Any New Biological Opinions Will Get Review by CA Congress Reps

California Members Release Statement on Updated Biological Opinions for Central Valley Project

WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Josh Harder (CA-10), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jim Costa (CA-16), and TJ Cox (CA-21) and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released the following statement on the updated biological opinions for federally protected fish species and coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project:

“The Endangered Species Act requires periodic reviews to determine the best available science. The federal government’s science for Chinook salmon and Delta smelt was more than a decade old and needed to be updated, especially given climate change.

“We are examining the new biological opinions to ensure they incorporate the adaptive management and real-time monitoring needed to properly manage the Central Valley Project for the benefit of all Californians. The new biological opinions must also provide the scientific basis needed to finalize the voluntary settlement agreements between the State Water Resources Control Board and water users.

“We look forward to the State of California’s thoughtful analysis of the biological opinions. In Congress, we continue working to secure federal investment in the Central Valley Project to meet California’s future water needs and support habitat restoration efforts called for in the updated biological opinions.”

 

2021-05-12T11:05:01-07:00October 24th, 2019|

New Water Year Brings Surplus!

Surplus for New Water Year Will Help Farmers in 2020

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Oct. 1 new water year, has brought the state a surplus— with statewide reservoir storage 128% of average.

“The wet 2017 was needed for our reservoirs to refill after an extended drought, and we’re hopeful that the upcoming water year will be generous,” said Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition based in Sacramento.

The coalition educates consumers and others in the state about the importance of water for farms

“One of the things that we’re concerned about is allocations that have not seemed to keep up with the water supply, but we do understand there’s some question about environmental practices and enough water held over for stream flows, and those questions are something that we’ll have to contend with in the future,” said Wade.

With the carryover water that we have, we know that we’ll be in better shape going into this coming year than we have in some years in the past. But one of the things that are going to be helpful is if the Governor’s voluntary agreements get implemented regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s Bay-Delta Plan on the Tuolumne River. “We have more reliability and understanding about how water is going to be used from year to year and how much will be available for water supply reliability, as well as the important environmental projects that are going on around the state,” he said.

“In December 2018, when the state Water Board adopted their Unimpaired Flow Plan, there was a lot of concern that that was going to take a lot of water. It would have taken a million or 2 million acre-feet of water potentially out of the available water that we have from year to year,” said Wade.

“The voluntary agreements represent a generational change in how we manage water and environmental projects in the state. I will provide more local control, more input from water users, and the ability to build the kinds of projects and do the kinds of stream restoration that not only help restore our ecosystem, but it makes water supply more reliable for farms, homes, and businesses around the state,” he said.

 

2019-10-10T19:42:02-07:00October 14th, 2019|

How to Read a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP)

GSP Are Important to Understand

By Don A. Wright
www.WaterWrights.net

The following will have a lot of abbreviations so buckle up. The California Department of Water Resources – DWR – had divided the southern San Joaquin Valley into nine hydrologic sub-basins. Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – SGMA – each sub-basin must have one or more Groundwater Sustainability Agency – GSA. These GSAs are required to submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan – GSP – to DWR for review no later than January 2020.

DWR will only accept one GSP per sub-basin and most sub-basins have multiple GSAs. Most GSAs overlie an irrigation or water district, municipality or county line.

Don Wright

In order to ensure the expert knowledge and interests of the area are well represented most GSAs have opted to write their own GSP. These individual GSPs will be combined as chapters for the overarching sub-basin GSP; so DWR will only have to review the one plan per sub-basin. For instance, the Kings River sub-basin has seven GSAs. The North Kings GSA’s GSP would be more than a foot thick if printed on paper. Stacked on top of one another all seven GSP chapters of the Kings River Sub Basin would be about five feet high.

The taxpayers of California pay the state to hire trained employees at DWR to read these plans. Most folks don’t have the luxury to hire someone to read the plans or the time and patience to do so themselves.

However, there is good news. Much of each chapter is redundant to the other chapter. For example; within the same sub-basin each GSA is required to use the same methodology to arrive at its GSP findings. This helps with uniformity in style – one chapter won’t be in acre-feet while another uses liters. In other words, you read one methodology you’ve read them all. To further refine your reading task each GSP has an executive summary. This passage sums up most of the information in the overall GSP and will save a lot of time, eyestrain and stifled yawns.

Under SGMA GSAs are required to release drafts of the GSPs for review to only counties and cities. However, most if not all of the GSAs in the San Joaquin Valley have opted to release public drafts of their GSP for comment. Not all GSPs have yet to be released but most have and the remainder will soon follow. They are available online.

In the Southern San Joaquin Valley from north to south the sub-basins are:

Delta Mendota –  http://deltamendota.org/,

Chowchilla – https://www.maderacountywater.com/subbasins/,

Madera – https://www.maderacountywater.com/subbasins/

Westside – https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/county-counsel/waterfaq,

Kings River – http://kingsgroundwater.info/sgma-legislation/groundwater-sustainability-agencies/,

Tulare Lake – https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/county-counsel/waterfaq

Kaweah River – https://tularelakebasin.com/alliance/index.cfm/sustainable-groundwater-management-act-sgma/kaweah-sub-basin/,

Tule River – https://tulesgma.com/,

Kern – http://www.kerngwa.com/

2019-10-04T21:27:43-07:00October 10th, 2019|

Raising Shasta Dam Hit’s Snag

Termination of Shasta Dam Raise CEQA Analysis

Westlands Water District terminated its preparation of an environmental impact report pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The District was preparing the environmental impact report to assess the effects of raising Shasta Dam, as proposed by the Bureau of Reclamation, including whether the Dam raise would adversely affect the free-flowing conditions of the McCloud River or its wild trout fishery.

Under federal law, if Reclamation determines to raise the Dam, local cost share partners would be responsible for at least half of the costs. The environmental impact report being prepared by the District would have provided the information necessary for the District to determine whether it could or would become a cost share partner. The District terminated the CEQA process because the Superior Court issued, at the request of the California Attorney General, a preliminary injunction that stopped the District from preparing the environmental review document until after the Court conducts a trial and issues a final decision in the case. The practical effect of the injunction is that the District would not likely be able to complete CEQA within the schedule Reclamation has for the project.

Tom Birmingham, the District’s general manager expressed his disappointment in this outcome: “no agency of the State has conducted a project-specific analysis of Reclamation’s proposal, to determine if enlargement of Shasta Dam would adversely affect aquatic resources – particularly those in the lower McCloud River. Westlands took the initiative to do that assessment, through the public process established by CEQA. It is unfortunate that, as a result of the actions of the Attorney General, Westlands was enjoined from completing that analysis.”  

2019-10-01T10:35:33-07:00October 1st, 2019|

Fight Against SB1

Contact your Assemblymember and State Senator today to ask them to oppose SB 1 (Atkins).  Despite amendments taken last night, SB 1 still threatens the water supply of our agricultural communities.

Amendments to SB 1 were made on September 10thto remove the language redefining “waste” and “waters of the state” in the Water Code and the requirement that the state adopt old federal Biological Opinion standards for species that are listed under the provisions of SB 1.

However, SB 1 attempts to apply the California Endangered Species Act to the federal operations of the Central Valley Project so that they can justify smaller water deliveries to farming and ranching communities.  California does not have the authority to mandate an action by the federal government.  Including this provision will likely lead to a collapse of negotiations to implement the Voluntary Settlement Agreements (VSA) which would ensure science and reason are part of the water management in this state.  This would leave the draconian unimpaired flow standards proposed by the State Water Board in place – a potential reduction of 40-60% of our annual water deliveries.

Act now to ask that SB 1 be voted down or made a 2-year bill. Contact here:  Fix SB 1 – Urgent Update!

2019-09-15T19:07:48-07:00September 16th, 2019|

Congressman Harder: Veto SB1

Harder, California Members of Congress Statement on Planned Veto of SB1

WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10), alongside Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representatives Jim Costa (CA-16), John Garamendi (CA-03), and TJ Cox, (CA-21) released the following statement in advance of Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of SB1. 

Josh Harder

Congressman Harder

 “While we support the objectives of SB1 – to protect clean air, drinking water, and our environment – the bill as written would jeopardize those very goals. It is critical that all Californians, especially those in our disadvantaged communities, have a reliable supply of clean, fresh drinking water, in addition to water for our environment and essential agriculture industry. We applaud the Governor’s leadership in vetoing this bill, and his efforts to solve California’s difficult water challenges with solutions that meet the needs of the 21st century.

“Working together with all water users provides the best hope for avoiding endless litigation on the management of California’s water supply. We know this through experience. Continuing the collaborative process put in motion by the Governor can result in improved habitats and protect fish and wildlife species, while also ensuring improved water supply reliability for our communities and family farms across California.”

 

2019-09-15T19:05:40-07:00September 16th, 2019|

Fighting to Protect Family Farms from Water Diversion

In Face of Water Diversion Threat, Ag Industry Experts are Speaking Out

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

California Ag Today has been reporting on the California State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) proposed plan to divert 40 percent of the surface water from the Tuolumne River and two additional tributaries of the San Joaquin River between February 1st and June 30th every year. The SWRCB plan is designed to increase flows in the Delta in an effort to help the declining smelt and salmon populations. Yet, these water diversions would severely impact not only the farm industry, but communities in the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts as well.

Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors

Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors

Ag officials say this is yet another threat to family farms in an attempt to protect the smelt and salmon. Farmers would lose a major portion of their surface water and be forced to pump more groundwater.

“Farming is not just a job; it’s a way of life for many of these families. And that livelihood, that way of life, is being threatened,” said Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors, an independent, nonpartisan public affairs and advocacy firm that specializes in complex and often controversial public issues in Sacramento.

Boccadoro said the farm industry in the region is not sitting still while all of this is happening. There is a website, worthyourfight.org, that addresses this new assault on agriculture.

worthyourfight-logo Water Diversion

WorthYourFight.org

“It is worth fighting for,”said Boccadoro. “I was born and raised in agriculture, and I still think it’s a wonderful lifestyle. We need to protect it at all costs. This is starting to border on the ridiculous in terms of just one issue after another. . .  This is not a “Mother Nature” issue; this is government putting these obstacles and these problems in front of agriculture, and that’s troubling.”

“We produce much of the fruits and vegetables and nearly all the nut crops for the entire nation. So, of course, we would expect to see significant amounts of water being used by farming in California,” Boccadoro said.

“It’s just reality, and for whatever reason, I think people have been misled and don’t understand this is just part of growing food. Like I have said, if you are concerned about it, all you’ve got to do is quit eating. It’s that simple.”


Links:

California State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB)

West Coast Advisors

worthyourfight.org

2016-11-22T22:11:51-08:00November 22nd, 2016|

Water Diversion Lessons from Australia

Australian Water Woes: Water Diversion Will Not Save Fish

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, spoke to the CDFA Board of Directors about the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed strategy of diverting up to 40 percent of the Tuolumne River flows to increase flows in the Delta for salmon and smelt. The diversion would severely impact farm and city water needs in both the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Oakdale Irrigation District (OID).

 

“Despite increased [water] flows over the years, the fish populations continue to decline in the Delta,” Wade said. “We have exacerbated this problem. We have released water with the intent going back to 2008 and 2009 [scenarios] and even before, if you want to turn the clock back to 1992, and yet we’re still seeing population crashes.”

 

“The science is showing that fish are not recovering. Yet, the California Department of Water Resources is doubling down on the same kind of activity—the same strategy—that hasn’t worked in the past and that we do not expect to work moving forward,” he said.

 

Mike Wade

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

 

“That is why schools, health departments, farmers, Latinos, economic development departments have opposed the regulation. A host of folks have come out and commented, written letters, and expressed their opinion on the plan because of the severe economic issues they are going to deal with at the 40% impaired flow level.”

 

Wade noted that in recent years, a lot of attention has focused on Australia and how great they are at water management. People commend their effectiveness in changing their water rights system and supposedly improving their ecosystem—or having a plan to work on their ecosystem issues. “In 2009, the vast agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority established a flow amount, or a quantity, for environmental water that was around 2.2 million acre-feet. That is out of around 26.4 million acre-feet of average annual flow in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Wade said.

 

“To set the stage, the Murray-Darling Basin is in eastern Australia. It extends in the north around 800 miles from Gold Coast and the border of Queensland all the way south to Melbourne,” Wade said. “It is actually a geographic area about the size of California and remarkably has a very similar quantity of water to serve its farmers. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority set a 2.2 million acre-foot environmental water buyback for the environment, like we are talking about here.”

 

Wade conveyed to the CDFA Board what his friends in Australia were telling him. “I was there for two weeks in August following up on a trip I took in 2012 to learn about their water supply issues and how they deal with it. My friends are telling me, ‘Don’t do what we do. It has been a disaster,’” Wade said.

 

“The environmental sector hasn’t even achieved their full environmental buyback goal, and they’re already seeing 35% unemployment in some towns. It is directly related to the water buybacks, the declining amount of irrigation water, and the declining agriculture economy because of the change in focus on how they deliver and use water in Australia,” he said.

 

“Three weeks ago—this is how recent these things are coming about and how they’re changing—a good friend of mine, Michael Murray, Cotton Australia general manager, said the ‘Just Add Water’ approach already in place doesn’t work in the Northern Basin. It has to be abandoned. And recently, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Inc. of Australia President Jeremy Morton said, ‘The over-recovery of water has resulted in unnecessary economic harm to communities. It’s a case of maximum pain with minimum gain.'”

 

“A dozen organizations are suggesting this isn’t just a, ‘Don’t do it’ and ‘Abandon the environmental water buybacks.’ What they’re suggesting is the exact same thing that TID and OID are going to experience. Australia’s problems in the Murray-Darling Basin are, remarkably, invasive species, the loss of habitat, and some of the water quality issues that we deal with. It’s the same story, only they are a few years ahead of us,” Wade said.

 

“What has happened in Australia is going to happen to us in the Valley, with big unemployment issues and the closed businesses,” Wade said. “I walked down the main street in the town of Helston and half of the businesses—I’m not exaggeratinghalf of the businesses were boarded up and closed. Only small businesses were still open, such as a convenience store, a bar and a tailor. All the rest were gone.”

 

Wade asked CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to extend the comment period for the Water Board’s proposal. “We all need to have an opportunity to bring some of these issues to light and to support what’s going on in the agriculture community. We must support the need for comprehensive economic studies, either bringing out the ones that have been done or doing some more. We have more economic data will show there is an economic hit that’s deeper, much deeper, that what is proposed or suggested in the plan.”

2021-05-12T11:05:44-07:00November 4th, 2016|

Farm Water Coalition Shames State Water Resources     

Farm Water Coalition Shames SWRCB Over Proposal 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

The California Farm Water Coalition (Coalition) was formed in 1989 to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and to promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.

Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based Coalition, has major concerns about the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)‘s proposal of taking 40% of the water from many irrigation districts along three rivers that flow into the San Joaquin River to protect an endangered fish. The SWRCB proposes to divert water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers to increase flows in the Sacramento Delta.

Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition

Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition

Wade explained, “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is important for the United States, and we want to see it work. However, it’s not working. It’s not helping fish, and it’s hurting communities.” But Wade wants to revise the ESA “in how we deal with some of the species management issues.”

Wade said SWRCB is doubling down on the same tired, old strategy that is not going to work any more now than it has in the past. “What happened in the past isn’t helping salmon. What’s happened in the past isn’t helping the delta smelt. You’d think someone would get a clue that maybe other things are in play, there are other factors that need to be addressed.”

The State Water Resources Control Board estimated the proposed 40% diversion of river flow would decrease agricultural economic output by 64 million or 2.5% of the baseline average for the region.

Ag officials warn that if the proposal goes through it would force growers in the area to use more groundwater—which they have largely avoided because the Turlock Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District historically met the irrigation need of local farms.

This is the only agricultural area in the Central Valley that does not have critical overdraft problems. If the state takes away 40% of water available to growers, it could lead to a critical overdraft issue there as well.

2021-05-12T11:05:45-07:00October 21st, 2016|

CULTIVATING COMMON GROUND: Water Use Efficiency Grants

Water Use Efficiency Grants: Beneficial or Double Jeopardy for California Farming? Or both?

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Through a competitive joint pilot grant program, the Agricultural Water Use Efficiency and State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) jointly intend to demonstrate the potential multiple benefits of conveyance enhancements combined with on-farm agricultural water use efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas reductions.

The grant funding provided in this joint program is intended to address multiple goals including:

  • Water use efficiency, conservation and reduction
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction
  • Groundwater Protection, and
  • Sustainability of agricultural operations and food production
Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP Public Workshops

Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP Public Workshops

Are these competitive grants promoted by DWR and CDFA providing financial support for further compliance or insulting to farmers who have already met and exceeded these stockpiling regulations? Or both?

I would like to address each goal, one by one.

Water Use Efficiency

I challenge DWR and CDFA to find one California farmer who is using water inefficiently or without regard to conservation. Grant or no grant, many farmers in the state have lost most of their contracted surface water deliveries due to the Endangered Species Act, which serves to save endangered species, an important goal we all share, but does so at any cost.

In addition, DWR is now threatening to take 40 percent of the surface water from the Tuolumne River and other tributaries of the San Joaquin River from February 1 to June 30, every year, to increase flows to the Delta to help save the declining smelt and salmon. This will severely curtail water deliveries to the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) and Turlock Irrigation District (TID)—population centers as well as critical farm areas.

MID TID Joint LogoThis proposal, which disregards legal landowner water rights and human need, would force MID and TID to dedicate 40 percent of surface water flows during the defined time period every year, with no regulatory sunset, for beneficial fish and wildlife uses and salinity control. The proposal disregards other scientifically acknowledged stressors such as predatory nonnative non-native striped bass and largemouth bass, partially treated sewage from Delta cities, and, according to the Bay Delta Fish & Wildlife Office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region, invasive organisms, exotic species of zooplankton and a voracious plankton-eating clam in the Delta from foreign ships that historically dumped their ballast in San Francisco waters.

While many farmers have fallowed their farmland, other farmers across the state have resorted to reliance on groundwater to keep their permanent crops (trees and vines) alive. The new DWR proposal to divert 40 percent of MID and TID surface water will force hundreds of growers in this region—the only groundwater basin in the Valley that is not yet critically overdrafted—to use more groundwater. 

In a joint statement, MID and TID said, “Our community has never faced a threat of this proportion. MID and TID have continued to fight for the water resource that was entrusted to us 129 years ago.”

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Have regulators forgotten Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, that requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent (back to 1990 levels) by 2050? Ag is already accommodating this regulation.

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Source: EPA) https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Source: EPA)

Now Governor Brown has signed SB-1383, “Short-lived climate pollutants: methane emissions: dairy and livestock: organic waste: landfills” into law that mandates a 25 percent reduction in methane emissions from cow burps, flatulence and manure from all dairy cows and other cattle to achieve the 1990 statewide greenhouse gas emissions level by 2020.

Now CDFA and DWR are asking for grant requests to reduce greenhouse emissions even further. Really?

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Groundwater Protection

Ironically, farmers want to reduce their groundwater needs because groundwater has always functioned in the state as a water savings bank for emergency use during droughts and not as a primary source of irrigation. But massive non-drought related federal and state surface water cutbacks have forced farmers to use more groundwater.

Golden State farmers are doing everything possible not to further elevate nitrates in their groundwater. Some nitrate findings left by farmers from generations ago are difficult to clean up.

But the DWR and CFA grant wants California agriculture to do more!

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Sustainability of Agricultural Operations and Food Production

Virtually, no one is more sustainable than a multi-generational farmer. Each year, family farmers improve their land in order to produce robust crops, maintain their livelihoods, enrich the soil for the long term, and fortify the health and safety of their agricultural legacy for future generations.

California farmers will continue to do all they can to improve irrigation methods and track their crop protection product use.

And so, I ask again, is this beneficial or double jeopardy for California farming? Or both?

The deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

2021-05-12T11:17:12-07:00September 26th, 2016|
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