Paul Wenger: We Must Take Advantage of Signal to D.C.

California Farm Bureau Federation says Republican President, House and Senate are good news for California Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent 98th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) there was definitely a positive buzz in the air regarding the recent election.

Walnut and almond grower and CFBF President Paul Wenger said agriculture should take quick advantage of what is an unexpected trifecta.

president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
Paul Wenger

“During the Bush administration, the Republicans controlled the house and the Senate and also the White House, and we didn’t quite get done the things that we want to get done, but I think there was a signal sent in this last election,” Wenger said.  “It surprised everybody. It surprised the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents – everybody. The establishment. The non-establishment.”

Wenger said the industry has an opportunity to work with the incoming Trump Administration to actually get some things done. “I think the voters sent a very clear signal. We don’t want business as usual. We want to see things get done. People need jobs. People need to be able to not be held down by all this regulatory morasses out there, and so I think in the first 100 days and definitely within the first 14 months, it will make or break this administration,” Wenger said.

“We need to work together. We need to get moderate Democrats with the Republicans. We cannot allow … divisions within the Republican party. We’re lucky to have California Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in a very influential position,” Wenger said. “We have a great list of congressmen around the state – not only in the Republican but the Democrat side – to work together. So let’s solve some problems.”

Wenger noted that agriculture needs relief from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think one of the things that the Trump Administration wants to do through the Interior and the EPA is to get some relaxation or some equity in the Endangered Species Act,” Wenger said.

“The Endangered Species Act was put in under a Republican administration, but nobody thought it would be carried out to the extreme that it is. It’s a very immovable object. Let’s get some flexibility in this that gives mankind the same equal footing that we have for other species because we’re dependent upon that water,” Wenger said.  “We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and produce food, but so far, those doors have been slammed shut, and it’s only one way, and that’s the species way.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is another issue. “We’re going to have to work with the Trump Administration. He came out during the campaign, said he was against it. He said he was against NAFTA. We need these trade agreements,” Wenger said. “He said he was going to put up a wall, but the other day he said in that wall there’s going to be doors, so if we can work with this Trump Administration and make sure that we have an available legal workforce, that’s great, but Waters of the US (WOTUS) is dead in the first few days of his administration,” Wenger said. “This will be good for all farmers and ranchers across the country.”

WOTUS is a rule that was a 2015 ruling by EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, which says that the EPA as expanded agency over bodies of water and even low areas of ag land where water can settle. It has been met with lawsuits form many states, and major pushback by agriculture.

Wenger said that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may also get another look.  “We think there’s a good potential that they’ll take another look at and make it more practical rather than this onerous rule that everybody’s trying to figure out,” Wenger said.  “Also, we think the estate tax is something that he’ll take a look at.”

“We’re excited to work with a new administration, see what we can forge in the first 100 days for sure, and at least in the first 14 months so that not only do we have a trifecta for the first two years of his administration, but the last two years too,” Wenger said.

 

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Farm Water Coalition Shames State Water Resources     

Farm Water Coalition Shames SWRCB Over Proposal 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

The California Farm Water Coalition (Coalition) was formed in 1989 to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and to promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.

Mike Wade, executive director of the Sacramento-based Coalition, has major concerns about the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)‘s proposal of taking 40% of the water from many irrigation districts along three rivers that flow into the San Joaquin River to protect an endangered fish. The SWRCB proposes to divert water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers to increase flows in the Sacramento Delta.

Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition
Mike Wade, executive director, California Farm Water Coalition

Wade explained, “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is important for the United States, and we want to see it work. However, it’s not working. It’s not helping fish, and it’s hurting communities.” But Wade wants to revise the ESA “in how we deal with some of the species management issues.”

Wade said SWRCB is doubling down on the same tired, old strategy that is not going to work any more now than it has in the past. “What happened in the past isn’t helping salmon. What’s happened in the past isn’t helping the delta smelt. You’d think someone would get a clue that maybe other things are in play, there are other factors that need to be addressed.”

The State Water Resources Control Board estimated the proposed 40% diversion of river flow would decrease agricultural economic output by 64 million or 2.5% of the baseline average for the region.

Ag officials warn that if the proposal goes through it would force growers in the area to use more groundwater—which they have largely avoided because the Turlock Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District historically met the irrigation need of local farms.

This is the only agricultural area in the Central Valley that does not have critical overdraft problems. If the state takes away 40% of water available to growers, it could lead to a critical overdraft issue there as well.

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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.

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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

###

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A Call for Common Sense Water Management

California Water Management Dilemma

By Lawrence H. Easterling, Jr.

Larry Easterling
Larry Easterling makes a comment at a recent pistachio growers meeting.

We are witnessing the dismantling of the California water conveyance system that supplies drinking water for 25 million California residents and four million acres of prime farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.

Our water resources are being “Withheld” from the very people of this state who have shown what “Free Enterprise” can do not only for the well-being of all in California, but the entire nation. Unfortunately, several major environmental groups and complacent politicians are killing the freedoms that have been the bulwark of success in California. Let me explain.

Water is our most valuable renewable resource and Mother Nature gives it to California in copious amounts during most years. What we do with that water—water management—is critical to the future of the Golden State.

On average, 200.0 million acre-feet of water a year blankets our state. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water. Of that precipitation, 75% originates north of the Sacramento River. The other 25% falls in central and southern California.

The water that is not manageable by us is 120.0 million acre-feet. Some of it evaporates, but most of it settles into the ground, fills lakes, and what remains heads for the Pacific Ocean. The balance of the water is called “directable” surface water (80,000,000 acre-feet) and this is where we have the opportunity to put it to its best and proper use.

By 2005, according to the Department of Water Resources, 48% of that directable water went to the environment, 41% to agriculture and the remaining 11% to rural areas. This balance of such a precious resource seemed at the time to be equitable to all parties, thanks to the ingenuity of our forefathers in the 20th century. Their foresight gave us a water conveyance system second to none in the entire world.

 

California’s water conveyance system had four major objectives:

  1. To provide reliable water deliveries to 25 million people to avoid water shortages that would otherwise exist and continually plague two-thirds of the California population.
  2. To support four million acres in central California of what the National Geographic Magazine proclaimed to be the most productive farmland in the world.
  3. To reinforce our natural environment.
  4. To recharge our groundwater supplies.

Some distinctions should be made here as to how much directable water we are actually concerned about. At full capacity, the two California water conveyance systems—the State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP)—deliver water from northern California to southern and central California. Each system, the CVP and the SWP, has the capacity to each deliver 4.0 million acre-feet water each year. However, this water delivery capacity has never been tested. The record shows that in the years prior to 2005, the average total delivery COMBINED for both projects was 5.4 million acre-feet per year. The ultimate users of this water went to agriculture (60%) and the rural population (40%).

The volume of water available, on average, from the Sacramento River, including the San Joaquin River, is 30.3 million acre-feet. It is from this volume of water that the 5.4 million acre-feet are sent south.

In 2007, several environmental organizations led by Natural Resources Defense Council took the Department of Water Resources to court to compel the court to enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court ruling to enforce this law declared that the giant water export pumps that raise the water from the Delta into the California Aqueduct were cut back because it was suspect that the pumps were killing too many delta smelt, an endangered species.

Even in flood years restricted pumping has reduced the water flow to a fraction of the contracted normal flow. Henceforth, since 2007, our water deliveries to urban and agricultural areas have been severely compromised.

The enforcement of these laws is now negating the four major functions of the giant California water conveyance system outlined with the possible exception of the natural environment. Now mind you, this water comes from northern California where 75% of the rain in California falls, averaging over 50 inches a year. Central and southern California “average” less than 15 inches a year.

During the seven years from 2007 through 2014, average deliveries to farms have been reduced to less than one acre-foot per year. Most agricultural crops require 3 ½ acre-feet of water per year. Today, without recourse, these farms are left with barely enough water to keep their plants alive. As for the hardship visited upon 25 million consumers, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in southern California is a good example.

The MWD services 19 million accounts, and prior to 2007, was receiving 40% of its water from the SWP. That water source has now only been able to supply approximately 10% of their needs. Consequently, due to seeking other sources to replace their water losses, rate increases to their customers over the years 2007 to 2014 have doubled. On top of all these setbacks, Mother Nature now has shown us her own drought versus our manufactured water crisis. All the way through this synthetic drought, the average rate of precipitation at the source of our water in northern California has been 45 inches each year.

In order to survive, those of us who must have an adequate supply of water to sustain us have been forced to pump more groundwater and/or purchase water from farmers who idle farmland and transfer their water to areas severely threatened with water shortages. For some of those lucky enough to find water for sale, the cost of water has become a severe financial burden. Where farms in the Central Valley were, prior to 2007, paying just under $100 per acre-foot, today if a willing seller can be found, the price can range anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,000 per acre-foot. In many such cases, water costs can exceed all other cultural costs combined. Likewise, the aquifer has dropped every year since 2007 due to frantic attempts by farmers to supplement the critical loss of surface water.

 

WHAT MUST BE DONE:

The effects of water deprivation over an eight-year period by a man-made drought capped by one of nature’s real droughts, is wrecking havoc with the nation’s food supply. The state of California is now in the grips of the Law of Diminishing Returns and is incapable of averting a disaster due to environmental regulations. Consequently, this country’s NATIONAL SECURITY is being compromised. CONGRESS MUST ACT NOW before further damage is done. These actions need to be taken:

1. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) must be excluded from jurisdiction over the pumps, which move northern water to central and southern California. The pumps are presently operating at about 15% of their capacity. This measure should be permanent and under the management of the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

2. The Endangered Species Act needs to be revised in order to “protect all species”, including humans, from collateral damage due to methods employed to save one species that results in severe damage to other species. This would be implemented through a biological opinion that would INCLUDE a list of all species that would be adversely affected by the METHOD employed to protect one specific species. This measure would make right just one of the irregularities in this flawed law, which attracts litigation like bees to honey. The law does not need to be struck down, simply rewritten to safeguard “all” species, including human beings.

3. California’s magnificent water distribution and conveyance system has no peer in this world. It is a remarkable feat of engineering admired by those who have come from far and near to marvel at its accomplishment. Yet, by environmental fiat, it has been reduced to a token of its capabilities. “Directable” water in California originally ceded one-third of its 80,000,000 acre-feet to the environment.

Today, according to the DWR, the environment now takes, not one-third, but 50% of the direct able water, leaving the rest to urban and farming communities. This is not what the original framers envisioned, but under the DWR, its control has been gradually diluted by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one of its extensions known as the STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD (SWRCB). THIS FIVE PERSON-BOARD IS STAFFED WITH ENVIRONMENTALISTS, such as their chairwoman, Felicia Marcos, a Governor Brown-appointee, whose professional background includes eight years with the EPA and five years with the radical Natural Resources Defense Council.

The influence of these federal agencies, backed by political power brokers’ lobbyists, has tilted the water distribution of surface water away from its original intended users. In essence, the environmentalists now control California’s surface water; and now, with the passage of the recent 7.5 billion dollar Water Bond, they will control our groundwater as well. If the water agencies do not perform with the desired results, the bottom-line is that final control will go to the SWRCB.

The ship of state now needs to be righted; it is drifting far off course. First of all, the EPA must be brought to heel. For a federal agency, it exerts far too much power. And, in so doing, has completely distorted California’s surface water delivery system. Next, the SWRCB must either be eliminated with FULL CONTROL restored to the Department of Water Resources, or completely reorganized as an ADVISORY BOARD to the DWR where ALL recipients of the surface water system would be represented. A ten-board membership might be in order, with a director and the nine remaining seats divided into three equal parts by experienced personnel in agriculture, city water management, and the environment, i.e., three persons from each classification and residents of northern, central and southern California.

4. Finally, one in every ten workers in California is either directly, or indirectly dependent upon the health of our vast agricultural industry.

It is time to step forward and reveal, with facts and figures, the house of cards that water management in this state has become. Likewise, those 25 million people in southern California, such as the MWD’s 19 million users who once got 40% of their water from the giant conveyance system, deserve to get that water back.

With years of a man-made drought compounded by a natural drought now in the eighth year, there is ample information available through various farm county records to quantify in lost dollars the cumulative effect of, (1) lost production due to forced fallowing of land, (2) water costs that are now ten times what they were prior to 2007, and (3) the heavy burden economically of converting hardworking farm labor to the welfare roles where some Central Valley towns are now approaching 50% unemployment. Combined, these costs will be in the billions of dollars, bloating further our California deficit.

The goal of society has always been to improve the human condition and for one generation to leave a better world for the next. The visionaries of the 20th century got it right. They delivered in spades to us, the beneficiaries, a modern miracle. It is a water conveyance system like none other to serve all the people of California. Where are those visionaries now? Rather than embrace the gifts of a reliable source of precious water, they proceed to dismantle the entire system. It is because of the system that California feeds the nation. This is not just a California crisis. It is one that will affect the entire nation. Look upon it as a national security threat and demand that our leaders do what is right for the vast majority of this country’s people.

 Lawrence H. Easterling, Jr. Administrator, Kettleman Pistachio Growers and Director, American Pistachio Growers

 

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Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

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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

 

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Court Rules for Environmentalists in Water Fight

An appeals court said TODAY that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as reported by Paul Elias of the Associated Press.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt. The ruling won’t affect water flows because protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit.9th Circuit Court of Appeals

“This about how we are going to manage the water in the future,” said Douglas Obegi, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Water-rights holders and government lawyers argued that consultation wasn’t necessary because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was required to renew the contracts and had no discretion over terms of the agreement that would control water levels in the Delta.

But the 9th Circuit disagreed, saying the Bureau had discretion over price and delivery times of the water, which affect water flow. Therefore, it has to consult with one of the other two agencies. The court also said that the bureau wasn’t required to renew the contracts.

Stuart Somach, a lawyer representing water-rights holders who intervened to fight the lawsuit, said the ruling “destabilizes” the state’s water-allocation system because it raises uncertainty over the contracts and water delivery.

Somach said he and his clients are still mulling their options, which include petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. They could also try to convince the trial judge to keep the contracts in place, he said.

His clients own water rights with or without contracts, which ensure predictable water allocation, Somach said. Predictability is lost if the contracts are invalidated, he said.

“The big loser in all of this is the state of California,” Somach said.

Source: Paul Elias, Associated Press.

 

Plaintiffs among the cluster of cases:

Natural Resources Defense Council; California Trout; San Francisco Baykeeper; Friends Of The River; The Bay Institute, All Non-Profit Organizations, Plaintiffs-Appellants, And Metropolitan Water District Of Southern California, Plaintiff In Related Case

V.

Defendant-intervenors–Appellees:

Jewell Associates, Lp; Reclamation District 1004; Beverly F. Andreotti; Banta-Carbona Irrigation District; Patterson Irrigation District; West Side Irrigation District; Byron Bethany Irrigation District; Carter Mutual Water Company; Howald Farms, Inc.; Maxwell Irrigation District; Meridian Farms Water Company; Oji Brothers Farms, Inc.; Henry D. Richter; Sutter Mutual Water Co.; Tisdale Irrigation And Drainage Company; Windswept Land And Livestock Company; City Of Redding; Coelho Family Trust; Eagle Field Water District; Mercy Springs Water District; Oro Loma Water District; Conaway Preservation Group; Del Puerto Water District; West Stanislaus Irrigation District; Fresno Slough Water District; James Irrigation District; Tranquillity Irrigation District; Christo D. Bardis; Abdul Rauf; Tahmina Rauf; David And Alice Te Velde Family Trust; Fred Tenhunfeld; Family Farm Alliance, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority; Westlands Water District; California Farm Bureau Federation; State Water Contractors; California Department Of Water Resources; Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District; Natomas Central Mutual Water Company; Pelger Mutual Water Company; Pleasant Grove- Verona Mutual Water Company; Reclamation District 108; River Garden Farms Company; Princeton-Codora- Glenn Irrigation District; Provident Irrigation District; Kern County Water Agency

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Storms Allow Temporary Easing of Delta Pumping Restrictions

Source: Pamela Martineau; Association of California Water Agencies 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved a temporary easing of pumping restrictions in the Delta on April 1 which will increase water exports from the estuary by as much as 10,000 acre-feet a day over the next week or two.

Officials from NMFS announced the temporary adjustment of the regulation April 1 during a conference call with reporters. Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), who also was on the call, said the easing of the seasonal pumping restrictions  won’t jeopardize protected salmonoid and is “consistent with the federal Endangered Species Act.”

“The adjustment will remain in effect as long as the rivers carrying stormwater into the Delta continue to run relatively high,” said Cowin.  “We expect that to last for at least a week and we’ll see how long those inflows are sustained.”

The temporary change is allowable in part because more water is moving through the system due to recent storms. The adjustment increases pumping levels from about 1500 cfs to 6000 cfs a day over the next few days.

DWR has set its initial water allocation estimate from the State Water Project at zero percent this year. It is unclear whether that estimate will change. California remains mired in drought despite the recent spate of storms.

On April 1, manual snowpack readings in the Sierra revealed a statewide snowpack water content at just 32% of normal for that date.

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House Members Seek to Update Endangered Species Act

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), and Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02) this week introduced four limited bills to improve and update the  Endangered Species Act (ESA).

 

The bills are supported by all of the Members of the ESA Congressional Working Group, representing districts across the nation, and are based on the recommendations and findings of their report and input from a broad array of stakeholders, including the Western Governors‘ Association.

 

California Ag’s interest is on how the revised ESA would affect the Biological opinion on Delta Smelt and Salmon that has drastically cut contractual water supplies issued through the pumps.
The four bills focus on transparency and species recovery. The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a Full Committee legislative hearing on these bills on Tuesday, April 8.

 

“These are very simple, straightforward, and common sense bills and provide a good starting point as we begin the legislative process for improving the Endangered Species Act,” said Chairman Hastings.

 

“The bills are, by design, narrowly focused and something that both Republicans and Democrats can support. Increasing transparency; posting data online; enhancing state, local, and tribal participation; and reducing taxpayer-financed attorney’s fees to help direct taxpayer dollars towards recovery efforts are small, but important steps in making smart and sensible updates to the ESA.”

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