Even growers who were not going to benefit from the proposed Temperance Flat Dam are upset by the denial of funding for the project by the California Water Commission.
Doug Verboon is a walnut grower as well as County Supervisor in Kings County. He said Kings County was not going to get anything from Temperance Flat, but still he was all for it.
“We’re actually in the middle. We weren’t going to get any water from the project, but we want our neighbors to be happy as well, so it hurts to see them hurt and we’re getting tired of the do as I say and not do as I do, attitude from … Sacramento,” Verboon said.
“We need someone to stick up for our rights. We feel that the opinions that the Water Commission pushed upon us were somebody else’s opinion. The Water Commission did not take time to listen to our projects plans, or listen to our comments. They already had their mind made up before the 2014 Water bond went to the voters,” Verboon said.
Ryan Jacobsen,the executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau representing farmers who would have definitely benefited from Temperance Flat Dam if it was approved by the California Water Commission, also had a lot to say on the topic.
“First and foremost, there is obvious frustration. I mean, I think that’s the expression of what everybody had here to say. We are all left bewildered as to why, how a decision like this with as much work that’s gone into it. We had science that backed it up and all of the sudden the commission came back and said that it wasn’t even close enough to be good and that they could not help us get there.”
Jacobsen noted that the commission could not explain why the project was not good. “They just said it was not good. It really smells of politics, and sounds as though things were done inappropriately and at this point, it’s just a frustration and it’s time to reorganize and figure out how the fight continues to build that very important project to this Valley,” he said.
Temperance Flat is a Sure Way to Improve California’s Water Infrastructure
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Mario Santoyo is the Executive Director for the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. He spoke to California Ag Today about Temperance Flat, a proposal supported by the Joint Powers of Authority composed of five counties: Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings County. In addition to those counties, there are representatives from the eastern side cities, (Orange Cove) and western side cities, (Avenal)
“We also have water agencies, such as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors,” Santoyo said. “The JPA is also in the process of dealing with membership requests by Friant Water Authority and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.”
“You can see we’ve got a pretty elaborate team as far as the authority,” Santoyo said. “It was put together in order to pursue funding opportunities both by the state of California and the federal government to build revenue leading towards the construction of the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project, which will be located just north of Friant Dam on Millerton Lake, and actually would be built in Millerton Lake … expanding that reservoir.”
The five counties got together on this because they understand fully the importance of creating a more reliable water supply for the area. Santoyo said, “It was proven to be a problem when we had the five-year drought and the Valley had to exercise its groundwater pumping, which plummeted the groundwater levels so much that … it actually resulted in what is now the Groundwater Sustainability Law.”
“So there’s no question this project is greatly needed, and the irony is that this year, coming out of a five-year drought, we’ve got high runoff, and the Bureau of Reclamation had to make flood releases in order to not exceed the capacity at Friant Dam/Millerton Lake,” Santoyo explained. “We fully expect that they will have made up to 2.5 million acre feet of releases down the river to the ocean. Then if you stop and think about what that means, it basically you could roughly say it’s about two years’ worth of water supply for the eastern side of the Valley.”
“There are those who would argue that we would never fill up the Temperance Flat Reservoir,” Santoyo said. “Well, not only have we done it twice this year, we also have a history—a long history—of this … [being] the common scenario.”
When there is high runoff water, it doesn’t come in little bits, it comes in huge amounts. “I think we looked at the record, and 50% of the time that we have high runoff, we usually have to make flood releases in excess of one million acre feet, so that’s why the size that was determined for Temperance Flat was just a little bit over a million acre feet,” Santoyo said.
“Now having that, it’s actually 1.2 million acre feet that it adds to the system. When you add it to … the balance of what’s left with the original, we’re close to 1.8 million acre feet,” Santoyo said.
“It will triple the capacity of Millerton, ensuring that for the future, that [there is] a chance to maximize the available water supply for the cities, for the farms, and most importantly, to recharge the groundwater and put us back into a level that we’re stable and that residents, farmers and others can use that groundwater and not be restricted by the new groundwater sustainability laws,” said Santoyo, adding, “If we don’t solve that problem, the world is going to change dramatically for our farmers, number one, and it will have an immediate effect also on our cities.”
Santoyo describes the recharge opportunities. “What we’ll be doing is with Temperance Flat, we will be making timed releases to various water districts and entities that will have groundwater recharging basins, and they will be syncing it, but you need time,” he said.
“You need storage, and you need time to be able to move water from above ground to below ground. That’s just a physical necessity, and that’s part of the argument against those that argue, ‘Don’t build above, you only need below.’ Well, if you don’t have water above, you aren’t putting it below. It’s just as simple as that,” Santoyo explained.
Temperance Flat would be ideal for the state of California. “The Friant-Kern Canal is the longest of the two primary canals. The other one is the Madera Canal. The Madera moves it north to Chowchilla. The Friant moves it south to Bakersfield, so yeah, those are the primary conveyance systems for farmers and cities,” he said.
Recently a video that educates the public on the value of Temperance Flat, released on YouTube called Build Temperance Flat. We ask all who are active on social media to grab a link of the video and post it on Facebook and Twitter as well as other social media platforms.
“It raises this question,” Peltier asked, “When do we get honest and start talking about the regulatory drought—the man-made drought, the policy-induced drought, the policy-directed drought? We can’t even have an honest conversation about that.”
“That our opponents want to deflect and obscure that whole conversation is telling,” he continued, “because we have a tremendous story of adverse economic impact as a result of failed policies. When they tried to protect the fish, they took our water away and they made the supply unreliable. ‘Just a huge failure and they don’t want to address it; they don’t want to deal with it. The same agencies are fixated with their false confidence or their false certainty, their false precision, in terms of how to help the fish.”
Peltier explained the regulators failed to deliver all of the 5% allocation [née water delivery reduced by 95%] to growers in the federal water districts south of the Delta. “It’s nonsense,” he reiterated, that part of the insufficient 5% was never delivered this season. “It’s avoidance of the reality that the regulators have constricted the heck out of the water projects and made it so—even in wet years, and like this year, a normal to wet year—we’ve got huge amounts of land out of production,” Peltier said, adding that almond growers in the federal water districts are not getting a late, post-harvest irrigation, which can hurt next year’s production.
¹Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City
Vigilant Seed Bank Reduction: Whatever it takes, don’t let weeds set seed.
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
For the past 15 years, Robert Norris, professor emeritus and vegetable crops weed specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has continued to attend Weed Day each year at UC Davis and to contribute weed photography for CalPhotos, a UC Berkeley Digital Library Project photo database of world-wide plants, animals, landscapes, and other natural history subjects developed to provide a testbed of digital images for computer science researchers to study digital image retrieval techniques. Norris was involved with initiating the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Program at UC Davis.
“I’ve been a botanist since I was 14 years old,” Norris said, “and I still have a lot of passion regarding weed control.” Norris has a strong and steady philosophy on weed control and it all comes down to seeds. “The last 25 years of my work, I looked at population dynamics of weeds, like seed longevity in the soil and what we call the size of the seed bank also known as the seed production by weeds. That’s really where I spent most of my time.
“I found that most people have a very poor idea of how many seeds are produced by a weed. This led me to question some of our current management philosophies; namely, the one that comes out of entomology—the use of thresholds (or how many weeds need to be present before treating them),” noted Norris. “I felt that for weed science, thresholds were not the way to go, and my position has been vindicated by the problems we’ve run into using thresholds.”
Norris offered the example, “Barnyard grasses are probably one of our most serious summer grass weeds. A small plant can produce 100,000 seeds; while a big plant, well over a million. I can remember going put in a tomato field years ago and looking at one barnyard grass plant. Because I had been working with it, I can say that plant probably put out 50,000 seeds. If you spread those seeds around an acre, that’s enough to give you serious yield loss the next year,” Norris explained. “Again, that’s one plant, spread out over an acre. Obviously its seeds wouldn’t spread over an acre [on their own], but with our tillage equipment we would move it around quite a bit.”
“My bottom line for about 30 years now is: Don’t let the weeds set seed.Whatever it takes, don’t let them set seed,” Norris said. If you follow that philosophy, Norris said after a while you drive the seed bank down.
“Many people don’t realize this, but some of our really big growers got on to it a long time ago. One farming operation I worked with for years, J. G. Boswell Co., with most of its land in Kings County. “I knew the manager in the late ’50s, into the ’70s. He now is retired now, but he came to this conclusion himself back in the late ’50s,” Norris said. “I haven’t been on Boswell’s property now for 20 years, because I retired. However, if you go down there, you will not see a weed problem, at least not like most growers.”
“The difficulty really is, in order to carry out this philosophy, you need to use hand labor for weed management and it is becoming less and less easy to find,” explained Norris. “Most weed management is done on a one-year one-crop basis; whereas, the type of management we’re talking about where we’re really thinking seed bank dynamics, has to be done over multiple years. Another big problem that I still see is if you miss one year, you can undo 5 to 10 years of what you’ve just been doing, because of this high seed output,” he said.
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.
Peltier 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 thought—would 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.
“This is a major event, a significant milestone in terms of the process to get Temperance Flat Dam built.” Santoyo said. “In essence, it is a partnership between the new joint powers of authority and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and, more specifically, their study team who worked on the technical studies and the feasibility reports for Temperance Flat.”
Merced, Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties are joining forces with leaders of cities, Tribes, and other agencies to begin this significant move towards building the Temperance Flat Dam. “Working together, we are going to put the application together and submit it to the California Water Commission for their consideration for funding through Proposition 1, Chapter 8,” Santoyo said. “It’s a solid statement that needs a signature.”
“It’s a memorandum of understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation and the joint powers of authority,” he said, “that defines the scope of work. In essence, it’s full cooperation between their technical people and our joint powers of authority. Our people are tailoring the application to the state to optimize funding. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we are not talking a million or a hundred million; we are talking a billion.”
Temperance Flat Dam would create nearly 1.3M acre-feet of new water storage, according to the SJWIA, 2.5 times the current capacity of Millerton Lake, and would be a part of the Federal Central Valley Project.
“Chapter 8, which is the storage chapter in Prop 1, has $2.7 billion in it,” Santoyo explained. “Projects that are submitted for funding are limited to up to 50% of the capital costs of their project. If we were to take Temperance Flat, for instance, that’s going to cost somewhere around $2.8 billion. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4 billion, but we don’t expect that because there is a lot of competition. There’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion.”
“I see [the July 1 event] as being historic,” Santoyo reflected, “because it is one of the most critical things to happen—to be able to build Temperance Flat, as well as a good opportunity to be at a place where history’s being made.”
For more information, contact Mario Santoyo at 559-779-7595.
Featured image: Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority (SJWIA)
Farmer Hears Plenty of Talk But Sees No Action on Water Management
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
Erik Hansen, a big legacy farmer down in the Tulare Lake Basin in Kings County, is quite frustrated by how the state’s freshwater has been managed this year. “The most important thing,” he said, “is that people realize politicians in this state do not have your best interests in mind when it comes to how the water is run. We have infrastructure that is out of date and needs to be improved, but they are not even using the existing infrastructure at the full capacity it should be used, even though we are in a water emergency.”
“Now there is just nobody who can tell me that that’s OK,” stated Hansen. “Plenty of people can talk around it; they can say, ‘environmental this’ and ‘environmental that.’ But in the end, we need to take a very hard look at how these decisions are being made at the top levels—where people should be losing their jobs in a big way. ‘Starting from the governor having to explain—How do you have a water emergency; yet your appointments at the State Water Resources Control Board are not running the water as they should?
Hansen expects water mismanagement will continue and worsen until the California public holds their feet to the fire. “It is a power move,” Hansen declared.”They are able to hold off one of our most precious resources in the state, and currently two thirds of the state is suffering for it. Northern California has plenty of water, and that is where all the votes are. They forgot about the southern two thirds, and there are plenty of people here who are not happy about it.”
Hansen recounted, “There are higher bills in just about every municipality. Wells are running dry. Certain areas of the state are completely dry to the point where they require 250 gallon totes of water by truck delivery. This is unsustainable, and hopefully the politicians in Northern California can understand that word.”
California farmers are stepping up to supply fresh fruits, vegetables and meat products to the state’s network of food banks as part of the Farm to Family program. Jim Bates, chief financial officer of Fowler Packing in Fresno County, said “It’s a program we’ve been supporting for 20 years, starting with donations of peaches, plums and nectarines.”
“Unfortunately, 20 to 50 percent of the product we grow doesn’t make it to the marketplace,” Bates explained, “sometimes because of a very small cosmetic blemish. Bates says farmers like him really want to take advantage of these unmarketable crops and help the working poor in the Valley. “We don’t want to dump this product; we definitely want to donate it. So, we have developed contacts with the food banks and found ways to transport our products in cardboard bins, plastic bins—whatever they can take—and get it to them.”
Bates noted that Fowler Packing, which farms and ships tree fruit, including mandarins, and table grapes, is doing well, and the company would like to pay it back. “We have made big investments over the years; we’ve retooled our packing house, our mandarin and table grape operations are doing well, and we’ve had good times. We want to give back to the local community that has been so good in supporting us year in and year out.”
Andy Souza, president and CEO of the Community Food Bank in Fresno, noted the dramatically increased produce and meat donations from farming companies, “from almost 19 million pounds a year to almost 40 million pounds in the last three years. And yet, in our service area, we are only meeting about two-thirds of the need. We serve all five counties from the southern end of Kern County, including Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties, all the way to Madera County, and the need just continues to grow. We have seen the drought; we have seen the effect of changing commodities; and the impact on farm labor is a very natural part of an economy.”
Souza said Community Food Bank’s connection with those in need is critically important. “It is not just doubling the amount of pounds,” he elaborated, “it is the fact that for so many of the families we serve, we are the only source of fresh produce for them. And the result of not getting fresh produce is what we have seen in each of our five counties: childhood obesity rates over 40 percent.”
“It is rewarding for us to be the vehicle that actually touches the lives that these farming families are supporting. Without their support and donations, it would be an empty warehouse. We, in turn, provide the connection to our families in need. Our staff knows, on a very personal basis, the opportunity to hand fresh food, fresh produce, to families knowing it will be on their tables that evening,” Souza noted.
Souza said quite candidly, he has learned over the last five years, all he has to do is ask the farming industry for help. “The farming community, the ranching community—agriculture in general—is very giving if we ask. We have also learned you don’t ask the packing shed in August. By the time August rolls around, first, they are just incredibly busy; and secondly, they made those decisions in February. So we are learning and looking to the industry for great support and great help. We have been able to make an incredible partnership with the agricultural community here in the Valley.”
Souza said cash donations from companies and from the general public also help immensely because “the ability we have to stretch financial donations is incredible. For every dollar that is donated, we can provide seven meals for a family. If folks would love to come alongside us, we can be reached at communityfoodbank.net. There is a “Donate Now” button there, and we would love the opportunity for folks to partner with us. Right now we have just over 8,000 partners each year and we would love to see that number grow to 10-, 12- or even 15,000.”
Kings County Dairyman Cuts Diesel Emissions 92% With Electric Mixer
By Laurie Greene, Editor
On his dairy in the Kings County town of Hanford, Philip Verway reduced his diesel consumption a remarkable 92% from 7,000 to 500 gallons in a given three-week period. His innovative secret to cutting diesel emissions is converting a diesel-powered commodity mixing machine to an electric mixer.
Kevin Abernathy, director of environmental services for the Milk Producers Council, said, “Rob Vandenheuvel, General Manager for Milk Producers Council, Philip and I helped him get a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, a state-appointed board which aims to minimize diesel exhaust output. We put together a proposal, submitted it, and their governing board actually approved the grant. What began as a concept on paper led to the reality of the processes being implemented on-farm. We had it up and running in about three months. Most importantly, the end results are not only meeting, but exceeding our expectations,” said Abernathy.
The entire operation dramatically reduces total nitrogen oxides (NOX gases), pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley, “Our initial expectation based on the modeling was 22 tons of NOX emissions.” The post-project NOX rates were about two tons—a major reduction.
Abernathy said Verway worked with contractors Duport and Supreme to engineer the electrification of the vertical mixers and built some fail-safe components into the system. Impressed, Abernathy said, “Based on what I have seen, they have done a remarkable job, particularly on the multiple fail-safes. Hats off to Duport and Supreme for coming up with technology that works day-in and day-out, 365 days of the year.”
Abernathy also admired the ingenuity in the California dairy industry, “They continue to come up with some of the most extraordinary ideas. It is an absolute blessing to work with them, and they make my job so much fun with projects like this!”
Water storage remains a major concern for many farmers. Doug Verboon, a Kings County supervisor and walnut farmer, attended the California Water Commission meeting on Oct. 14 and called it a rare opportunity for farmers and community members to petition for water storage.
“As farmers, we want the water for farming,” Verboon said, “but as supervisors, we need it for community use and disadvantaged communities. Yet, as farmers who have been complaining about the lack of water storage for years, this is the one chance in our lifetimes to get more storage built. We need to get over our differences, get together and make this happen.”
“We want to make sure the Water Commission fully understands the importance of adding more storage today,”Verboon continued, “because without more storage in the flood years, we will cease to exist in the dry years.” Verboon explained the Valley has waited too long to increase storage since the drought in 1977.
“This is our opportunity now to jump on the bandwagon,” he said, “and get more storage built. We’ve already passed the bond. We need the money spent right here in our Central Valley. It doesn’t need to go to Los Angeles; it doesn’t need to go to San Francisco. They have a lot of infrastructure. They have a lot of money. They pay for their water. They’re strong. They can build new reservoirs without any environmental problems at all. We need the help today to build this project at Temperance Flat.”
Should El Nino bring significant rain, Verboon said the Central Valley has the infrastructure to help capture the rain.Verboon said the Kings River, for example, has regularly spaced recharge basins along its length, “but they have been dry for the last ten years. Growing up we used to water ski and catch crawdads in those lakes; they were always full. You can’t fill them up today, so as it rains, if it rains, we need the environmentalists to lay off us a little bit and let us put some recharge in our groundwater storage to help the disadvantaged communities by diluting the water that’s gone bad on us. Our water used to be a little acidic, but now it’s really salty as overdrafting depletes it. We’re not farming any more ground than we have before. We need to take advantage of whatever rain we get, recharge our groundwater and move forward.”