Breaking News: The 5 Percenters May Not Receive All of Their Water Allocation

5 Percenters and Endangered Fish May Both Lose 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Will the 5 Percenters—the Federal water users in California who were restricted by a 95% water allocation reduction this year—actually receive the promised 5% allocation? This scenario follows a more-than-average winter rainfall and snowfall throughout the state.

Ryan Jacobsenexecutive director and CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said, “arguably it’s turned out to be much worse. Right now, for the initial 5% allocation to even be questionable right now is just absolutely insane. It all boils down to the amount of water being held up in Lake Shasta for fish purposes, which has put a major stranglehold on what’s happening down here at this point,” noted Jacobsen.

Central Valley Project (CVP) Water
Central Valley Project (CVP) Water

At Shasta Reservoir, a keystone reservoir of the Central Valley Project, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation essentially discharged flood releases earlier this year just to make room for the water that was expected to come in.  Shasta now stands at a above average full for this time of year, because the Feds are holding all the water for release for salmon later.

This is part of the plan to have cold water available to release for the salmon. And Shasta actually has 30 percent more cold water than what they thought, and water leaders are pushing hard to get the Feds to release it for agriculture.

San Luis Reservoir dead pool
San Luis Reservoir at Dead Pool Status

And San Luis Reservoir is  at a dead-pool status, which insures no more water can be sent south from that reservoirDead pool means no more water can be drawn from San Luis Reservoir, which does not bode well.

Jacobsen said, “This means our federal contractors’ 5% is in question. And that’s the irony: we were looking at such a strong year—or at least an average year [of precipitation]—and ending up now where our meager water supply is in jeopardy. This is incomprehensible and inexcusable from the federal side.”

Shasta has both federal and state water, and the federal side is essentially nothing at this point, explained Jacobsen. “Farmers rely upon San Luis Reservoir water for July and August irrigation, “and the water is essentially gone at this point,” he said. “It just shows you the major mismanagement we’re seeing from the federal side and the inability to capture water even when it is available, and not at the demise of any of these species.”

Jacobsen reiterated, “Back when the precipitation was falling [last winter], water was available at some extraordinarily high levels; yet, we never saw the increase in pumping that we would have expected under the normal conditions. “Of course, we’ve seen less pumping this year for the farmers and the cities south of the Delta,” noted Jacobsen. “During the times of the rainfall this year, it was essentially excuse, after excuse, after excuse. Some newer excuses pertained to why the pumps were not operating or operating at a very reduced capacity,” explained Jacobsen.

“The situation has been frustrating for a couple of years, but the anger continues to build because right now, this is not a ‘Mother Nature’ issue. It is completely a man-made regulatory drought that is, again, just incompetency at its best.”

“When we talk about the water stored behind Shasta [Dam] right now, really it is for the fish,” noted Jacobsen. “The most-watched fishery, at this point, is the salmon fishery. We’re in year four of this drought, but when it comes to the critical side of fish, the salmon essentially operates in three-year cycles. The last two years have been arguably two of the worst years on record for them, and this potential third year is a kind of make-it-or-break-it for salmon fisheries in the Delta region.”

Unfortunately, per Jacobsen, many decisions have been based on guesstimates. “There are a lot of folks who think we need to reserve all of this cold water for a fishery that may or may not be responding to what has been done in the past for this [contracted irrigation] water that has been given up for those purposes,” Jacobsen explained. “Right now, I think we’re doing a lot of experiments at the cost of jobs and employment, and most importantly, the farms here in the San Joaquin Valley. The frustration is that science is really not playing a big part in it. A lot of decisions are just simply, ‘We think we should be doing this versus what the science actually says we should be doing.’”

Jacobsen’s leading frustration is that all that water taken from farmers and given to fish has not helped the fish at all. In fact, the smelt and salmon numbers continue to decline. “I talk about growing frustration and anger from so many folks in the last couple of years… specifically because it hasn’t made a difference,” said Jacobsen. “An exorbitant amount of water has been given up for these fisheries, [endangered fish populations] continue to decline and crash, and as we’ve been saying for years, it is beyond time to look at just the water exporters,” he added.

Jacobsen maintains other stressors should be seriously investigated. “Many other issues taken place in the Delta should be pulled into play here, but again the regulators and the environmentalists continue to look only at the exporters as the sole issue for fish decline. There are so many other factors out there that need to be looked at,” he said.


Highly recommenced reading: “We are the 5 percenters, stretching our water supplies to get by,” by Joe Del BosqueContributing writer, The Orange County Register, July 14, 2016.

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)