65% Percent Water Allocation for Westlands with 163 Percent Snow Pack

Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s April Water Allocation Announcement

News Release from Westlands Water District

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors is being increased to 65%. In light of current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, this minor increase is astonishing.

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s general manager, stated: “This announcement begs the question, what has to happen before south-of-Delta farmers served by the Central Valley Project can get a full supply?”

With San Luis Reservoir full and flood flows coming, the 65 % allocation was more than disappointment.

Since October 1, the beginning of the current water year, California has been blessed with abundant precipitation; the 2018-19 water year is now classified as wet. As of April 8, the snow water content in the northern and central Sierra Nevada was 160% and 163% of the long-term average, respectively. Storage in every CVP reservoir used to supply south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors was more than 100% of average for that date. Indeed, these reservoirs were and remain in flood control operations.

Birmingham added, “I know that Reclamation staff understands the consequences of the decisions they make. Reclamation staff understands reduced allocations in a year like this needlessly increases overdraft in already overdrafted groundwater basins. Reclamation staff understands delayed allocation announcements make it nearly impossible for farmers to effectively plan their operations. If Reclamation’s leadership could, they would make a 100% allocation. But Reclamation’s hands are tied by restrictions imposed by biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act. These restrictions have crippled the CVP and have provided no demonstrative protection for listed fish species, all of which have continued to decline despite the draconian effect the biological opinions have had on water supply for people.”

Birmingham concluded, “Notwithstanding the restrictions imposed by the biological opinions, Westlands firmly believes that there is sufficient water to allocate to south-of-Delta agricultural water services contractors 100%. Today’s announcement by Reclamation is disappointing for every south-of Delta farmer served by the CVP, and we hope Reclamation will increase the allocation quickly to enable farmers to quit pumping groundwater.”

After 2019, no one will be able to argue that water supply reductions for south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors are a result of hydrologic conditions. This year demonstrates only too well the crippling consequences of ineffective and unchecked regulations. Because of restrictions imposed on operations of the CVP under the guise of protecting fish, the CVP cannot be operated to satisfy one of the primary purposes for which it was built, supplying water to farmers.

Water District Talks Low Water Allocation

Water District’s Water Allocation Disappoints

 By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

The Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial 2017 water allocation for the Central Valley Project, and it’s considerably lower than what was expected.  Despite a wet winter and a significant snowpack, the Bureau has only allocated 65 percent of their contract supply to South-of-Delta contractors.

Johnny Amaral is the Deputy General Manager for the Westlands Water District – the largest agricultural water district in the United States.  Amaral thinks the deck is stacked against area growers as a result of water policy. “There are laws on the books that were deliberately put into place that created this bottleneck in the CVP and have hamstrung the CVP. This is the outcome that you get when you purposely curtail project operations or pumping: You get shortages,” Amaral said.

San Luis Reservoir is full this season, yet the allocation is only 65 percent.

The 65 percent allocation is especially disheartening since the announcement was not released until well into the planting season, forcing farmers to make decisions about land use and labor without any assurance of water supplies.  Amaral thinks there’s a need for a serious policy discussion as to whether the government truly values what growers produce.  “Those laws are going to have to be changed if we’re ever going to restore water supply to a situation where the westside ag contractors get 100 percent,” Amaral said.

Westlands Water District is made up of more than 1,000 square miles of premier farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties and provides water to 700 family-owned farms, averaging about 875 acres in size.  Amaral believes that it is time for legislators to reevaluate their priorities.  “It really comes down to a very simple but more fundamental policy question about, ‘Do we value being able to grow our own food in a safe way? Does that matter to people?’ ” Amaral said.

During election season last fall, then-candidate Donald Trump vowed to fix the water problems in California.  Farmers are going to need to be patient in their desire to see some action on those promises. “The agencies that have direct influence over western water issues and western resources issues, it’s really the Department of Interior. The Secretary of Interior was just confirmed a couple of weeks ago. … There are a whole host of positions and people that need to be nominated and put into place for the Trump Administration to really have a day to day impact over how the decision’s made on water supply and project operations,” Amaral said.

Breaking News: Contracted Contractual Water Deliveries Could Plummet

Breaking News: 

Promised Water Deliveries Could Plummet

Delta Smelt Among Many Reasons for Pumping Constraints

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

Farmers in the federal water districts of Fresno and Kings Counties were granted only five percent of their contracted water this year; yet they are at risk of getting even less due to pumping constraints. Jason Peltier, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, a Los Banos-based federal water district explained, “The original forecast had full pumping in June, July, August, and September.

“Because of the temperature constraints and because of the water quality standards,” Peltier stated, “we’ve been operating only one or two pumps. There’s just not enough water flowing south to meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) obligations to the exchange contractors, the [wildlife] refuges and the urban agencies, along with the 5% allocation to the ag services contractors,” he noted.

SLDMWAPeltier is concerned for those in the Central Valley, and water agencies are working frantically to find answers. “We’re working on it,” Peltier affirmed. “We’ve got a lot of engineers and operators preparing spreadsheets and analyzing both the variables and what changes could be made to avoid lower water levels at San Luis Reservoir.”

Commenting on this year’s deliveries, Peltier stated, “No doubt we’re in an unprecedented operating environment. Here we are, eight months into the water year, and we just got a temperature plan for Lake Shasta—that is driving the whole operation—the project. Limiting releases like they are in the temperature plan [designed keep the water cold to protect winter-run salmon eggs]at least we thoughtwould allow Reclamation to hold the commitments they made. But we’re on razor’s edge right now,” Peltier explained.

Peltier described how the process is holding up water release, “The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to keep as much water in storage as possible, in order to keep the cold water cool as long as they can. This is all to protect the winter-run salmon eggs that are in the gravel right now, protect them until the weather turns cool and things naturally cool down. Then they can release water. Shasta’s been effectively trumped by another million-acre feed because of this temperature plan.”

Peltier further noted that the Lake Shasta temperature plan has not allowed water to flow into the Sacramento River. It has severely impacted growers in Northern California on a year when the northern part of the state received above average rain and snowfall during the winter.

“People diverting off the river in the Sacramento Valley have had their own water level issues. There hasn’t been enough water coming down the river to get elevation enough adequate for their pumps. There’s been a lot of ground water pumping,” he said.

The nearly extinct Delta Smelt has been a longstanding issue for those affected by California’s drought. After the past five years of sacrifice, even more water is being taken from agriculture and cities to help save the fish from extinction.

“We’ve got the California Department of Fish and Wildlife wanting significant increases in delta outflow over the summer, supposedly for the benefit of delta smelt, another operational complexity that is sadly not based on any science that we could see. The agencies have their beliefs, and they have the power,” said Peltier.

Featured photo: Jason Peltier, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.


California Ag Today will update readers on Bureau of Reclamation announcements about the 5% contracted water delivery federal water district growers were expecting.

Final Feasibility Study Begins for Temperance Flat Dam

Temperance Flat Dam Would Provide Groundwater Relief, Jobs

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mario Santoyo, executive director, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (Joint Powers of Authority), described the major and historic event held last week at the Friant Dam regarding the Temperance Flat Dam and California’s future water supply.

“At the event,” Santoyo said, “a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and the Joint Powers Authority, basically defines what the scope of work is going to be. In essence, it is full cooperation between their technical people and our Joint Powers Authority.  Our people are working on tailoring the application to the state to optimize how much money we get from them. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we’re not talking a million or a hundred million.”

Joint Powers of Authority
At Friant Dam, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and Joint Powers Authority for the Temperance Flat Dam.

Santoyo hopes to receive $1B in funding for the Temperance Flat Dam, although “it is going to cost somewhere around $2.8B. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4B. We don’t expect to be getting that because there is a lot of competition and there’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion,” he stated.

“In parallel with our efforts with the state,” Santoyo explained, “we’re working on the federal side with our senators and our congress members to obtain what they call a federal construction authorization—which allows the federal government to move ahead with this project. Then we work on appropriations,” he said.

Santoyo said the funding necessary to complete and complement dollars from the state will be procured in the same fashion as have projects in the past. “The Bureau of Reclamation typically funds the construction of a project and then recovers the cost through long-term water supply contracts or adjustments to existing water supply contracts,” he stated. “In this case, it would be adjustments to existing water supply contracts.”

Santoyo also noted preliminary feasibility studies are underway. Those already completed triggered the final feasibility report, “which is going through a final upper management review before being released to the public. I think we are all pretty confident it will come out in a very positive manner. I would expect that in the next sixty days,” he said.

The expected completion of the project varies. Santoyo estimated physical completion within five years,” but it has to go through design and environmental paperwork, plus legal challenges could cause setbacks as well. By the time you’re good to go, you’ll end up having this project built in probably under 15 years,” he said.

DAM CREATES NEEDED JOBS FOR VALLEY RESIDENTS

Nevertheless, Santoyo said the benefits of the Temperance Flat Dam project is to creates an economic boom and an increase in available jobs. “You’re going to be spending about $3B here for materials, labor, and everything that goes into it. It will be an economic boom; and once it’s built, we get more water reliability, creating a better situation for the farmers, and that creates employment. I wouldn’t look at waiting 15 years, it starts as soon as we start building,” he said.

“The best year for Temperance Flat is when we have high runoff periods, and we have those frequently,” Santoyo elaborated. “What I’ve determined is that there’s a 50% shot every time we have one that we will be dumping more than a million acre-feet into the ocean. That’s equivalent to a full-year of water supply for the east side of the valley. That’s a lot of water.”

DAM PROVIDES GROUNDWATER RELIEF

“The fact is, without this project, we will not be able to meet the ground water sustainability laws that exist because this water will be necessary to move underground to all these regions,” he said. “Right now, as it stands, San Joaquin River Settlement has taken away the Class II water that used by the Friant contractors to replenish the groundwater. Unless we have a means of replacing it, and that would be through Temperance Flat, we’re going to encounter very serious problems,” Santoyo noted.

“Take the typical example of a year in which we can save a million acre-feet in storage. We are not going to keep it there,” he said. “We are going to move it via the canal systems to the various groundwater recharging basins,” which capture and replenish underground water. “It’s not a matter of whether groundwater storage is better [or worse] than above-ground storage; they work in conjunction with each other to maximize storage.”

DAM SERVES A PURPOSE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

“There are a lot of conversations about the San Andreas Fault rumbling. If we had an earthquake, we could have a seismic event in the Delta,” Santoyo said. “What differentiates this project from all the other projects is that we could take Temperance Flat water and go north via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, or south via the Friant-Kern canal, across the valley canal to the California aqueduct then subsequently down to southern California,” he said.

“In a scenario of Delta failure, in which water was no longer moving to the millions of people in Southern California, that would be a crisis,” he stated, “they would be looking for help in any way, shape, and form. Temperance Flat could do that. That’s one of the public benefits being looked at by the California Water Commission, in a category called emergency services. That was written in there specifically because of Temperance’s capability.”

Temperance Flat Dam Brings Five Valley Counties Together

Key July 1 Signing Ceremony to Launch Temperance Flat Dam Process

by Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority (SJWIA), which represents the five-county joint powers of authority in the Central San Joaquin Valley, has announced an important event will launch the process needed for Temperance Flat Dam: the Temperance Flat Project Partnership Agreement Signing Ceremony outside Old Fresno County Courthouse overlooking Millerton Lake at 10 a.m. sharp on Friday, July 1, 2016.

USBR Water“This is a major event, a significant milestone in terms of the process to get Temperance Flat Dam built.” Santoyo said. “In essence, it is a partnership between the new joint powers of authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and, more specifically, their study team who worked on the technical studies and the feasibility reports for Temperance Flat.”

Merced, Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties are joining forces with leaders of cities, Tribes, and other agencies to begin this significant move towards building the Temperance Flat Dam. “Working together, we are going to put the application together and submit it to the California Water Commission for their consideration for funding through Proposition 1, Chapter 8,” Santoyo said.  “It’s a solid statement that needs a signature.”

“It’s a memorandum of understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation and the joint powers of authority,” he said, “that defines the scope of work. In essence, it’s full cooperation between their technical people and our joint powers of authority. Our people are tailoring the application to the state to optimize funding. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we are not talking a million or a hundred million; we are talking a billion.”

Temperance Flat Dam would create nearly 1.3M acre-feet of new water storage, according to the SJWIA, 2.5 times the current capacity of Millerton Lake, and would be a part of the Federal Central Valley Project.

“Chapter 8, which is the storage chapter in Prop 1, has $2.7 billion in it,” Santoyo explained. “Projects that are submitted for funding are limited to up to 50% of the capital costs of their project. If we were to take Temperance Flat, for instance, that’s going to cost somewhere around $2.8 billion. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4 billion, but we don’t expect that because there is a lot of competition. There’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion.”

“I see [the July 1 event] as being historic,” Santoyo reflected, “because it is one of the most critical things to happen—to be able to build Temperance Flat, as well as a good opportunity to be at a place where history’s being made.”

__________________________

For more information, contact Mario Santoyo at 559-779-7595.

Featured image: Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority (SJWIA)

Good News for Oakdale Irrigation District Farmers

Oakdale Irrigation District Farmers:
2015 Water Allotments Raised to 40 Inches

A couple of beneficial spring storms combined with cool weather and strong water conservation led to good news Tuesday morning for farmers in the Oakdale Irrigation District: A small bump in the amount of water they will receive in the fourth year of drought.

OID directors voted 4-0, with Al Bairos absent, to raise this year’s allocation to 40 inches from 36. When the irrigation season began in March, OID told irrigators to expect 30 inches this year – the first time in its 105-year history it has put limits in place.

Directors also declined to rescind a decision they made in April to deliver 10 inches of water to Tier 2 customers.

General Manager Steve Knell said small storms in April and May provided an unexpected bonus: enough water to keep soil moisture high in the valley, plus additional runoff into Sierra reservoirs. He told directors that 2.8 inches of rain fell above Donnells and Beardsley Lakes, which had plenty of room to capture it.

He said the rain comes on top of positive efforts by OID’s 2,900 agricultural customers to use less water. The combination has the district to easily meet its goal of pushing at least 10,000 acre-feet of “saved” water into New Melones Reservoir. OID is on target to conserve about 17,000 acre-feet, Knell said.

“When you ask constituents to step up in this district, they do it,” he said.

The 40 inches OID’s irrigators will receive compares to 36 inches for those in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and is more than double what farmers in the Modesto and Turlock districts will get this summer.

“Forty inches is an abundance of water,” said Brian Lemons, who grows almonds and walnuts.

Still, the implications of the drought were on the minds of OID’s staff and board.

Knell said the district is discussing various 2016 water scenarios with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages New Melones. And Director Frank Clark warned about the financial implications of the drought on the district, which has dug into its reserves to use $17 million to balance its budget the past two years.

“If these dry years continue and you have no income from hydro production and you have no excess water to sell and you keep drawing down from reserves, it looks bleak,” Clark said. “We could be looking at … raising irrigation rates.”

SOUTH SAN JOAQUIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT IN CRITICAL DROUGHT EMERGENCY

SSJID Begins Season Conserving Water for 2016

by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday reporter

As the Stanislaus River watershed enters its fourth year of consecutive drought conditions,  South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID)‘s water supply may not last through the end of the 2016 irrigation season. Therefore, with the season starting on March 15, the SSJID Board of Directors unanimously adopted a drought conservation program on March 10th to reduce the quantity of water used for the purpose of conserving the water supply for the 2015 and 2016 irrigation seasons. The District adopted a strict water allotment of 36” because studies have shown that more than half of its irrigators use less than 36”.  Irrigators must determine how and when to use their allotment.

Along with the 36” limit, allotment transfers will be allowed. The general rule will be that growers can increase or decrease their water supply by transferring all or a part of the 36” allotment between land parcels, with some exceptions. A District application form will be required for transfers, and the deadline for applications will be May 10. Parcels in a single transfer agreement will not need to have the same owners. Only parcels located in the District territory are eligible for the water transfer program. Transfer agreements will be for one year only and will be irrevocable.

The Board has also established a 10-day rotation schedule.

Agricultural water deliveries will be cut off once their allotment is used. SSJID’s online bill payment and consumption history service, available on the SSJID website, will update usage daily; however, the information will be three days old. Season-to-date usage will be shown on each customer’s monthly bill.

Basically, New Melones Reservoir, the source of SSJID’s water supply, is running out of water. The troubling pattern of long, warm dry spells between rain events in the upper watershed is continuing with the result of very little runoff into New Melones Reservoir when it does rain, as the ground and vegetation is so dry that it is soaking up all available moisture. Precipitation in the upper watershed has been 60% of normal since October 1, and has worsened: January was the driest January in history, and no snow fell below 8,500 feet of elevation in February. As the snowpack declines, the New Melones is expected to decline to “dead pool” in September.

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWB) has issued an advisory that Curtailment Orders for Junior Water Rights holders are possible, given the bleak storage levels in all of the reservoirs, including New Melones. There is not enough water in New Melones to meet the Bureau of Reclamation’s regulatory needs and the District’s hard cap of 225,000 acre-feet this year. Any additional inflow or any conservation saved from this year’s total of 225,000 acre-feet, potentially as much as 39,000 acre-feet, will count toward 2016 water needs, so stringent conservation measures in the District will be so important during 2015. Every drop of water saved this year may be needed in 2016.

The District understands this will be a serious hardship for many and will offer irrigator assistance. For more information, call SSJID at (209) 249-4600.

(Sources, South San Joaquin Irrigation District; SSJID caps water deliveries for first time, by John Holland, Fresno Bee; Water Education Foundation)

UC Davis Report Shows Startling, Accurate Water Crisis Snapshot

The report issued today by the California Department of Food & Agriculture and the University of California, Davis presents an accurate water crisis picture of the reality resulting from federal decisions that will reduce the production of food and fiber, according to California Citrus Mutual.

Unfortunately, this picture is not complete. The report indicates the losses which have been incurred to-date, but does not and cannot begin to predict future impacts as permanent crops continue to be ripped out of production as we enter into the hottest months with zero access to surface water,” says CCM President Joel Nelsen.

“The report is a compilation of what the authors know is happening as a result of April calculations. Since then, the Bureau of Reclamation has challenged the Administration’s focus on obesity prevention, school lunch programs, and other campaigns focused on healthy eating by holding water that could otherwise be used for the production of food and fiber.

As such, growers are being forced to make difficult farming decisions that have and will continue to result in reduced plantings of annual crops and the removal of permanent crops.

“If there is a flaw in the report, it is the assumption that ground water supplies are available to offset surface water loss, which may be true in some production areas but certainly not all.

The authors do fairly acknowledge that the impacts to the Friant service area in particular are not yet calculated into this water crisis report.

“The report demonstrates the costs associated with the inability of the Central Valley to produce a viable crop due to zero or minimal water allocation.

As the actions of the shortsighted agencies manifest themselves into reality, the cost will be borne for years to come until permanent crop plantings are replaced and production is regained. Production, revenue, and jobs are in abeyance for several years to come.”

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Federal Government announced that the production of food and fiber in California are no longer important.

Statement by CCM President Joel Nelsen

Today the Federal Government announced that the production of food and fiber in the nation’s number one agricultural state and the highest producing agricultural counties are no longer important.

Two agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service have determined they can’t create a solution that allows an affordable food supply to be the strength of this nation.

They tie themselves up in knots relative to “what if” scenarios while trying to convey a desire to create a solution when in fact their solution has been and continues to be zero.

Over a million acre feet of water was added to storage since the Armageddon announcement earlier this year and yet not one drop can be made available to senior water right holders thereby forcing the Eastside of the San Joaquin Valley to go dry?

As managers they are woefully inadequate to be a positive influence inasmuch they have repeatedly allowed water to be released or not captured in the past several months that could have lessened the extensive nature of this drought.

They made the decisions to lose water; they made the decisions to keep water; and they made the decisions that negatively impact thousands of people all the while occupying an office hundreds or thousands of miles away from the impact center.

Ronald Reagan was right: “Government is the problem.” Now will the state and the Brown Administration allow the federal government to create a food, fiber, and economic disaster in this state and thus follow the leadership model perfected by two federal agencies?

Or will they and our elected officials not allow bureaucracies to do nothing and subsequently provide a solution path that undoes this unprecedented decision?

Former President Dwight Eisenhower was also correct when he stated it is real easy to farm when you are thousands of miles away from the property which for a bureaucrat is piece of paper and their plow is a pencil.

“This has to be one of the more ridiculous statements and decision ever made by any administration.”

Central SJV Growers Frustrated Re: 100% Water Allocations in Northern California

Cannon Michael: There is a Complete Lack of Common Sense

Water Allocations Unfairly Distribute Suffering in the Central Valley

 

Feather River growers in Northern California have 100 percent water allocations and it’s very frustrating to Central Valley Farmers.

“True, it’s a drought year but there have been opportunities to get water south of the Delta that have been completely blown by mismanagement, over-regulation, a complete lack of common sense, and lack of understanding what the real needs are,” said Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer in Merced County.

“The California Water Resources Control Board, and the Bureau of Reclamation have sent more than 1.8 million acre feet of water out the Golden Gate only for a possible need for fish. When you have such a dramatic need for humans, it’s just insanity; and at a some point, it all has to catch up with a lot of people,” said Michael, who has had to set aside 15 percent of his farm due to no water.

“The people who are regulating and the people who are legislating have insulation from this for a little while, but it eventually is going to catch them,” Michael said. “The problem for me is that these regulations hurt the poorest of the people and the minority community, who are already having a tough time.”

“These regulations and low water allocations are taking away valuable fresh food and milk, and all the things people need for life. It’s taking away jobs and will displace thousands of workers who will have to get in food lines to survive. And this is completely unnecessary,” said Michael.

“There could have been way more water allocations exported safely this year. There were no fish at the pumps and we have the data to prove it,” said Michael.

“We had good storms in February, March and April, but the majority of that water went out the Bay; it wasn’t even close,” said Michael.

“There are too many left-leaning decisions from the California Water Resources Control Board to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, which made a recent ruling that hurt agriculture, agreeing that the Bureau of Reclamation did not consider the safety of the Delta Smelt several years ago when it exporter water south. And then on top of everything, Governor Brown pulls the funding from ag education. It is a constant barrage against agriculture, and when will it ever be enough?” asked Michael.

“There is no respect for California agriculture. There are so many people spinning lies about our industry. Do they want all the specialty crops that they enjoy eating coming from other countries? Again, it’s insanity,” he said.

And Michael said the farmer is always, always held accountable while the environmental community is never held accountable. “There is no accounting for what they use the water allocation for when it’s released it to the ocean. There is no report on what good it’s doing. They are not at all held to the same standards as California Farmers.”