Feinstein Urges President to Increase Delta Pumping

Feinstein Calls on President to Direct Federal Agencies to Increase Delta Pumping

 

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) TODAY called on President Obama to direct federal agencies “to maximize pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the maximum extent allowed under the Endangered Species Act and biological opinions.”

Feinstein wrote in her letter to the president: “I believe that this year’s El Niño has highlighted a fundamental problem with our water system: A dogmatic adherence to a rigid set of operating criteria that continues to handcuff our ability to rebuild our reserves. We need a more nimble system. That’s why I included $150 million the past two years in the Energy and Water budget—so that decisions would be based on real-time data, rather than relying on intuition.”

Full text of the letter follows:

March 24, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I ask you to direct the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service to maximize pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the maximum extent allowed under the Endangered Species Act and biological opinions. Water flows in the Sacramento River are the highest they have been in four years. Just last week, flows in the Sacramento were as high as 76,000 cubic feet per second. We’ve only seen flows that high twice in the past ten years, and not once during this drought. Yet the Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service are now considering reducing pumping due to concerns about larval smelt.

Despite these high flows, rather than pumping as much water as possible without undue harm to the smelt, pumping levels remained constant for the past month (see Chart B). Coupled with the fact that only three individual smelt were caught at the pumps this year, and that the most recent trawls revealed no Delta smelt in the south Delta, it seems to me that the agencies operate the system in a manner that may be contrary to the available data, culled from what is already a limited monitoring regime. I understand that the biological opinions impose a ceiling of -5,000 cubic feet per second, but the agencies have the discretion to exercise at least some flexibility to pump above that level.

To put this all in context, between January 1 and March 6 last year, 1.5 million acre-feet of water flowed through the Delta and 745,000 acre-feet were pumped out. During the same period this year, 5.5 million acre-feet of water flowed through the Delta, but only 852,000 acre-feet were pumped out (see Chart A). If we can’t increase pumping during an El Niño year, then when else can we?

The agencies have also put California and the communities that depend on this water in a Catch-22: Pumping is reduced when there are concerns about the presence of smelt caught as far away as 17 miles from the pumps. Yet agencies will also reduce pumping due to the absence of smelt, based on the idea that historically low smelt populations make detection difficult.

I believe that this year’s El Niño has highlighted a fundamental problem with our water system: A dogmatic adherence to a rigid set of operating criteria that continues to handcuff our ability to rebuild our reserves. We need a more nimble system. That’s why I included $150 million the past two years in the Energy and Water budget—so that decisions would be based on real-time data, rather than relying on intuition.

There are real-world consequences to the decisions being made in the Delta. 69 communities in the Southern San Joaquin Valley reported significant water supply and quality issues. And land is caving, bridges collapsing, as a result of overdrawn ground wells and subsidence. That’s why we need to make sure we’re using every possible tool to make the right choices. Basing pumping decisions on better science and real-time monitoring is the least we can do.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

###

Westlands on Drought Relief Act

Westlands Water District Statement on the Introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015

FRESNO, CA – Westlands Water District is encouraged TODAY by the introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015. The State is facing unprecedented drought conditions, and the water supply shortages caused by four years of extraordinary dry conditions have been exacerbated by the restrictions imposed on the operations of the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project under federal law.

The introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 is an important step in the enactment of legislation to provide much-needed relief for the public water agencies that receive water from these projects and for the people, farms, and businesses they serve. There are great similarities between this bill and H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which passed in the House of Representatives on July 16, 2015. However, there are also great differences.

Westlands looks forward to quick passage of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 by the Senate and to subsequent discussions in conference to reconcile the two bills. Through its work with Senator Feinstein and Members of the House of Representatives, Westlands knows that these policymakers are genuinely interested in working together with the District and other interested entities (a) to find a meaningful legislative solution to the chronic water supply shortages that have devastated the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the State and (b) to provide effective means of protecting at-risk species. The District looks forward to working with them to find common-sense solutions that serve the interests of all Californians.

Phone Calls Needed Now

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND MAKE AS MANY CALLS AS YOU CAN!

CALL all Senators to support the WESTERN WATER AND AMERICAN FOOD SECURITY ACT OF 2015

WE ARE DEDICATING THE REST OF THE DAY TO MAKE THESE CALLS.

OUR LIVES DEPEND ON THIS!

 

H.R.2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 has passed the House and is on the way to the Senate.

MY JOB Depends on Ag urges each and every one of us to call all U.S. Senators and tell them we want a YES vote.

  • Here’s a template letter to email.
  • Call these Senators, starting with CA and moving onward.
  • Say you are calling regarding HR 2898 and want the Senator to vote YES!! They may ask for your zip code and say they will pass along your concern.

 

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) TODAY released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the Western Water and American Food Security Act:

“The House today passed a drought bill that included some useful short-term provisions as well as some provisions that would violate environmental law. While I cannot support the bill as passed, I remain hopeful we can come to an agreement that can advance through both chambers.

“House Republicans are right that we need to increase the flexibility of the state’s water delivery infrastructure. We need to facilitate water transfers and maximize water pumping without violating environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act or biological opinions, and we must do this using updated science and real-time monitoring. Provisions to accomplish this were in the bill the Senate unanimously passed last year, and I plan to include them again this year with added environmental protections.

“I also believe we must look closely at ways to support water recycling, storage, desalination and groundwater replenishment projects. There are already 15 ocean desalination projects and 65 water recycling projects being considered throughout California. These types of projects—as well as building or increasing reservoir capacity—must be a part of any long-term solution.

“To get a bill through the Senate and the House we’ll need to include provisions that benefit the entire West and help support the development of alternative water infrastructure. If the climate continues to warm, as I believe it will, these alternatives will be key.”

California Congressmembers Urge Water Board to Reverse Decision

California legislators in Washington, D.C., issued a bicameral, bipartisan letter TODAY requesting the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) reverse last week’s decision of its Executive Director, Thomas Howard, to deny the joint Central Valley and State Water Projects’ request to more equitably share limited fresh water outflow into the Pacific Ocean.

Separately, Congressional House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued the following explanation TODAY via Kyle Lombardi, his Legislative Director:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources submitted a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) to the California State Water Resources Control Board (the State Board) on January 23rd to revise certain standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to allow increased pumping to send more water, including from recent storms in the northern part of the state, to the Valley given the drought  crisis.

Unfortunately, the initial decision by the State Board’s executive director last week rejected the important part of the TUCP that would have allowed increased pumping because of concerns about impacts to smelt and salmon.  Congressman McCarthy strongly feels this was the wrong decision, particularly given Federal and state fish agencies (i.e. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife) all supported the TUCP, including the provisions to allow increased pumping.

Accordingly, Representatives Kevin McCarthy, David G. Valadao, Devin Nunes, Ken Calvert, Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, and Senator Dianne Feinstein sent the letter below to State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus demanding that the Water Board reverse their executive director’s decision and approve the TUCP in full to allow increased pumping. Here are a few passages:

Our constituents have told us that some do not even have water for basic necessities like cooking, drinking, and showering, and that some are abandoning their homes and moving out of State.

Many Central Valley towns have unemployment rates that are triple or quadruple that of the state average of 7 percent due to significantly reduced employment in the agricultural sector.

When five agencies – including three tasked with protecting fish – have already assessed and concurred that the export adjustment would not cause harms beyond those allowed under the most stringent statutes and biological opinions, we believe the Executive Director should not have rejected the agencies’ shared assessment and denied the export adjustment in the TUCP without a compelling rationale for taking such an extraordinary action.

We find the Executive Director’s reasons for denial unpersuasive and unsupported by the facts that have been carefully evaluated by five State and Federal agencies.

McCarthy encourages constituents to express similar support for the TUCP and increased pumping levels by contacting the Water Board via:

-Phone: 916-341-5616

-Email:  info@waterboards.ca.gov

-In person: Public Water Board Workshop at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 18, 2015, in the Byron Sher Auditorium Joe Serna, Jr.-Cal/EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, in Sacramento, CA.

For more information, email contact Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at http://www.kevinmccarthy.house.gov/.Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_1 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_2 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_3 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_4 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_5 Drought Congressional Ltr to SWRCB re TUCP 021115_Page_6

Senate Drought Bill Passes, Westlands Expresses Appreciation

This evening, the United States Senate passed, by unanimous consent, the Emergency Drought Relief Act, a bill to provide federal and state water agencies with additional flexibility to deliver water where it is most needed during California’s historic drought. The legislation, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), must now be reconciled with a separate bill passed by the House of Representatives.Dianne_Feinstein_official_Senate_photo_2

“Getting this bill passed was a true team effort.” Senator Feinstein credited the individuals above and added,  “Senator Murkowski, ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, displayed true bipartisanship in working across the aisle to address this disaster.”

Other cosponsors of the drought bill include Senators Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Senator Feinstein commented, “The drought in California is devastating and shows no signs of letting up. Snowpack is at 6 percent of its normal level and the state’s largest reservoirs are at or below half capacity. Congress must take immediate action to help alleviate the suffering of farmers, workers, businesses and communities throughout the state.”

Westlands Water District Round LogoWestlands Water District General Manager Thomas Birmingham issued the following statement on the drought bill passage:

“Passage of this legislation by the Senate marks an important milestone in the effort by members of California’s congressional delegation from both sides of the aisle to provide some relief from the disastrous human and economic impacts of drought and restrictions imposed on operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project under the Endangered Species Act and other federal regulations.

The fact that this bill passed by unanimous consent is a testament to the hard work of Senator Feinstein, with support from Senator Boxer and members of the House of Representatives, to explain to senators from other states the urgent need for and the importance of this legislation to the people of California.”

“Westlands Water District expresses its great appreciation for the hard work of Senator Feinstein and her colleagues in obtaining passage of this legislation. We look forward to working with Senator Feinstein and Members of the House in their efforts to reconcile this legislation with legislation that has already passed in the House.

It is Westlands’ hope that this process can begin quickly, and we are confident that Senator Feinstein and her colleagues in the House will be able to identify common sense solutions that will restore water supplies, while providing reasonable protections for fish.

The tens-of-thousands of people who otherwise will be unemployed and the welfare of people around the state depend on a meaningful compromise being reached quickly.”

 

Photo Credit: Westlands Water District Ranch on loopnet.com

 

Strengths of Sens. Boxer, Feinstein May Help Conquer Drought

Source: Elizabeth Held; Washington Bureau 

When it comes to water issues, stereotypes of California’s two Democratic senators ring true.

Barbara Boxer is the firecracker, guarding environmental protections, while Dianne Feinstein is the negotiator, working with Republicans and Democrats.

But those differences might make the pair particularly suited to get a California drought relief bill approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives and signed by President Barack Obama.

Environmentalists have sway in the Democratic-controlled Senate. GOP support is crucial in the Republican-controlled House.

Republicans advocate rolling back environmental regulations to provide more water to farmers in the Central Valley and points south. Democrats want agencies to make more water available while maintaining environmental protections.

Despite their philosophical differences, Feinstein and Boxer were able to agree on the drought-relief bill and jointly introduced the legislation in February, calling for, among other things, agencies to use as much flexibility as possible when enforcing water pumping regulations.

“Everybody in California has a direct stake in drought relief,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. The urgency of the situation plus the skills that Feinstein and Boxer demonstrate, Pitney said, might make this the year Congress will pass a bill.

“Their strengths are complementary,” Pitney said. “Boxer is good at mobilizing the liberal base. Feinstein is good at working with Republicans.”

Republicans in the House of Representatives, though, criticize Boxer and Feinstein for moving too slowly. In February, the House passed it’s own drought relief bill that relaxed environmental protections.

Matt Sparks, spokesman for the House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, said, “The onus is on the Senate Democrat majority to put forth California water legislation that can pass the full Senate.

“If 60 votes are required to move this process forward, then Senate legislation to provide relief to California farmers and families must be able to attract necessary bipartisan support.”

Boxer is viewed as the liberal from Marin County, said Steve Erie, a professorat UC San Diego, who has written extensively on California water. Feinstein, he said, “is a deal maker.”

DIFFERENT APPROACHES

Feinstein and Boxer have a history of being on different pages for managing California’s water.

In 2001, Feinstein introduced a bill with Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, that would have streamlined the review process for certain California water infrastructure projects. Boxer and Rep. George Miller, R-Martinez, with help from the environmental community, killed the effort.

Friant Farmers Insist Lawmakers Hammer Out Water Solution

The passage and letter below from the Lower Tule and Pixley Irrigation Districts was released yesterday by Families Protecting the Valley. These districts are Friant contractors and key members of the Friant Water Authority. They are recommending a revision of the San Joaquin River Restoration program to accomplish a ‘live river’ but not decimate the farms and communities of the East Side that have relied on this surface water for decades.

This is a well written and courageous letter, and the directors listed on the correspondence and General Manager, Mr. Dan Vink, deserve praise. We implore the other Friant Water Authority contractors to quickly send a similar letter reflecting the same views, and vote to have the Friant Water Authority to do the same. This issue will be decided in two weeks after the federal legislators return from their recess.

It is rare when we in the Central Valley have an opportunity to be a part of the discussion especially when something positive is being discussed concerning our water use.

In addition to Friant contactors, other organizations (e.g., farm bureaus) that are involved in agriculture or are dependent on this water (e.g., cities, counties, chamber of commerce, etc.) need to also send in letters of support.

Friant Water Authority

Several of our directors have been involved in this effort, and it is a long standing recommendation of FPV to do exactly what is recommended.

 

The Honorable Senator Dianne Feinstein

United States Senate

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Congressman David Valadao

Washington, D.C. Office

1004 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Re:  Support for S. 2198 and HR 3964

 

Dear Senator Feinstein and Congressman Valadao,

The Boards of Directors of the Lower Tule River and Pixley Irrigation District wholeheardedly support S.2198(California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014) and HR3964(Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act). Specific to S.2198, we urge passage by the Senate immediately so these bills can be discussed in a joint process with Senate and House representatives.

More important than any of the words in these bills, we support, and insist you and your colleagues begin the process of rolling up your sleeves and working together to hammer out a balanced solution on California water issues. We are in a serious crisis and the partisan bickering, finger pointing blame game back home is doing nothing to solve the problems. It is nonsense and serves no purpose other than to divide the good people of the Valley. We urge you to rise above the petty noise and hammer out a solution. The water supply reductions we are facing this year are having devastating consequences made worse daily by the inaction of the agencies and Congress to find a balanced approach to distributing water throughout California.

We must have a reasonable set of export rules for the Delta. Our districts know the importance of this now more than ever. It is the failure to capture flows in the Delta that is directly causing a zero projected allocation for the Friant Division, on which we rely. The fish agencies and the courts have not been able to establish viable rules in the Delta, and the result is unmitigated disaster for agriculture in California. We expect the eventual drought bill to address this crucial issue in a real way in order to get water to California farms and stop the damage caused by wasteful use of water on fish programs that do not actually serve fish.

HR 2964 calls for a repeal of the San Joaquin River Settlement Act. We cannot unwind the clock and “do away with the Settlement” and anyone who advocates that position never completely understood the settlement issues in the first place. We agree with both of you when you have publicly said that Restoration has been difficult and expensive to implement and that it is time to reassess the plan(See, for example,Fresno Bee, March 8, 2014). The idea of restoring salmon to the San Joaquin in the timeline envisioned at the outset, and with the money it was projected to cost, was always a long shot. We all knew that Restoration was going to be an evolving plan – it is time for it to evolve.

We want to see a viable San Joaquin River for fish, farming and families. If we are going to get there, it is going to take all the parties coming to the table and dealing rationally with the facts on the ground. We welcome that opportunity and insist it is needed to protect the investment in time and money we have all made to date. Repeal is not an option, but reassessment is a requirement. If we are going to have a sustainable fishery program on the San Joaquin River and a vibrant farming economy in the Valley, we must begin the process.

Both of you have shown a willingness in the past to lead on this issue, and that is why we want to support both of your bills, despite having differences with some of their individual terms. We are confident the two of you working together will become a dynamic combination for us to follow once again. The pending release of Reclamation’s revised implementation plan for San Joaquin River Restoration should provide the framework for the discussion.

The impacts facing our collective constituents require we all work together to get legislation passed and changes made. Failure is not an option. Our Districts look forward to working with you and your colleagues to find common sense solutions to serve the interests of all Californians.

Thank You,

Gary Fernandes, 
President, Lower Tule River Irrigation District

Frank Junio, 
President, 
Pixley Irrigation District

cc:  Senator Barbara Boxer,
 Congressman Devin Nunes
, Congressman Jim Costa, 
Congressman Tom McClintock, 
Congressman Doug LaMalfa
, Congressman Jared Huffman, 
Friant Water Authority, 
Westlands Water District
, San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Users Authority
,  Exchange Contractors

Lower Tule Board
:  Gary Fernandes, President; 
John Roeloffs, Vice President
; Jim Costa, Director
; Tom Barcellos, Director
; Alex Garcia, Director

Pixley Board
:  Frank Junio, President; 
Russell Schott, Vice President; 
Bill DeGroot, Director
; Randall Parreira, Director;  Neal Westbrook, Director; Daniel G. Vink, General Manager; 
Eric Limas, Business Manager
; Beth Grote-Lewis, Assessor; 
Alex Peltzer, Legal Counsel

California to Ease Water Restrictions

Excerpted from Sharon Bernstein; Reuters

Drought-plagued California will ease some protection for fish in the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, officials said Tuesday, a move expected to make more water available for farming and ease political tensions in an election year.

“California’s agriculture is critical to the world’s food supply,” said assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, who represents part of the San Joaquin Valley, who had lobbied hard against the restrictions. “An inability to produce that food would clearly be devastating to health and human safety not only in California but around the globe.”

Citing recent rains, regulators said Tuesday, there was enough water in the state’s reservoirs now to partially ease restrictions.

“We were quite concerned at that time about the issue of public health and safety,” Tom Howard, executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “This really had the markings of a historic drought.”

Recent storms dropped nearly a foot of rain in some areas, boosting reservoir levels and the snowpack that the state relies on for drinking water in the spring, but still leaving supplies way below normal for this time of year.

Earlier this month, concern that the state was about to restrict water supplies to farmers even further swept through the agricultural community, spurring intensive pushback and a series of tense meetings with water regulators in the administration of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

“We are very concerned that if the current proposal as reported to us is enacted, it will have significant near- and long-term effects on the California economy and, more importantly, will not achieve the desired water supply security intended,” U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Congressmen Jim Costa and John Garamendi, all Democrats, wrote in a letter to the water board.

Under the new rules announced Tuesday, which Howard said may be modified again next month, the two massive public water projects responsible for pumping in the Delta will be able to deliver it to farmers and others, once the state determines that there is enough flowing to meet the health and sanitation needs of residents.

Scott Shapiro, an attorney specializing in water issues for the Sacramento firm Downey Brand, said expanding the allowable uses of tight water supplies was not just important for farmers.

“It’s not just for agriculture, because there are other needs that may be contracted for that go beyond health and safety,” Shapiro said. “It could include other municipal, industrial and agricultural needs.

In addition to allowing more of the water pumped from the Delta to be used for purposes other than meeting health and safety needs, the state planned to reduce by about a third the amount of water that the projects were required to leave in the Delta as a way of protecting fish, Howard said during the press briefing.

Mark Cowin, Director of California Department of Water Resources, commented that fish and wildlife experts consulted by his department said that endangered species in the Delta would not be harmed by the looser rules.

Water Board urged by California U.S. Lawmakers to Delay Severe Water Cuts

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Congressmen John Garamendi and Jim Costa sent a joint letter on March 5, yesterday, to Tom Howard, Executive Director, California State Water Resources Control Board urging them to delay issuing a proposed order prioritizing water deliveries throughout the state, expected to be handed down as early as next week, until at least March 21.

In their statement, posted by the Bay Planning Coalition, the lawmakers urge the Water Board to delay its “extraordinarily far-reaching proposed order”. . . “to make sure it is correctly calibrated to minimize the potentially devastating effects on many Californians.”

No Water LogoThey acknowledge the coordinated efforts between difference levels of government, but urge the Board to “avoid catastrophic reductions of water deliveries to California agriculture”.

Continuing, allowing more time would provide the Water Board with the best available information for these “complex water delivery decisions that could affect large parts of California, especially those regions that are integral to our nation’s agricultural economy.”

“We acknowledge that the Board is eager to issue a decision so that senior water rights holders do not plant crops with the expectation of receiving a 40 percent CVP water allocation when public health and safety considerations may require a significant cutback.”

Finally, they ask that the water decision “be formulated with great care so that its burdens do not unduly fall on those who have already had to give up a great deal.”