Message to Water Board: Water is Everyone’s Business

Volunteer from El Agua es Asunto de Todos (Water is Everyone’s Business) Gives Compelling Testimony at Water Board Workshop

by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday

TODAYMaría L. Gutiérrez, a volunteer with El Agua es Asunto de Todos, “Water is Everyone’s Business,”  gave the following testimony at California’s State Water Resources Control Board‘s (Water Board) Sacramento information-only Public Workshop regarding the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) submitted by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on January 23, 2015. Given the drought crisis, the DWR and USBR filed the TUCP with the SWRCB Division of Water Rights  to revise Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta restrictions devised to meet flow and water quality objectives established in the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta) Estuary. The TUCP requests the Water Board allow more water to be allocated to the Central Valley, for a period of 180 days, via DWR’s State Water Project (SWP) and USBR’s Central Valley Project (CVP) that includes flows from recent storms in the northern part of the state.

Gutiérrez provided the following testimony:

“El Agua es Asunto de Todos” is a campaign with two main goals – to raise awareness about the water shortage in California and the devastating economic impact it is having upon the Latino community, and second, to provide a platform for the Latino community to actively weigh in on the water issues.

California is entering its fourth straight dry year marking this state’s worst drought in 500 years. A drought like this is wrecking havoc on the lives of Latino families and the communities they live in. And when you impact the Latino community, you are looking at a domino effect with epic proportions. Because this affects restaurants, gas stations, truck drivers, gardeners, mom and pop shops, small business, schools, and food projects.

Our situation is even grimmer. We have seen 40% unemployment in Mendota, Huron and Firebaugh.

We are living in America. And, so I have to ask you, how is this happening? In my mind, I expect it to get even worse. We can conserve as much water as we can now, but if we don’t get a reliable water supply, whole communities will be torn apart.

El Agua Es Asunto De Todos
“Water is Everyone’s Business”

The unconscionable decision by Executive Director Tom Howard to deny additional pumping and water supply to our Central Valley communities is outrageous and immoral. His decision is a slap in the face to Latinos who live south of the Delta.

Let me tell you something about the Latino community. Latinos want to work; they don’t want a handout; and they don’t want to be standing in food lines. People tell us at every place we stop to dialogue, how they are losing their jobs, cars, and homes. Families are seeing their college dreams for their kids disappear. They tell us, all I want to do is work.

We are seeing more women and men standing in lines for food baskets. People are being forced to make tough choices – to put food on the table or buy medication. We are also seeing too many families lacking life’s basic necessities like water for drinking, cooking and showering because their wells have run dry.  Another year with zero percent water will bring even more hardship to these families.

I’ve met farmers who have told me that if they didn’t get water, they would have to lay off entire families of workers that have worked for them for generations. Farmers are of all races and nationalities. Most have started as farm workers, they bought the acreage and now they are farmers. They are part of what makes this nation great.

People are very angry. You need to understand the total impact a bad decision will have on many of our communities.

We need water now!

It is a civil right. 

It is a human right.

All of our communities request that the State Water Resources Control Board approve in full and allow State and Federal agencies to collectively manage the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on a real-time basis to provide water to our communities that are in dire need.

Our communities cannot afford any lesser operational flexibility during this unprecedented crisis.

As the Water Board meeting was for informational purposes only, no Board action was taken.

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California Water Cutbacks Are Not Saving Delta Smelt

U.S. Supreme Court to rule on ESA-mandated water curtailments to protect Delta Smelt regardless of the cost to humans and economy

 

A summary of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) reports the lowest index for Delta Smelt in the 48-year history of this survey. The FMWT is mandated by the Delta Smelt Biological Opinion for the coordinated operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.

Jason Peltier, Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, sees these results as the “latest evidence of a failed regulatory regime.”

CDFW-Insignia-146x193The memorandum, sent from Steven Slater, CDFW Environmental Scientist, Region 3, to Scott Wilson, CDFW Regional Manager, Region 3, describes the Survey which annually measures the fall abundance of pelagic fish—fish which live neither near the bottom of oceans or lakes, nor near the surface, such as ocean coral reefs—since 1967. FMWT equipment and methods have remained consistent since the survey’s inception, which allows the indices to be compared across time.

According to the Memorandum, the FMWT annual abundance index is the sum of monthly indices from surveys conducted over the four months from September through December each year. During each monthly survey, one 12-minute oblique midwater trawl tow is conducted at each of 100 index stations used for index calculation and at an additional 22 non-index stations that provide enhanced distribution information.

The 2014 Delta Smelt index is 9, making it the lowest index in FMWT history. Delta Smelt abundance was highest in 1970 and has been consistently low since 2003, except in 2011.

Other fish also scored poorly. The 2014 age-0 Striped Bass index is 59, making it the third lowest index in FMWT history. Age-0 Striped Bass abundance was highest at the survey’s inception in 1967. The 2014 Longfin Smelt index is 16, making it the second lowest index in FMWT history. Longfin Smelt abundance was highest in 1967. The 2014 Threadfin Shad index is 282, which is the sixth lowest in FMWT history and the seventh in a series of very low abundance indices. Threadfin Shad abundance was highest in 1997. The 2014 American Shad index is 278, which is the second lowest in FMWT history and only slightly higher than the 2008 index of 271. American Shad abundance was highest in 2003. (Figures 2 through 6, below, illustrate these indices.)

2014_FMWT_graphs 1-4_Page_1 2014_FMWT_graphs 1-4_Page_2

In, “Delta smelt legal battle heads to Supreme Court,” published Wednesday in the LA Times, reporter David Savage, stated, “The delta smelt may be a small fish with a short life, but it has spawned a decades-long legal battle over water in California.
At issue has been a series of orders under the Endangered Species Act that at times reduce water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to San Joaquin Valley growers and urban Southern California.”

Citing the severe state drought, the article reports that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a strict federal rule from the 1970s that calls for curtailing the water diversions to protect the threatened delta smelt and other imperiled species regardless of the cost to humans and the economy.”

Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and U.S. Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr. urged the court to turn down the appeals, the article states, saying the 9th Circuit was correct in saying Fish and Wildlife officials must take reasonable steps to protect an endangered species, regardless of the economic effect.

Kate Poole, an NRDC attorney, said the water agencies have “a long history of exaggerating the impacts “of protecting endangered fish in the delta, including Chinook salmon,” per the LA Times. “The underlying problem in California is that our demand for water consistently exceeds our supply, even in non-drought years,” she said. “Wiping out our native fisheries will not solve this problem.”

 

In response to the NRDC comments, the California Farm Water Coalition electronically published the following Today:

Kate Poole’s remarks, that farmers have exaggerated the impacts of ESA-based water supply cuts, would be insulting to the thousands of farmers, farmworkers, and local business owners who face not just bankruptcy, but the loss of their way of life. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland have been permanently fallowed. Farmers have switched to higher value crops to justify higher costs for reduced water supplies. Farmworkers have moved away, seeking employment because of job losses in communities like Firebaugh, Mendota and Huron.”

Communities were developed on the faith that was placed in the federal government to keep its promise to deliver reliable supplies of water through the Delta.  While the impacts of reduced water supplies seem insignificant to the lobbyists and lawyers from the kinds of powerful environmental organizations represented by Poole, for those whose very livelihoods are dependent on this water it is a constant struggle.

 

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State Failed to Analyze Effects of Kern Water Bank

Source: Bettina Boxall; LA Times

resnick-stewart_pic
Stewart Resnick

A court ruling issued Wednesday could throw obstacles to the operation of a Kern County groundwater bank that has helped billionaire Stewart Resnick build a nut empire in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

In the latest development in a two-decade legal fight, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found that the state Department of Water Resources didn’t properly analyze the environmental impacts of the Kern Water Bank, which is partly controlled by Resnick’s Paramount Farms enterprise.

Judge Timothy Frawley will hold a hearing to determine the next step in the case. Environmental groups intend to argue that the water bank should be shut down while the state prepares a new environmental report.

“These guys have spent 16 years avoiding this moment. It’s always been a possibility that a court would come in and shut it down,” said Adam Keats, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which represented plaintiffs in one of two related lawsuits that Frawley decided.

Representatives of Resnick and his wife, Lynda, who also own Fiji Water and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, referred requests for comment to the water bank, whose attorney could not be reached.

The legal challenges sought to undo changes to the State Water Project that were made as part of a 1994 deal, known as the Monterey Agreement, between the Department of Water Resources and agencies supplied by the project. An earlier round of lawsuits forced the state to issue a new environmental review of the pact, which opponents argued was again insufficient.

Frawley ruled against them on all but one issue involving the water bank.

On that count, the judge concluded that the state’s environmental report failed to adequately assess the effects of the bank’s operation, particularly on groundwater and water quality.

Some neighboring water districts and environmental groups contend that the bank — originally developed by the state, but later ceded to private control — is harming the aquifer.

They also argue that because the groundwater bank is replenished with supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the operation is increasing demand for water from the environmentally fragile delta.

The Monterey Agreements, made behind closed doors, were intended to settle disputes between contractors of the State Water Project, which supplies Southern California cities and some irrigation districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

The deal has been controversial since its inception and opponents have spent years trying to overturn its provisions.

In his decision, Frawley rejected most of their most recent claims, finding that except for the water bank, the state’s review met legal requirements.

Next, he has to decide what happens to the bank while the state launches yet another environmental evaluation. “That’s the big question we’re all going to be fighting over,” Keats said.

Paramount Farms is the world’s largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios; in tandem with their Grower Partners, they farm 125,000 acres that deliver 450 million pounds of nuts.

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