Temperance Flat Dam is Needed

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.”

Mario Santoyo

“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.

Here is the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f30o_dQNmn8

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California Growers Confront Labor Issues

Labor Issues—Costs and Farmworker Shortages—Challenge Growers

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

This year, farmers grappled with labor issues such as shortages and increased labor costs. Some growers had more than enough workers available, while others experienced difficulty in meeting their labor needs. Dave Phippen, co-owner of Travaille & Phippen Inc., a vertically integrated company that grows, packs and ships their own almonds, described some of their struggles with labor this year. “We employ a little more than 50 people year-round, but for harvest we ramp up an extra 15-20 people. There was a squeeze on the availability of the labor and a challenge with what we thought was an acceptable rate of pay,” said Phippen.

almond assessment increaseAs minimum wage increases incrementally every year, growers will struggle to keep up with the higher wages. “There was a new reality in the typical forklift driver, people working in receiving, people sampling,” Phippen elaborated. “We’re paying a little bit more for all of those tasks this year, and because there were more employment [opportunities], it was harder to find people who were available and willing to work.” Phippen also noted that employees “were requiring a greater compensation rate than last year for the same job.”

Travaille & Phippen’s operation has had to reevaluate employee compensation. Phippen explained the principle that as minimum wage increases, compensation rates compress, such that a person who was earning $15 used to be $5 above minimum wage, but is now is only $4 above minimum wage,” Phippen said.

The current federal minimum wage, established in 2009, is $7.25 per hour, up from $5.85 just two years prior. Of the top 10 agricultural producing states in the country, only 4 have minimum wage rates higher than the federal level. California and Massachusetts have the highest minimum wage levels of any other states.

Travaille & Phippen was already compensating a great deal of their labor force above minimum wage; however, to stay competitive and retain their workers, they increased their compensation rates, which caused a ripple effect throughout the supply chain. As their labor costs increased, they had to charge growers more for processing. “It had a big impact on them,” said Phippen, “particularly because those growers are receiving less revenue for their crop this year than they did last year. It was quite a squeeze for our growers and we were caught in the middle of that squeeze,” Phippen explained.

almond-tree-shaking-harvestingLabor issues have also been a significant concern for Mark Van Klaveren, a diversified farmer in Madera who grows almonds, watermelons and Thompson seedless grapes. Van Klaveren noted that timing plays a big role in their labor situation. “Since we tend to pick our Thompson seedless late, when there is a lot of sugar, we were able to get plenty of labor because most of the other vineyards were finished. Their farmworkers were looking for someplace to work.”

Van Klaveren reported that labor proved more challenging for their other crops. “I have a steady crew for watermelons, although with the new laws coming into effect, we are going to have to make some changes and mechanize a lot more of that harvest,” Van Klaveren noted.

Labor costs will become further complicated in the years ahead as overtime limitations established in AB 1066 phase in, beginning in 2019, with all agricultural operations expected to be in compliance by 2025. The combination of increased wages and the limitation of hours will change the way many farms operate. Some growers will increase mechanization. Others growers of labor-intensive crops may replace their crops with commodities that require fewer hours to harvest.

Van Klavern noted, “The only options we have are to mechanize or get out—one of the two. We can’t afford to produce at the same prices we’re getting right now with much higher labor costs. Some machinery out there can do what we need to do and we will look real hard to get some of that in our operation,” said Van Klavern.

An economic analysis conducted by the Highland Economics firm, shows AB 1066 having significant consequences for California agriculture. The study found the policy would reduce farm production as well as farmworker income, and the new time constraints on farmworkers would negatively impact California’s overall economy.

Van Klaveren is skeptical the new legislation will create any positive outcomes. “Workers want to put in the hours. They want to work. If we’ve got to pay them higher wages to start with, and then overtime on top of that after eight hours? There are certain jobs that won’t sustain the higher wages,” Van Klavern said.

In addition to increased costs for employers, increased minimum wage negatively affects workers who are trying to get their foot in the door of a farming operation. When the government raises the entry-level wage so high that people really have to produce a lot per hour, Van Klavern clarified, inexperienced applicants will suffer. “If you cannot produce a volume of work that is worth $15 an hour or more, you cannot work because nobody is going to hire you to lose money,” noted Van Klaveren.

Collectively, farmers are looking at overall labor cost increases between 5 and 15% over the next few years, depending on the crop. Van Klavern expressed a widely-held view that continued government intervention, particularly in the area of wages, is making farming in California unnecessarily difficult. “The whole issue of employment is a private agreement between an employee and employer, as in, ‘I will work for you for so much an hour and try to produce to your expectations.’ In other words, if somebody is willing to work for $8 an hour, why not let them work for $8 an hour? If it is fine with them and fine with the employer, then why not?” said Van Klavern.

The costs of labor and limitations on farmworker hours, combined with the costs of water and increasing environmental regulations, may prove insurmountable for California agriculture. “The economics is all simple, but the government steps in and complicates everything. I guess that leaves it to us to have to figure out how to swerve between all the regulations and stay in business,” noted Van Klavern.

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Historic Temperance Flat MOU Signing

Assemblymember Bigelow on Historic July 1 MOU Signing

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

East of Fresno at Friant Dam last Friday, July 1, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA) and the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate and complete feasibility studies of the proposed Temperance Flat Dam. 

Historic July 1, 2016 MOU Signing for Temperance Flat Dam
Historic July 1, 2016 MOU Signing for Temperance Flat Dam

State Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, 5th Assembly District (serving a large portion of Madera County, along with all the foothill and mountain communities north of Madera to the Sacramento area) noted the critical importance of getting Temperance Flat Dam built to store freshwater for the citizens and farmers of California.

Bigelow, a Madera rancher and farmer of pistachios, figs, and persimmons, said, “This is a huge event to enable us to have additional [water] storage. I just am so thankful to the people who put the water bond forward. Without the money that the people have made possible by voting to support the water bond, none of this would be possible; that’s a clear message.”

Friant Dam and Millerton Lake State Recreation Area
Friant Dam and Millerton Lake State Recreation Area (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

“Without water,” Bigelow explained, “none of our communities would continue to survive in the way they have for years and years. Much of the water we see is being used in different ways; it is not all going to agriculture, and it is not all going to residential. It is going to the environment. So we’ve got to divide that up by the law now, and in equal proportional value.”

“Right now,” he detailed, “Millerton Lake captures 526,000 acre-feet of [fresh] water, but we have millions of lost acre-feet that flow past every year into the Delta, then ultimately to the ocean.” Upon completion, the Temperance Flat Dam would hold more than twice the amount of water that Friant Dam holds—”especially important for capturing freshwater during heavy rain and snow years,” noted Bigelow.

 

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Valley Fig Growers Have Rich History

Valley Fig Growers Foresees Bright Future

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

As the 2016 fig crop continues to ripen in Madera County orchards, the fig industry is finding a good balance between supply and demand. Gary Jue, president of Fresno-based Valley Fig Growers, said the association is last fig growers cooperative in the world. “Our growers, who are mainly in Madera County, produce only dried figs,”said Jue. “We do not handle any fresh figs.”

“Formed in 1959 by a group of growers,” explained Jue, “Valley Fig grower-members are our owners, and individuals like myself work at the pleasure of the board of directors and our owners. We are a very diversified dried fig company. We probably produce the largest quantity of dried fig products offered by any processor/packer.”

“Our goal is to provide innovative products to our customers,” Jue explained, “our industrial customers—food manufacturers, in particularas a way to enable them to use our products in their products. We want to be as user-friendly as we can, so we listen to consumer needs to get our product in their hands and make it easy for them to use. The more we can do that, the more successful we’ll be at with providing figs to the consumer,” he said.

Gary Jue
Gary Jue, president of Valley Fig Growers.

Fig popularity has grown over the last five to seven years, Jue said, including fresh figs in season. “That’s been very popular especially at the high-end restaurants,” noted Jue. “We’re starting to see more and more dried fig products used in entrees in high-end restaurants, and even in mid-sized-priced restaurants.”

“If you go to the renowned coffee supplier that you see in every port and city in the U.S. and abroad,” Jue said, “you’ll see our figs in a product they provide. It is great to see products like that on the shelf! Confectioners are also on the wagon, as we’re starting to see more confectionery products now made with dried figs that we had not seen in the past.”

Jue mentioned during the holiday season last year, one of the Valley Fig accounts provided a whole chocolate covered fig product that was great. “Now,” he said, “we’re looking to determine if this is going to be a seasonal item or a year-round item. That large wholesale supplier really did a great job of introducing this confectionery fig into the mainstream public marketplace. It’s not a high-end specialty item, but something that anybody can go to the retail shop everyday to buy and enjoy. That has been a great, great upshot,” Jue affirmed.

This is all good news for the fig industry because Americans tend not to be big fig consumers as the fig is not indigenous to the United States. More typically, figs are enjoyed with greater consumption throughout the Mediterranean region as they have been produced there since pre-biblical times. During Roman times, figs were given as prizes. “Through carbon dating studies,” Jue elaborated, “we have determined figs were the first cultivated food known to humankind.”

“Because the crop has been around for so long, figs are very well known in Europe. Europeans grow up eating figs, but Americans are starting to develop a palate for dried figs and fresh figs as well,” said Jue. “And for us in the fig industry, it’s great to see that occurring.”

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ILRP Changes Target All Calif. Farmers

Proposed Changes to Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Could Impact Farmers Statewide

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Kings River Water Quality Coalition LogoThe recently proposed changes to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), open for public comment until Wednesday, May 18, could significantly impact farmers, according to Casey Creamer, coordinator for the Kings River Water Quality Coalition“The proposed modifications concern the east San Joaquin Region, within Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties,” Creamer said. “That’s the scope of it.”

According to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) website, ILRP “regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands. This is done by issuing waste discharge requirements (WDRs) or conditional waivers of WDRs (Orders) to growers.” Discharges include irrigation runoff, flows from tile drains and storm water runoff, which can transport “pollutants including pesticides, sediment, nutrients, salts (including selenium and boron), pathogens, and heavy metals, from cultivated fields into surface waters. Orders contain conditions requiring water quality monitoring of receiving waters and corrective actions when impairments are found.”

While ILRP currently targets only the east San Joaquin region, Creamer said, “It’s a precedent-setting deal, so everything in there is going to affect not only the entire Central Valley, but the Central Coast and the Imperial Valley—that may not have near the issues or the current regulatory programs that we have here in the Central Valley. So, its very important statewide.”

Creamer emphasized, “Farmers need to know that this is not a minor issue; this is a big issue that affects their livelihoods and their ability to operate. They need to get involved. They need to communicate with their other growers, communicate with their associations, get involved and have their voices heard.”

__________________

The State Water Board is hosting a public workshop on the proposed order on Tuesday, May 17, in Fresno—one day prior to the closing of the ILRP public comment period. The workshop will be held at 9:00 a.m. in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Central Region, 1990 E. Gettysburg Avenue, Fresno.

The SWRCB is also soliciting written comments on the proposed order. Written comments must be received by 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Please indicate in the subject line, “Comments to A-2239(a)-(c).” Electronic submission of written comments is encouraged. Written comments must be addressed to:

Ms. Jeanine Townsend

Clerk to the BoardSWRCB-logo-water-boards

State Water Resources Control Board

1001 I Street, 24th Floor [95814]

P.O. Box 100

Sacramento, CA 95812-0100

(tel) 916-341-5600

(fax) 916-341-5620

(email) commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

  __________________

The Kings River Water Quality Coalition is a non-profit joint powers agency established by the irrigation districts in the Kings River service area. It is governed by a board of directors of landowners from each of the districts. Staffing of the Coalition is administered through an agreement with the Kings River Conservation District located in Fresno. The Coalition was formed in 2009 in order to allow growers within the region a cost-effective avenue to comply with the regulations developed by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Coalition conducts regional monitoring and reporting and assists members in compliance with regulations. The Coalition is not a regulatory agency. Enforcement of the ILRP is handled by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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Costa: Westside Water Cut Unconscionable

Jim Costa: Water Allocation is Immoral

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Jim Costa, Congressman for the 16th Congressional District of California that covers all of Merced County and parts of Fresno and Madera Counties and includes vast areas of agricultural land, is not happy with the water situation in California. Costa stated, “To be sure, we are still in a water crisis even though we have had some good [wet] months.”

“Sadly those good months have seen too much of that water going out to sea—as opposed to getting into the San Luis Reservoir and providing water for our Valley—whether for the East side or the Westside. It is a fight that I have been engaged in for years, but most recently, I have been trying to ensure that we are pumping at the maximum levels even under the flawed biological opinions that we are having to contend with.”

Costa explained that while the pumps have been turned up over the past month, sometimes to the maximum level, “the San Luis Reservoir is only 51% full, and now we are are still looking at a 5 percent water allocation for Federal water users.  This has been avoidable, and it is unconscionable and immoral. Let me repeat that, it has been avoidable, and it is immoral and unconscionable that we, in fact, are in this predicament. It is largely because we have failed to take advantage of the El Niño months of December and January.”

Assessing our winter water losses,Costa remarked, “Since January 1st, we estimate that we have lost over 440,000 acre-feet of water. This freshwater440,000 acre-feetwould make a big difference to our Valley, which has been water-starved from a combination of 4 years of drought, plus the flawed biological operations of the Federal and State Water Projects. So, we have to fix this broken water system, bottom line.”

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Farmers Generous to Food Banks

Farmers Generous to Food Banks

By Laurie Greene, Editor

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.”

Jim Bates, chief financial officer, Fowler Packing

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.”

_____________________

Links

California Association of Food Banks (CAFB)

Community Food Bank

Farm to Family

Fowler Packing

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Thanks to California Ag!

Thanks to California Ag for Thanksgiving!

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

As Americans enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, let us recognize that farmers, especially California farmers, have made our bounty possible.

pumpkin free imageCalifornia is a big turkey producing state, always ranking in the top six nationally.

pumpkin free imageIn 1948, Sophie Cubbison, who was born in San Carlos, California and who graduated from California Polytechnical University in 1912, invented the Mrs. Cubbinson’s melba toast or cornbread stuffing most of us serve. (She even paid her way through college with the money she earned feeding farmworkers. Sourcewww.mrscubbisons.com)

pumpkin free imageWhat would Thanksgiving be without wonderful California wines and Martinelli’s (another great California company) great sparkling apple and grape beverages to celebrate our good fortune?

pumpkin free imageAnd all those amazing side dishes . . . the russet and red potatoes from Kern County; the sweet potatoes from Merced County; the many wonderful squash varieties including zucchini, yellow, acorn squash . . . are all produced by farmers and farmworkers in California.

pumpkin free imageGreen beans, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, radishes, and carrots will grace the tables across America, thanks to California producers in ped and other areas of the state.

Don’t forget gapumpkin free imagerlic, onions and mushrooms are all produced primarily in California!

California farmers produce it all, with the exception of cranberries!

Thanks Wisconsin!

(And New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Canada)

pumpkin free imageYou can thank California egg producers for those tasty hardboiled deviled eggs on Grandma’s favorite serving dish.

pumpkin free imagePlus raisins, a great addition to dressings and other dishes, thanks to the raisin producers in Fresno, Madera and Merced Counties.

pumpkin free imageAnd of course walnuts, almonds and pistachios are big part of our savory stuffing recipes and our snacks.

pumpkin free imageApple cider and apple pie? California, among the top five states, produces a wide variety of apples.

pumpkin free imageWait! What about pumpkin pie? California farmers.

pumpkin free imageAnd the wonderful whipped cream? Thanks to the California dairy industry.

pumpkin free imageDid you know the turkey pop-up timer was invented in California? Yes, indeed. Back in the 1950s, the California Turkey Producers Advisory Board brainstormed to figure out how to prevent over-cooked turkeys, according to Leo Pearlstein, a Los Angeles pubic relations pro in the food industry, who was among the five original board members. One board member—a California turkey producer, as Pearlstein tells it—looked up at the ceiling, noticed the sprinklers and had a Eureka moment! He suddenly realized the ceiling sprinklers were triggered when heat melted a material inside the gizmo. For a complete explanation, see How Pop-Up Turkey Timers Work at home.howstuffworks.com/pop-up-timer1.htm.

From all of us here at California Ag Today,

Thanks to California Ag for serving us a delectable nutritious Thanksgiving!

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Temperance Flat Dam Will Solve Sinking Soil

David Rogers: Temperance Flat Dam Will Solve Sinking Soil

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

 

Speaking at last week’s California Water Commission meeting in Clovis about the need for water storage, Madera County supervisor David Rogers voiced the solution to land subsidence caused by groundwater depletion:  the Temperance Flat Dam.

“We’re losing our groundwater so rapidly, the soil is sinking beneath us in a geological process called subsidence,” Rogers said. “Water is flowing out to the ocean from the San Joaquin River system, when in reality, that water needs to be delegated and allocated to farms so they don’t have to pump groundwater.”

“We’re losing the river and it’s a moot issue. We need surface water delivery; that has to happen. We cannot continue this way or we will lose the river, the communities, and the farms. There’s no question that Temperance Flat is the answer to this problem.”

Central Valley land subsidence is not new. In the mid-1900s, subsidence of the soil was occurring much like it is today. “Between 1937 and 1955,” Rogers explained, “the ground sank 28 feet in Mendota, Fresno and Madera Counties and similar regions.”

The federal Central Valley Project (CVP), which stretches 400 miles from north to south, was organized and built back then to solve the extreme and recurring water shortages, land subsidence and flooding. Operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and considered one of the world’s largest water storage and transport systems, the CVP now consists of 20 dams and reservoirs, 11 power plants, and 500 miles of major canals, as well as conduits, tunnels, and related facilities.

“The very purpose of the CVP,” Rogers emphasized, “was to stop the ground from sinking beneath our feet. We are currently in the same situation, and the much-needed extra storage is going to be created by the Temperance Flat Dam. It is the solution. It is what this Valley needs. We need it now. We don’t need it tomorrow; we need it—yesterday!”

 

Categories

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

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Water Commission Meeting Delivers Passion and Controversy

Water Commission Meeting Delivers Passion and Controversy

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

 

The California drought has become a hot topic, and even more so is the subject of how to solve the drought. Some advocates believe the solution is in long-term water storage, and as a result, the California Water Commission (Commission) has been drawing up a proposal to enact this potential solution.

On Wednesday, Oct. 14 in Clovis, the Commission held a public meeting to discuss their Water Storage Investment Program.

Joe Del Bosque, a commissioner on the California Water Commission, as well as a Westside farmer struggling with the zero water allocations, summarized the meeting, “It was very lively, especially at the beginning. A lot of folks are hurting—and rightly so. They have a lot of uncertainties about next year or the year after, or for who knows how many years.

We don’t know when some of these storage projects will be completed and ready to start helping us. A lot of folks have a lot on the line here in the San Joaquin Valley, and I appreciate hearing from them and listening to their concerns.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, in his opening remarks, said the governor, the commission and the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) must realize what is driving the need for water storage. “We really need to look at the capacity to store water,” Patterson said. “If we have two river watersheds—both producing similar amounts of water, but one drops into a reservoir that’s half the size of the other, the water will overflow. And we know El Nino is coming, 95 percent.”

Many individuals spoke passionately about the plan during the comment period. Kings County Supervisor and walnut farmer, Doug Verboon, said, “We need storage. We’ve been complaining about it for years, and this is one chance in our lifetime to get more storage built. We need to get over our differences and get together and make this happen. We want to make sure the Water Commission fully understands the importance of adding more storage today.”

Another county supervisor, David Rogers, from Madera County, reminded the Commission that the need for water storage goes beyond reserving water for dry years.

“We’re losing our groundwater so rapidly that the soil is sinking beneath us and we have subsidence occurring,” Rogers said. “And all the while water is flowing out to the ocean from the San Joaquin river system when that water needs to be delegated and allocated to the farms that need it so they’re not pumping groundwater.

In reality we’re losing the river as a result of subsidence. The river, itself, is subsiding so it’s a moot issue whether or not we need surface water delivery. That has to happen. We cannot continue this way or we will lose the river, the communities and the farms. So there’s no question that Temperance Flat is the answer to that problem.”

During the meeting attendees learned that the Water Storage Improvement Plan includes a timeline that doesn’t allow for funds to be awarded to applicants wishing to build storage until 2017.

Greg Musson, president of GAR Tootelian, Inc., called the timeline unacceptable, adding the delay in the plan would lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. “I don’t see how anyone can accept this as being standard for the way that America works,” he said. “Shame on you! Really, shame on you! You have to do better here. America needs you to do better; I need you to do better; the people in this room need you to do better than this. This is outrageous.”

Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, spoke about the Joint Powers of Authority (JPA) that is being formed to apply for funding to build water storage. “We’re going to have to submit it as a large project,” Cunha said, “big storage—definitely Temperance Flat—plus all of these different irrigation districts, cities and tribes have projects that we’re going put together and submit in this large package. That’s the only way we’re going to get this money. Only then cab we start to deal with all the public benefits, environmental issues, and securing those dollars for this Valley.”

The California Water Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Seven members are chosen for their general expertise related to the control, storage, and beneficial use of water and two are chosen for their knowledge of the environment. The Commission provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and takes appropriate statutory actions to further the development of policies that support integrated and sustainable water resource management and a healthy environment. Statutory duties include advising the Director of DWR, approving rules and regulations, and monitoring and reporting on the construction and operation of the State Water Project.

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