The Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) Board of Directors recently approved the sale of surplus water to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for use at three federally managed refuges that provide critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

The agreement, which was approved during the board’s regular meeting on May 19, allows for the transfer of 11,289 acre-feet of water for the Sacramento, Delevan and Colusa national wildlife refuges.

According to a release by the district, the water being sold is what remained after landowners and water users reserved their share of deliveries received by GCID from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project.

“We were approached by the Bureau of Reclamation for help and we are able to deliver the water needed to support habitats and the thousands of waterfowl that depend on them,” Board President Don Bransford said. “GCID is carefully monitoring the limited supplies we have and putting them to beneficial use.”

Surplus water was available but due to the drought and an extremely low allocation to each acre of land, landowners and water users had a difficult time trying to consolidate their share of supply needed to produce a crop to maturity, said district officials. 

“Landowners were given the option to sell their allocation back to the district and the water was placed in a Supplemental Purchase Pool,” read the release. “That Supplemental supply was made available to all landowners in the district first to ensure internal needs were met, however, based on the cost of that water, not all of it was purchased.”

In addition to providing significant environmental benefits for the Sacramento Valley, the proposal will help reduce the $11.2 million deficit GCID expects this year from a drop in water sales due to drought, according to the release, and the sale to the Bureau of Reclamation will net about $4.2 million for the district.

“Many fields will be fallowed this year due to ongoing water supply uncertainty,” General Manager Thaddeus Bettner said. “We have taken steps to account for every drop of water used by curtailing system losses and working with growers to help them maximize their share. While this partnership with the refuge will help birds and wildlife, we are still dealing with major devastation in our region to farms and other species that we have never witnessed before. It’s tragic.”

Under a separate agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, GCID provides year-round water to the refuges, which cover 21,000 acres. The refuges are part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is a key wetland habitat for birds on the Pacific Flyway and recreational destination for bird watching, photography, hiking and hunting.

GCID is the largest district in the Sacramento Valley, covering 175,000 acres and supplying 1,376 landowners and tenant water users. The district’s water rights were established in 1883, one of the earliest and largest water rights on the Sacramento River, according to the release. GCID is a member of the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors.

For more information, call 530-934-8881 or visit www.gcid.net.

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