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.

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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

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Water Diversion Lessons from Australia

Australian Water Woes: Water Diversion Will Not Save Fish

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, spoke to the CDFA Board of Directors about the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed strategy of diverting up to 40 percent of the Tuolumne River flows to increase flows in the Delta for salmon and smelt. The diversion would severely impact farm and city water needs in both the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Oakdale Irrigation District (OID).

 

“Despite increased [water] flows over the years, the fish populations continue to decline in the Delta,” Wade said. “We have exacerbated this problem. We have released water with the intent going back to 2008 and 2009 [scenarios] and even before, if you want to turn the clock back to 1992, and yet we’re still seeing population crashes.”

 

“The science is showing that fish are not recovering. Yet, the California Department of Water Resources is doubling down on the same kind of activity—the same strategy—that hasn’t worked in the past and that we do not expect to work moving forward,” he said.

 

Mike Wade
Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

 

“That is why schools, health departments, farmers, Latinos, economic development departments have opposed the regulation. A host of folks have come out and commented, written letters, and expressed their opinion on the plan because of the severe economic issues they are going to deal with at the 40% impaired flow level.”

 

Wade noted that in recent years, a lot of attention has focused on Australia and how great they are at water management. People commend their effectiveness in changing their water rights system and supposedly improving their ecosystem—or having a plan to work on their ecosystem issues. “In 2009, the vast agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority established a flow amount, or a quantity, for environmental water that was around 2.2 million acre-feet. That is out of around 26.4 million acre-feet of average annual flow in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Wade said.

 

“To set the stage, the Murray-Darling Basin is in eastern Australia. It extends in the north around 800 miles from Gold Coast and the border of Queensland all the way south to Melbourne,” Wade said. “It is actually a geographic area about the size of California and remarkably has a very similar quantity of water to serve its farmers. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority set a 2.2 million acre-foot environmental water buyback for the environment, like we are talking about here.”

 

Wade conveyed to the CDFA Board what his friends in Australia were telling him. “I was there for two weeks in August following up on a trip I took in 2012 to learn about their water supply issues and how they deal with it. My friends are telling me, ‘Don’t do what we do. It has been a disaster,’” Wade said.

 

“The environmental sector hasn’t even achieved their full environmental buyback goal, and they’re already seeing 35% unemployment in some towns. It is directly related to the water buybacks, the declining amount of irrigation water, and the declining agriculture economy because of the change in focus on how they deliver and use water in Australia,” he said.

 

“Three weeks ago—this is how recent these things are coming about and how they’re changing—a good friend of mine, Michael Murray, Cotton Australia general manager, said the ‘Just Add Water’ approach already in place doesn’t work in the Northern Basin. It has to be abandoned. And recently, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Inc. of Australia President Jeremy Morton said, ‘The over-recovery of water has resulted in unnecessary economic harm to communities. It’s a case of maximum pain with minimum gain.'”

 

“A dozen organizations are suggesting this isn’t just a, ‘Don’t do it’ and ‘Abandon the environmental water buybacks.’ What they’re suggesting is the exact same thing that TID and OID are going to experience. Australia’s problems in the Murray-Darling Basin are, remarkably, invasive species, the loss of habitat, and some of the water quality issues that we deal with. It’s the same story, only they are a few years ahead of us,” Wade said.

 

“What has happened in Australia is going to happen to us in the Valley, with big unemployment issues and the closed businesses,” Wade said. “I walked down the main street in the town of Helston and half of the businesses—I’m not exaggeratinghalf of the businesses were boarded up and closed. Only small businesses were still open, such as a convenience store, a bar and a tailor. All the rest were gone.”

 

Wade asked CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to extend the comment period for the Water Board’s proposal. “We all need to have an opportunity to bring some of these issues to light and to support what’s going on in the agriculture community. We must support the need for comprehensive economic studies, either bringing out the ones that have been done or doing some more. We have more economic data will show there is an economic hit that’s deeper, much deeper, that what is proposed or suggested in the plan.”

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Farm Water Coalition Shames State Water Resources     

Farm Water Coalition Shames SWRCB Over Proposal 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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