Water Board Proceeds With Water Grab for Environment

40 Percent Water Grab for Environment Moves Forward

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The board members of the State Water Resource Control Board voted Dec. 12  to proceed with their unimpaired flows proposal on the Tuolumne, Stanislaus, and Merced Rivers—putting farmers and communities in peril of losing a big part of their water resources because of this water grab.

They’re calling for upwards of 40 percent unimpaired flows from the three tributary rivers flowing into the San Joaquin River flowing into the Delta to increase flows for salmon and other species.

“It’s going to have devastating and unavoidable consequences to our customers,” said Melissa Williams, Public Affairs spokeswomen for Modesto Irrigation District. “It’ll affect not only our farmers but also our urban community.”

Melissa Williams, Public Affairs for Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District treats and delivers and wholesales water to the city of Modesto, so homes and businesses will also be affected.

“We’re still evaluating the possible impacts and what that means for different supplies and rates,” Williams said.

“We’re disappointed in the State Water Resources Control Board’s action because at the direction of the governor and also the State Water Board, there was strong encouragement of voluntary agreement discussions. Modesto Irrigation District, together with our partners Turlock Irrigation District in the city and county of San Francisco, engaged in good faith, voluntary agreement discussions the last couple of months,” Williams explained.

The water districts have worked collaboratively to develop a framework for the Tuolumne River that not only would balance the needs of customers and the environment but also included an offer of early implementation of river flow and non-flow measures, such as habitat restoration and predation suppression measures.

“Despite our significant progress in putting this voluntary agreement framework together and presenting it to the State Water Board, they still decided to move forward with their plan,” Williams said.

Of course, the water districts plan to continue to fight the proposal and will take all measures to protect their water supply in those communities that are served.

“We’re still evaluating the State Water Board’s approved resolution, and the action they took and the impacts it will have. We continue to advocate for a durable solution that can achieve sustainability and reliability for our environment, our customers, and overall communities,” Williams said.

The Water Districts are frustrated with the State Water Board because the board ignored all suggestions to help the environment without taking so much water from the rivers.

“We have approximately 30 days to challenge their decision after they file what they call a notice of determination. So over the next month, we’ll be analyzing what they agreed to … and taking the appropriate actions necessary, including litigation,” Williams explained.

The State Water Board did include language in their approved resolution that directed their staff to evaluate the Tuolumne River and voluntary agreement framework and come back with an analysis by March 1, 2019.

“But again, we’re prepared to take any appropriate actions necessary to protect our water supply in our communities for our customers,” Williams said.

The economic impacts are devastating in Stanislaus County alone.

“Through various studies that we’ve done, our water supply supports close to $4 billion worth of economics, in the region. And of course, the Stanislaus and Merced River areas will have similar devastating impacts,” Williams said.

And even San Francisco consumers are impacted. Because a significant source of their water comes from the Tuolumne River, any cutbacks in water supply will affect two million people in the Bay Area.

Water Board’s Water Grab From Rivers Will Impact Domestic Water

State Water Resources Control Board Plan is “Pseudo-Science”

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Over one thousand farmers and stakeholders gathered at the California state capital building in Sacramento in August to protest the California Water Resources Control Board’s recent proposed Water Grab.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation District, explained to California Ag Today that the water board’s plan would severely impact Modesto citizens.

Modesto Irrigation District provides surface drinking water to the city of Modesto.

“If you take away Modesto Irrigation District surface water, you take away the domestic water supply for the entire city of Modesto, and they did not consider any of that in there,” Lucas said.turlock irrigation canal

The California Water Resources Control Board seriously underestimated the impact that their water grab would have on surrounding communities.

“Their science is shaky at best; it’s pseudo-science frankly,” Lucas said.

Modesto Irrigation District has spent more than $25 million in studies for over a decade specifically on the Tuolumne River with their partner, Turlock Irrigation District.

“We have presented them with a plan that gives them more fish that is sustainable, that protects groundwater, that protects surface water, and that allows everybody to get better together. This is our river,” Lucas said.

Also, Don Pedro is one of the few reservoirs and facilities that has zero state funding. The residents of Turlock, Turlock Irrigation District, and the Modesto Irrigation District paid 100 percent with a little federal money with Army Corp to build that facility.

“Because of that foresight, the state is going to come and try and take it and it is not theirs to take and we cannot let it happen,” Lucas explained.

Marin County Farm Bureau Fights Back on Water Grab

More Water For Fish Will Not Work

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently in Sacramento, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally outside the Capitol building to protest the State Water Resources Control Board water grab. Over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers may be sent to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Sam Dolcini with the Marin County Farm Bureau about the issue.

“I am here because water is critical to the entire agricultural infrastructure in the state of California. We have many dairies in our county that depend on the water from other parts of the state,” he said.

Marin County Farm Bureau
Sam Dolcini

The proposal would dedicate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River alone between February and June. This water would be used for fish, wildlife, and salinity control. This would be a huge increase in water currently used for environmental purposes, with water already in short supply.

“This can be devastating for valley farmers, which is why they flock this week to the Capitol building to be sure their voices are heard,” Dolcini said.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation district, agrees that this water grab could be devastating.

“We are one of the six senior water rights holders,” she said. “They are taking the waterfront, and the impact that will have on the Modesto irrigation district will just be devastating.”

Fighting to Protect Family Farms from Water Diversion

In Face of Water Diversion Threat, Ag Industry Experts are Speaking Out

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

California Ag Today has been reporting on the California State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) proposed plan to divert 40 percent of the surface water from the Tuolumne River and two additional tributaries of the San Joaquin River between February 1st and June 30th every year. The SWRCB plan is designed to increase flows in the Delta in an effort to help the declining smelt and salmon populations. Yet, these water diversions would severely impact not only the farm industry, but communities in the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts as well.

Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors
Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors

Ag officials say this is yet another threat to family farms in an attempt to protect the smelt and salmon. Farmers would lose a major portion of their surface water and be forced to pump more groundwater.

“Farming is not just a job; it’s a way of life for many of these families. And that livelihood, that way of life, is being threatened,” said Michael Boccadoro, president of West Coast Advisors, an independent, nonpartisan public affairs and advocacy firm that specializes in complex and often controversial public issues in Sacramento.

Boccadoro said the farm industry in the region is not sitting still while all of this is happening. There is a website, worthyourfight.org, that addresses this new assault on agriculture.

worthyourfight-logo Water Diversion
WorthYourFight.org

“It is worth fighting for,”said Boccadoro. “I was born and raised in agriculture, and I still think it’s a wonderful lifestyle. We need to protect it at all costs. This is starting to border on the ridiculous in terms of just one issue after another. . .  This is not a “Mother Nature” issue; this is government putting these obstacles and these problems in front of agriculture, and that’s troubling.”

“We produce much of the fruits and vegetables and nearly all the nut crops for the entire nation. So, of course, we would expect to see significant amounts of water being used by farming in California,” Boccadoro said.

“It’s just reality, and for whatever reason, I think people have been misled and don’t understand this is just part of growing food. Like I have said, if you are concerned about it, all you’ve got to do is quit eating. It’s that simple.”


Links:

California State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB)

West Coast Advisors

worthyourfight.org

Modesto Irrigation District leaders hustling to get growers more water

By: Garth Stapley; The Modesto Bee

Nut farmers and other Modesto Irrigation District customers can wait to water crops as late as Oct. 3. That’s two weeks later than initially planned, giving trees a better chance of surviving the drought and being healthy enough to produce again next year.

The MID board also agreed Tuesday to accommodate another round of farmer-to-farmer water transfers with a Sept. 2 application deadline. And the district might offer to sell some extra water reserved in April by a few farmers who haven’t asked or paid for it since then.

Faced with a third consecutive dry winter, district officials in February said the irrigation season would end Sept. 19, several weeks earlier than usual, and capped deliveries at 24 inches per acre, down from 36 in a normal year.

But farmers, especially those raising almonds, have been pressing for later deliveries.

Citing University of California research, Ron Fisher said trees that don’t drink just after harvest can lose 74 percent of nuts the following year.

Some almond varieties, such as padre, mission, Monterey and Fritz, harvest later than Sept. 19, growers told the board.

“I’ve farmed almonds over 50 years and I’ve never got my harvest completed by Oct. 3,” said Cecil Hensley, a former board member. “There is no use having (water) next year if we don’t keep our trees alive.”

Farmers won’t get more than their fair share with the extension; Tuesday’s unanimous vote simply allows them to apply their allotment later in the year, explained board member Jake Wenger, who farms.

Board Chairman Nick Blom, also a grower, reminded people that they can rent district wells and canals after the regular season ends, for late-season irrigating.

“It’s not the purest snow water, but it’s water,” Blom said.

To augment deliveries, scores of farmers this year have taken advantage of new programs allowing them to buy or sell MID shares in fixed-price transfers managed by the district or open-market sales at any agreed-upon price.

The district has accommodated more than 100 open-market deals for farmers who submitted transfer requests by deadlines of June 1, July 1 and Friday. Tuesday’s 4-1 vote, with Larry Byrd dissenting, adds a fourth deadline of Sept. 2.

“This gives everyone a little more time and flexibility,” Modesto farmer Aaron Miller said.

Wenger initially suggested an Aug. 15 deadline. Attorneys Stacy Henderson and Bob Fores said their clients would appreciate more time and noted that MID General Manager Roger VanHoy had acknowledged that his staff has experienced no difficulty processing transfer requests.

In April, 26 farmers indicated interest in the district’s allocation return program, meaning they might want to sell a portion or all of their MID water shares, or buy water given up by others. The cost was $200 per acre-foot on either end.

The district set aside enough water to cover those potential deals, but a handful of farmers – fewer than a dozen, said civil engineering manager John Davids – did not sign contracts and have not paid for the extra water they initially said they might buy.

Davids did not know how much water remains in that pot, but said it represents a potential $300,000 loss. Board member John Mensinger said that’s “regrettable” and Wenger suggested selling the water to others in what VanHoy termed “something like a last call.”

“Let’s make it available. I think people would take us up on it,” Wenger said.

VanHoy said he will suggest rules for such deals at a future meeting.

The board next meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at 1231 11th St., Modesto.

 

Modesto Strives to Get Water Customers to Conserve

By Kevin Valine; The Modesto Bee

Modesto is asking everyone to conserve water as the state bakes under a third straight year of drought.

And in case folks have not gotten the message, the city is helping them. Since May, three city employees have been making sure the city’s roughly 77,000 water customers follow water restrictions, such as not watering lawns or washing cars from noon to 7 p.m.

The employees drive throughout the city, and surrounding communities served by Modesto, responding to complaints about water wasters, canvassing neighborhoods to check for compliance and investigating when they spot something suspicious, such as water from a broken sprinkler flooding a gutter.

The three issued 536 notices of violation June 1 to 24. The number of violations issued in May was not available.

City officials emphasized that the effort is not punitive, but focused on education and getting customers to comply. There is no fine for the first violation. A second violation can result in a $50 fine; a third violation is $200; a fourth violation is $250. City officials say they have not issued any fines, but may issue a $50 fine to an apartment complex.

“We want to make sure people adhere to the rules and hopefully reduce their water use,” Water Systems Manager Dave Savidge said.

On a recent weekday, Water Conservation Specialist Juan Tejeda checked in with a woman who had complained that her neighbors had partially flooded her backyard because they had left their sprinklers on overnight.

Karen Brown said this was not the first time her west Modesto neighbors had flooded her yard. She said she has tried to talk with them, but to no avail. Tejeda spoke with Brown and took pictures of the standing water in her backyard before knocking on the neighbors’ door. The woman who answered said it was a mistake and would not happen again.

Tejeda issued her a notice of violation and gave her information about Modesto’s water restrictions.

In some cases, Tejeda will turn off the water to the irrigation system of the home or business if he can’t make contact with the offender. He also will leave a notice for the home or business to call the city to resolve the violation and get the water restored.

His other stops that day included checking with the residents of two homes to see if they had corrected problems that had resulted in violating the city’s water restrictions. One problem was a broken sprinkler, and the other a sprinkler system set to water on the wrong day.

Tejeda said his job often involves letting homeowners, shopping centers and apartment complexes know their sprinkler systems have been set to water on the wrong day or are malfunctioning. “We know there are a lot of people in Modesto who care about conservation and we want to thank them for that,” he said.

Modesto is feeling the effects of the drought. It gets a significant amount of its water from the Modesto Irrigation District, with the rest coming from its roughly 100 wells. In early May, MID cut its annual water allocation to the city by 43 percent, which is the same reduction MID imposed on its other customers. MID gets its water from the Tuolumne River.

Modesto had been getting on average 30 million gallons of water per day from MID. It’s now getting on average 17 million gallons per day. Modesto used about 59 million gallons of water per day on average for 2013. Daily water use for the first six months of this year averaged 48 million gallons. But Modesto is heading into its peak season for water use.

Savidge said he believes the city can go until May, when MID sets its next annual water allocation, without imposing further water restrictions. But he expects the city to impose more restrictions if the drought continues into a fourth year.

The city has been under stage 1 water restrictions from its drought contingency plan since 2003. They call for reducing water use 10 percent to 20 percent and include such measures as limiting the days and times when residents can water their lawns. City officials have said water use has dropped 20 percent since 2003.

Savidge said the reduction has come about through conservation efforts; replacing older, leaking water mains with new ones; and getting more residential customers on water meters. He said about three-quarters of the city’s residential users are on meters and the city expects to be at 100 percent by 2022. Commercial water users are on meters.

The city’s stage 2 water restrictions call for reducing water use by as much as 15 percent more.

More about the stage 1 restrictions, water conservation tips, information about rebates for the purchase of high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, and other resources is available at www.ci.modesto.ca.us/pwd/water/conservation. Customers can call (209) 342-2246 to report water restriction violations.

Turlock Irrigation District Will Rehab Reservoir

Source: John Holland

The board of the Turlock Irrigation District voted 5-0 Tuesday to fix up a small, abandoned reservoir near Hilmar to conserve canal water.

The $2.34 million project will catch water from the Highline Canal that now is released into the Merced River when flows are unexpectedly high. The water will go into Laterals 7 and 8, which serve farmland near the south end of TID’s territory.

A staff report said the project will save an average of 2,550 acre-feet of water per year, and a future expansion could boost that to about 9,000. TID delivers close to 360,000 acre-feet in a normal year throughout its service area, but the drought has cut 2014 supplies roughly in half.

The district, which gets its water from the Tuolumne River and wells, also faces a long-term reduction in the river supply because of state and federal efforts to protect fish.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2015 irrigation season. The board also approved spending $960,000 on automated gates that will make flows on Lateral 8 more consistent.

The reservoir site is owned by the Hilmar County Water District, which provides water and sewer service to the town of Hilmar. The TID board appointed General Manager Casey Hashimoto to negotiate the purchase of the property.

Modesto Irrigation District, which also draws from the Tuolumne, also has been looking at building small reservoirs to catch canal water that now ends up in natural streams.