State Water Resources Control Board Grab for Salmon Will Impact Federal Water

Feds and State Usually Do Not Work Well Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today continues our report on the recent water rally in Sacramento at the capital building. Farmers and stakeholders attended to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board Proposed Water Grab 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers redirected to increase flows for salmon.

U.S. representative for the 16th district Jim Costa explained how federal and state water projects would be drastically impeded.

There are distinctions between state and federal laws as relates to water. However, there are federal water projects. In this case, New Melones  Dam, a Federal Central Valley Water Project site, will be severely impacted, which could be a problem for the Water Board’s plan,” Costa said.  “With all of the challenges in water, none in the last 20 years have worked together between the Central Valley Water Project and the State Water Project.”

 Adam Gray, 21st district assemblymen representing Merced and Stanislaus counties, explained the fight with the water resources board over the years.

“For the six years I’ve been in the assembly, we have been fighting this fight with the state water board, and despite repeated concerns that we have raised, testimony that I provided and members of my community have provided, the state continues to ignore the concerns and the farmers are not happy,” Gray said. “We are going to raise our voices as loud as they need to be and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get a fair deal on this.”

“The irrigation districts have science-based plans that involve habitat restoration, water, rebuilding a river, and dealing with non-native predators,” he said. It is not going to be easy, and it is going to take sacrifice to make a fair deal. All they want to do is take, take, take, and it is all water with no consideration for those other things.”

Assemblyman Adam Gray Speaks Out on Water Grab

Water Board Must Understand the Impact of Taking Water from Farms and Communities

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

At the recent Water Rally in Sacramento, more than 1000 farmers and other stakeholders were protesting the California Water Resources Control Board, which is proposing a water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers to increase flows for salmon. According to Adam Gray —21st District State Assemblyman, representing Stanislaus and Merced—counties said that large losses would occur in jobs and profits if the water grab is implemented.

“This is thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic loss to agriculture, to California, and we can’t afford that,” Gray said. “Not to mention the impact on drinking water in communities. Most of the communities in my district are on well water, and what people don’t think about is when you take water away from farmers and that water doesn’t go back into the ground. That further depletes our groundwater and our aquifers, and it creates more subsidence and environmental issues.”

Gray said that this is not about the environment versus business, or fish versus people. This is about the whole community, the schools, the ag economy and a lot of job losses for the people he represents.

“It’s dishonest; the Water Board is not admitting that there’s going to be an impact in the affected areas. They say farmers are going to offset the water losses by pumping more. Well, you and I both know with the implementation of SGMA and all of the other challenges, that’s not a reality,” he said.

“So how about we sit down and come up with a water plan that takes everybody’s needs into consideration and again, I’m not an us versus them advocate,” he said. “Southern California needs water, the coast needs water, northern California needs water and the San Joaquin Valley needs water. How about we sit down and make a water infrastructure plan for the next hundred years that serves all Californians.”

Gray said the farming community will stand up for the investments made to secure water.

“We are not going to lie down. We’re not going to apologize for being a farming community,” he said. “We’re going to stand up; we’re going to defend the investments we’ve made and the long-term planning we did, and we’re going to ask the state to step up and do some of their own.”

Opponents ask Governor to Veto Groundwater bills

Source: Dave Kranz; Ag Alert

Farmers, ranchers, other water users and nearly three-dozen members of the state Legislature have urged Gov. Brown to veto a package of groundwater-regulation bills that reached his desk in the waning hours of the legislative session.

The bills-Assembly Bill 1739 by Assembly member Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Senate Bills 1168 and 1319, both by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills-would establish a broad, new regulatory framework for managing groundwater.

Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the legislation.

Opponents, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, say the bills go well beyond addressing issues of basins in overdraft, casting a cloud on water rights and establishing requirements that will lead to confusion and litigation.

CFBF President Paul Wenger said Farm Bureau has always encouraged the proper management of groundwater, but that doing the job efficiently and effectively should have been the priority.

“Instead,” Wenger said, “the Legislature took the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach, rushing these bills through and creating a massive new regulatory program in the final days of the legislative session.”

Farmers, ranchers and other California landowners will be left to pick up the pieces, he said, dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come.

Under the bills, basins in critical overdraft would be required to develop groundwater-management plans within five years. Other basins would have seven years, but low- and very low-priority basins would not be mandated to develop plans.

A bipartisan group of 35 Assembly members and senators urged Gov. Brown to veto the legislation and to call a special session of the Legislature in December to reconsider groundwater management.

“Like you, we are concerned about the increasing conditions of overdraft in many groundwater basins,” the legislators wrote to the governor. “However, the legislation before you punishes groundwater users in basins that have little or no overdraft or already have effective management efforts in place. It will also infringe upon the right to groundwater, at a time when available water supplies are getting tighter.”

The legislators warned that the authorities granted in the groundwater legislation “will radically alter the landscape of groundwater law” in coming years and will have “a destabilizing impact on those who depend on groundwater supplies.”

In their letter, the legislators said they are willing to help the Brown administration craft a “narrower, more effective measure focused on basins where real problems exist, encouraging them to implement management measures modeled by other regions, and providing new state authority to intervene where local management fails.”

The letter was signed by Assembly members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo; Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach; Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals; Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside; Connie Conway, R-Tulare; Brian Dahle, R-Bieber; Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks; Steve Fox, D-Palmdale; Beth Gaines, R-Roseville; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo; Adam Gray, D-Merced; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills; Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point; Brian Jones, R-Santee; Eric Linder, R-Corona; Dan Logue, R-Marysville; Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa; Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore; Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto; Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Donald Wagner, R-Irvine; Marie Waldron, R-Escondido; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte; Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield; Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber; Andy Vidak, R-Hanford; and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine.

Other legislative opponents of the groundwater bills from Central California included Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; Susan Eggman, D-Stockton; and Henry Perea, D-Fresno. Perea noted that the bills would have a disproportionate impact on the Central Valley, and said the costs of implementing the legislation would be “enormous.”

CFBF President Wenger said Farm Bureau and other opponents had been able to “take some of the edge off” the bills during negotiations that preceded the final votes on the legislation.

“It now includes protections for water rights and other provisions that could lessen its detrimental impact,” Wenger said. “For that, we must thank those in the Capitol who helped rein in some of the proposals’ worst overreaches and the legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted against the bills.”

Even so, he said, Farm Bureau considers the legislation to be fatally flawed and has urged the governor to veto all three bills.

“True resolution to California groundwater problems will come through measures that this legislation does not address, such as a streamlined adjudication process and the recognition of groundwater recharge as a beneficial use of water,” Wenger said.

Most importantly, he said, California must improve its surface water supplies.

“All the fees and fines in the world won’t heal our aquifers unless California builds additional storage and improves management of surface water in order to reduce demand on groundwater,” Wenger said.