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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, August 07, 2018 1:00 am

Trump again falsely claims California diverting water

News services


Twin fires merge into massive inferno

Two small blazes burning through Northern California have grown at breathtaking speed to form a massive inferno, quickly becoming the largest active wildfire in the state. It is only a few thousand acres of charred land away from setting a new mark for destruction.

The twin wildfires, collectively known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, have together more than doubled in size in just the past four days and burned through 273,664 acres or 427 square miles of parched land – an area almost the size of Los Angeles. By Monday, it has become the second-largest California wildfire on record, surpassing the size of a massive blaze that killed 15 people in 2003 in San Diego County. 

More than 14,000 personnel from California and elsewhere in the U.S. are fighting wildfires across the state.

The Pentagon announced Monday that it will send about 200 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state to help with the firefighting efforts. The soldiers will be trained and will undergo a certification process before they are deployed to California next weekend. 

– Washington Post

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday again falsely stated that the California government is diverting river water into the Pacific Ocean that could be used to fight forest fires, but he also signaled he will fast-track federal help.

For the second consecutive day, the president took to Twitter to contend Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's administration is sending water from “the North” into the Pacific Ocean. Trump contended Monday that water could be used for “fires, farming and everything else.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has been puzzled by the claims from the president, according to Fox News. But that has not stopped Trump from calling out Brown by name.

“Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean,” Trump tweeted.

“I'm not sure what he was recommending,” University of California, Merced professor LeRoy Westerling said Sunday. “Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn't compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”

Water management is a long-standing issue in California. The diversion of water away from rivers and into agricultural lands has allowed the state's farmers to flourish, but it also has destroyed critical habitat for salmon and other species. Water diversion also contributes to increased salinity of delta ecosystems. In July, California's State Water Resources Control Board released a draft plan for a key watershed in the northern part of the state that would limit the amount of water used for agriculture.

But that's “a totally separate issue” from fire management, said William Stewart, a forestry specialist at the University of California at Berkeley. The rivers and lakes from which fire crews get water to drop on fires are full. “There's no shortage of water for firefighting.”

Contrary to the president's comments, water diversion refers to the redirection of water for agricultural purposes. Rivers naturally flow into the ocean.