Water Board Proceeds With Water Grab for Environment

40 Percent Water Grab for Environment Moves Forward

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The board members of the State Water Resource Control Board voted Dec. 12  to proceed with their unimpaired flows proposal on the Tuolumne, Stanislaus, and Merced Rivers—putting farmers and communities in peril of losing a big part of their water resources because of this water grab.

They’re calling for upwards of 40 percent unimpaired flows from the three tributary rivers flowing into the San Joaquin River flowing into the Delta to increase flows for salmon and other species.

“It’s going to have devastating and unavoidable consequences to our customers,” said Melissa Williams, Public Affairs spokeswomen for Modesto Irrigation District. “It’ll affect not only our farmers but also our urban community.”

Melissa Williams, Public Affairs for Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District treats and delivers and wholesales water to the city of Modesto, so homes and businesses will also be affected.

“We’re still evaluating the possible impacts and what that means for different supplies and rates,” Williams said.

“We’re disappointed in the State Water Resources Control Board’s action because at the direction of the governor and also the State Water Board, there was strong encouragement of voluntary agreement discussions. Modesto Irrigation District, together with our partners Turlock Irrigation District in the city and county of San Francisco, engaged in good faith, voluntary agreement discussions the last couple of months,” Williams explained.

The water districts have worked collaboratively to develop a framework for the Tuolumne River that not only would balance the needs of customers and the environment but also included an offer of early implementation of river flow and non-flow measures, such as habitat restoration and predation suppression measures.

“Despite our significant progress in putting this voluntary agreement framework together and presenting it to the State Water Board, they still decided to move forward with their plan,” Williams said.

Of course, the water districts plan to continue to fight the proposal and will take all measures to protect their water supply in those communities that are served.

“We’re still evaluating the State Water Board’s approved resolution, and the action they took and the impacts it will have. We continue to advocate for a durable solution that can achieve sustainability and reliability for our environment, our customers, and overall communities,” Williams said.

The Water Districts are frustrated with the State Water Board because the board ignored all suggestions to help the environment without taking so much water from the rivers.

“We have approximately 30 days to challenge their decision after they file what they call a notice of determination. So over the next month, we’ll be analyzing what they agreed to … and taking the appropriate actions necessary, including litigation,” Williams explained.

The State Water Board did include language in their approved resolution that directed their staff to evaluate the Tuolumne River and voluntary agreement framework and come back with an analysis by March 1, 2019.

“But again, we’re prepared to take any appropriate actions necessary to protect our water supply in our communities for our customers,” Williams said.

The economic impacts are devastating in Stanislaus County alone.

“Through various studies that we’ve done, our water supply supports close to $4 billion worth of economics, in the region. And of course, the Stanislaus and Merced River areas will have similar devastating impacts,” Williams said.

And even San Francisco consumers are impacted. Because a significant source of their water comes from the Tuolumne River, any cutbacks in water supply will affect two million people in the Bay Area.

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President’s Order Restores Western Water Supplies

Farm Bureau, CA Farm Water Coalition, Family Farm Alliance and Western Growers Support Order

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Last week, President Trump provided welcome relief to Western farmers, cities, rural communities and wildlife refuges that have struggled under water supply rules that are long overdue for an update. Prioritizing national interest and the value of California food production, the president’s order requires the re-consultation of the biological opinions to be completed and fully implemented by August 2019.

The deadline will bring to a close the review of rules governing the long-term operation of the federal Central Valley Project and California State Water Project. The review has been underway since August 2016, a process the order requires to be concluded by Aug. 31, 2019.

The president’s action fulfills his campaign commitment to help solve the state’s water supply shortages and will greatly benefit Central Valley communities and the environment. Since 1992, water supply restrictions have caused severe economic consequences for farms and the people who depend on them for work. Many of the state’s most disadvantaged communities have suffered due to scarce water supplies.temperance flat dam

Wildlife refuges that are a critical component of the Pacific Flyway have had insufficient water to meet the needs of millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, songbirds and endangered animals in large parts of the Central Valley and the Klamath Basin. An ongoing review of the rules governing these critical water supplies only delays the ability of these important areas to recover.

This action will also help address water shortages that have occurred across the West as the result of federal regulations overseen by multiple agencies. It offers hope to farmers and ranchers served by federal water projects in the Pacific Northwest, including the Columbia Basin and the Klamath Basin. The president’s order places the responsibility of operating the federal water projects with the Department of the Interior, to be supported by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The action prohibits any impacts to threatened or endangered species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

This issue has been scrutinized by the Executive Branch as far back as 2011. At that time, President Obama observed that the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. Those overlapping jurisdictions have only slowed efforts to help the fish.

A committee convened by the National Research Council also studied this matter a few years ago. The NRC found that the lack of a systematic, well-framed overall analysis between the two services is “a serious scientific deficiency, and it likely is related to the ESA’s practical limitations as to the scope of actions that can or must be considered in a single biological opinion.”

Improved coordination between federal agencies will promote more efficient, effective and coordinated management of all ESA responsibilities for anadromous and freshwater fish in Western watersheds, from the highest reaches of our headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.

“This action is an important and common-sense move that will benefit Western farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on federal water projects,” said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance. “It’s a practical and assertive change to Western water management and species recovery that our membership strongly supports.”

California’s GOP congressional delegation from the Central Valley played an important role in identifying the problems in the state’s water system and worked closely with the Trump administration to produce a solution that is consistent with federal law and will improve the water delivery system.

“There’s no question that the Central Valley has lagged behind the economic recovery experienced in other parts of the state. We’re optimistic that these changes will not only help improve water supplies for farms, farm-related businesses, and disadvantaged rural communities, they will provide the incentive to put science-based solutions to work to help recover iconic native fish species that have suffered under the existing regulatory approach,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“This is a common-sense improvement to a process that has been abused in the past by regulatory agencies seeking to impose a scientifically-unsound regime on water users that ultimately, by design, de-irrigates some of the highest quality farmland in the world. This move by the Administration simply ensures that the process of revising the rules governing Delta water operations will be less vulnerable to regulatory abuse,” said Tom Nassif, president of the Western Growers Association.

“Implementation of the Endangered Species Act can be better for both species and people, and the president’s action moves us in that direction,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said. “It’s time to grow beyond the culture of conflict that has governed California water for too long. We need streamlined solutions that benefit species and that benefit both the farmers who provide California-grown food and farm products and everyone who depends on those products.”

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Nisei Farmers League Grateful for President Trump’s Executive Order on Water

Nisei Farmers League: It Was A Bold Move 

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of the Nisei Farmers League thanked President Trump for his Executive Order last week, which will streamline federal regulations and improve water reliability.

“We want to thank President Trump, Congressman Devin Nunes, and the entire Valley delegation for their efforts that will improve the lives of many, especially in the San Joaquin Valley,” Cunha stated. 

There will be a strict timetable for rewriting the biological opinion that caused millions of acre-feet of water that would have been used in the San Joaquin Valley to be flushed out to the ocean. This action prioritizes building water storage projects that are badly needed.

This bold move is a welcome announcement to farmers, families, and communities throughout California who have suffered through many dry years and have been harmed by the Endangered Species Act, which reduced much-needed water supplies to restore fish populations.

“I would like to thank Mario Santoyo and the California Latino Water Coalition for leading the ‘March for Water’ in 2009 that started the ‘turn on the pump’ effort to bring additional surface water supplies to our Valley. It has taken 9 years to get to this point, but we never gave up,” Cunha said.

It is a good day for California, for our hard-working families, and for our communities.

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Irrigation Industry Needs Help

Promoting Efficient Irrigation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

What will affect the irrigation industry in the future? California Ag Today asks Brent Mecham, the industry development director with the Irrigation Association located in Fairfax, Virginia. Promoting effective irrigation is important.

“I work on the things that are going to affect our industry or the future and trying to position ourselves so we can continue to promote efficient irrigation,” Mecham said.

His occupation includes working on codes and standards, new technologies, technical programs, and educational programs. This is becoming popular among policymakers.

Everyone in the world is benefiting from irrigation. Everybody in the world is benefiting from water whether they know it or not.

“It’s something that affects everybody’s life, and they will not notice it until there’s no lettuce for your salad or no tomatoes. So irrigation affects people all around the world,” Mecham said.

There is more demand on water resources in property. Irrigation is very important for a state like California.

“There is more demand on water resources than ever before, and a lot of places where it is very sensitive, like in California, and the water shortages are becoming prevalent,” Mecham explained.

Farmers have been doing their part to be more profitable in their operations. Cities, too, need to do their part to prevent water running down gutters, which is not efficient.

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Denouncing Non-Funding of Temperance Flat Dam Project

Officials Not Happy About Decision

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Steve Worthley is a Tulare County Supervisor and president of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, the applicant of the Temperance Flat Dam project.

“We are five counties, but when you include the water districts and the cities that are a part of our JPA, we truly cover the entire San Joaquin, and it’s four million people,” Worthley said. “The four million people of the San Joaquin Valley needs to be heard not only in Sacramento but throughout the state. We are important and what we produce in this valley is important not only to our valley, to the state, but to the world. We cannot afford to stop this process. We must go forward. We look forward to working with our federal partners, our private investors, but this project will proceed.”

Buddy Mendes Speaking at Press Conference

Buddy Mendes is a Fresno County Supervisor and a farmer of various crops in Fresno County. He is also a member of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, who said, “I have witnessed a mugging by the commission. They mugged the people of the valley in a criminal act. They’ve virtually given away their responsibility to the Fish and Wildlife Service, who had a license to steal from the four million people in the valley. They took from them. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. ”

Former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry Speaking.

The former mayor of Fresno, Alan Autry, who worked early on regarding the Temperance Flat Dam Project, said,“I want to see emails, and I want to see meeting schedules between those commissioners. We have a right to see those. Who came into those offices? What was discussed right before that vote? We will show you ours. If there’s legal recourse to do that, I would urge it to be done. Because the light of day is their worst enemy.

And the big area where the water commission staff says where Temperance Flat project fell short was on the ecosystem restoration, and it came down to a model, and the model that the applicants followed was the same model used by the Bureau of Reclamation and state, explained Mario Santoyo the executive director of the Water Infrastructure Authority. “And we asked them, ‘If you do not like the model we were using, then give us a model to use.’ And they did not have an answer.”

Santoyo said that he did not think that the Water Commission’s staff even used a model to make a determination.

“I do not think so. From my perspective, they were already fixed. They knew the answers and whatever we produced wasn’t going to be the answers that they wanted,” Santoyo said.

Mario Santoyo, has been working on the Temperance Flat Project for nearly 20 years.

And it was determined that California Fish and Wildlife was doing all the science based on the numbers that the Temperance Flat applicants gave to the California Water commissioners.

“Fish and Wildlife were only supposed to be consulted. That’s what the legislation says, “ Santoyo said. “They were given the complete authority to make the decision. That’s where the problem is, is that they were only supposed to be consulted but not given ultimate power.”

California Assemblymember Jim Patterson speaking.

And the California Fish and Wildlife has never been a friend to agriculture, Santoyo said. “Given all the actions that have occurred regarding all the shortages of water that now are hitting us, whether it’s in the Delta where there are the tributaries. Yeah, it would be difficult to say they’ve been our friends.”

California Assemblymember, Jim Patterson said in the words of Winston Churchill to a graduating class. “‘It was probably one of the shortest commencement addresses in history,’ I think is our rally and cry. Never, never, never, never, ever give up. We’re not giving up because our future is dependent upon this and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do the very best we can to save, store, move and use water, in one of the most effective and efficient way possible.”

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To Feed the Nation, Farmers Need Water

California Water Alliance is Good for All

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Founded in 2009, the California Water Alliance is the leading educational voice and authority on California water. The Alliance is a 501c4 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for the water needs of California families, cities, businesses, farms, and the environment. The California Water Alliance is working to assist the farming community in multiple ways. Being transparent is at the forefront.

William Bourdeau

William Bourdeau is executive VP of Harris Farms and a board member of the Alliance. The alliance is telling the truth and being transparent, and that is very important, he said.

Bourdeau explained that California farmers, need water to feed the nation, and it is important to take an interest in the agricultural industry.

“The farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are the most regulated, the most skilled, and the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “Water and food are critical to any nation, and it’s not only important so we can provide the food for our children, but it’s important for national security reasons.”

“And this is not a California-centric issue. We grow food that people eat all across the country, and so everybody needs to take an interest in this and understand that it’s important that we have a vibrant agricultural industry because, without it, we will become vulnerable,” Bourdeau said.

The understanding of what factors are associated with farming in California is important for the general public to be educated. Anyone that is consuming safe, affordable, nutritious food needs to better understand where that food comes from and what effort is required to produce it.

“This isn’t easy. There are many, many factors that increase the challenge and risk associated with growing food. It’s capital intensive. It requires water. There are many, many opportunities to fail and we’re underappreciated and over-regulated,” Bourdeau said.

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State Must Use Caution on Groundwater Management

By Danny Merkley; Ag Alert 

In the face of the California water crisis, many in the state Legislature appear to be rushing toward new groundwater management policy that could threaten certain property rights and the overlying groundwater rights of landowners.

Generally, legislation that has been introduced would require groundwater basins to be managed “sustainably” by local entities but would authorize the state government to step in if the local entities do not adopt management plans with certain components by a specified time.

Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations continue to urge the Legislature to proceed with caution on the issue of groundwater management. Failure to take adequate time to address this complex issue could lead to huge, long-term impacts on farms and on state and local economies.

People’s livelihoods and jobs are definitely at stake. All involved in the effort to better manage groundwater need to focus on future ramifications of the various authorities and directives being considered.

Groundwater management is as diverse and complex as the 515 distinct basins and sub-basins in California. For that reason, Farm Bureau believes groundwater must be managed locally or regionally, while protecting overlying property rights. To their credit, most of the pending measures do provide for local management, but working out the details is certainly a challenge.

With members of the Legislature feel the need to do something about groundwater, Farm Bureau is working with other agricultural stakeholders and decision-makers to identify a path forward toward a reasonable and workable groundwater management system.

We have repeatedly stated that the reason we face groundwater challenges is not due to a lack of regulation, but because of lack of availability of surface water. It must be recognized that the state’s increased reliance on groundwater for growing food, fiber and other agricultural commodities has resulted not just from drought, but from restrictive environmental laws, court decisions, regulatory actions and “flashier” river systems, as watersheds receive rain instead of snow.

All of those factors have reduced availability of surface water—surface water that would help recharge groundwater basins and allow farmers to reduce their reliance on groundwater. Farm Bureau strongly believes groundwater recharge should be established as a beneficial use of water.

The reasonable and beneficial use of groundwater is a basic property right under California law. These rights must be recognized and respected under any groundwater-management framework. This does not mean that areas with significant overdraft issues should be ignored, but that in dealing with these areas, current groundwater rights must be protected.

It also needs to be recognized that restricting the use of groundwater has broad economic consequences for agricultural communities and the farm families, farmworkers and the related support, processing and supply enterprises in those communities. Drastic changes in groundwater policy will impact land values and the ability for farmers and ranchers to secure adequate financing, both for land acquisition and for operating expenses.

Appropriate protection of groundwater resources for future generations must be carefully thought out, not rushed through the legislative process to meet arbitrary deadlines. There’s no good time for hurried legislation, but during a critical drought year, when canals and ditches are dry and groundwater is the lifeline for farms, is absolutely the wrong time.

Please contact your representatives in the state Legislature to urge them to proceed carefully on new groundwater legislation, and to take the time necessary to adequately deliberate the issues and to identify and balance the benefits and risks going forward.

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Cal Ag Today Founder Recognized at Journalism Award Ceremony

Written by: Monique Bienvenue – Cal Ag Today Associate Editor 

As the Senior Intern and the current Associate Editor of Cal Ag Today, I’d like to personally congratulate my colleague, Patrick Cavanaugh, for being awarded at the 20th Annual Journalism Award Ceremony last night.

Patrick is not only hard working; he’s extremely dedicated and passionate about promoting all issues pertaining to the California agricultural industry. As somebody who understands the importance of agricultural literacy, I’m extremely proud of Patrick’s accomplishments and cannot wait to see what’s in store for Cal Ag Today and its impact on the agriculture industry.

The following Press Release has been provided by the Fresno County Farm Bureau:

FCFB announced the recipients of its 20th Annual Journalism Award Ceremony at the organization’s Celebrating Friends of Agriculture social tonight.

Recognized for excellence in agriculture reporting were:

Print/Web Print Media

First place: Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee, “For Valley citrus growers, this season has 2 natural disasters,” March 2, 2014 – a comprehensive story about Valley citrus growers, specifically in the Porterville area, who are suffering the challenges brought on by the drought. The article touches on the impacts both farmers and consumers will face due to the drought.

Television/Radio/Web Audio-Visual Media

First place: A.J. Fox, Justin Sacher, Dave Spaher and Heidi Waggoner, KSEE, “High and Dry” series, April 21-24, 2014 – a four-part series focusing on the water struggles California farmers and consumers are encountering due to the drought; addresses potential solutions to the issues.

Farm Trade Print/Television/Radio/Web Media

First place: Patrick Cavanaugh, Pacific Nut Producer, “West Side water series,” Aug. 2013, Nov. 2013, April 2014 – a three-part series that examines Valley farmers and their agricultural journey through California’s water crisis, including the challenges they encounter along the way and what may be in store for the future.

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