Delta-Mendota Canal

Water flows through the Delta-Mendota Canal near Hansen and Schulte roads during a warm spell in February 2016.

The city of Tracy fared much better than local irrigation districts in the initial allocations of Delta-Mendota Canal water for the coming year.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that the city will receive 55 percent of its full 10,000 acre-feet, or perhaps more if allocations are increased later.

Tracy-area irrigation districts south of the Delta, including Byron Bethany, West Side and Banta-Carbona, were given a 5 percent allocation. That’s more than the past two years, when the allocation was zero, but not much.

Rick Gilmore, general manager of Byron Bethany Irrigation District northwest of Tracy, said the “paltry allocation announcement is nothing short of absurd.”

“It is a result is the result of rigid and ultimately ineffective environmental regulations that prioritize fish while punishing the people who provide food for California and the rest of the country,” he declared.

His views were echoed by those of Jason Peltier, general manager of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which operates the Delta-Mendota Canal.

“We are furious with today’s allocation announcement,” he declared Friday. “At a time when water supplies have returned to normal and the major reservoirs are in flood-control operations, the federal fishery agencies continue to hoard water instead of using a balanced approach that includes water for productive California farms and businesses and many of its people.”

In Friday's announcement, the Bureau of Reclamation’s regional director, David Murillo, noted that the allocations, which could be increased depending on future rainfall and snowpack conditions, were influenced by the ongoing drought.

“The impacts this summer will be greatest on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and some areas served by the New Melones Reservoir,” he said.

Reservoirs behind Shasta, Oroville and Folsom dams north of the Delta are close to capacity, but south of the Delta, New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River is lagging far behind, largely due to a lighter snowpack in the Stanislaus River watershed. The Stanislaus drains into the San Joaquin River near Vernalis southeast of Tracy.

Farms in the Delta north of Tracy with riparian water rights are unaffected by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation allocations.

For the city of Tracy, the 55 percent allocation will mean the city can count on 5,500 acre-feet of water under the municipal-and-industrial category and 500 more under the agricultural category because of agreements with local irrigation districts. That total of 6,000 acre-feet tops the 3,200 acre-feet the city was allocated a year ago.

Water from the canal usually accounts for a third or more of the city’s total annual water demand, estimated just above 16,000 acre-feet, according to Steve Bayley, the city’s water-use consultant. Sierra runoff water from the Manteca-based South San Joaquin Irrigation District accounts for 10,000 acre-feet of Tracy’s annual demand, and the city has eight wells it can use if required.

An acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, the amount of water that would cover an acre of land 1 foot deep.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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