Drought conditions have taken a toll on fresh water levels in rivers important to Florida and California commercial fishermen. And trying to ensure that water is allocated fairly so that the needs of all resource users — fishermen included — are met is proving to be one tough task.
Consider northwest Florida’s Apalachicola Bay region, home to what had been a thriving oyster industry. But disaster struck in 2012 as a lack of fresh water has had a devastating effect upon oyster harvests there. You can get an idea of just how dire the situation has become in this WFSU Media/Florida State University video.
Florida officials say a combination of serious drought conditions and metro Atlanta’s ever-increasing need to draw upon the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin’s fresh water supplies have sharply reduced the amount of fresh water reaching Apalachicola Bay. Florida recently announced it is filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to halt what the state has termed “Georgia’s unchecked and growing consumption” of the water supply.
A lawsuit over water use is also being filed in California — but this time it’s San Joaquin Valley farms suing the federal government over a planned release of water from a northern California reservoir that would prevent a salmon kill in the lower Klamath River.
According to an Associated Press story, waters from the Trinity River, the Klamath’s main tributary, that would usually be diverted to valley’s farmers will instead be directed to aid salmon passage on the Klamath. In 2002, water went to the farms, leading to a massive fish kill when returning salmon didn’t have enough water to migrate upriver.
Meanwhile, California officials are also trying to figure out why hundreds of salmon were stranded in irrigation ditches in the Colusa basin west of the Sacramento River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel have helped transport salmon via tanker truck to a release site on the Sacramento. But there’s concern that fish from the fall run of thousands of king salmon could get stuck as well.
And once again, low river flows are cited as a culprit. The Sacramento Bee reported that a dry first six months of this year has translated into unusually low flows in the Sacramento this winter.
Finding equitable solutions to these water disputes won’t be easy. And if drought conditions persist or worsen it’s going to be even more difficult; there’s only so much water to go around.
It’s said in every life, some rain must fall. But in this case more normal rainfall patterns would provide sunnier days for Apalachicola Bay oystermen and California salmon fishermen alike. This seems like a good time to pray for rain.