I think that the governor needs to wake up and declare that there is an emergency drought. We don't need a bureaucracy to take a look at our watch and tell us what time it is. We're living the reality of it right now," says Patterson.
Patterson says the timing is critical as many valley farmers are deciding now whether to plant crops or fallow their fields for the season.