Water Projects Were Built to Deliver Surface Water to Farmers
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Water is always a concern while farming on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Daniel Hartwig is the resource manager of Huron-based Woolf Farming and Processing. The company is a multi-generation and multi-crop farming business. Hartwig explains how monitoring and being proactive helps them stay ahead of some of the water issues.
“Like everybody, we’re concerned that there’s not going to be enough water to do everything we’re currently doing,” Hartwig said. “I think we’re just waiting to see and trying to be proactive and get ahead of a lot of these water issues, but at the same time, we’re monitoring it and hopeful that there will be more surface water to make up for what we might be stopped from pumping.”
Not having surface water is a big problem on the west side.
“The entire reason the California Aqueduct and other canals were built was to have surface water to mitigate against the issues they had back in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Back before there was surface water available,” Hartwig explained.
Hartwig said he thinks that President Trump’s memorandum could be helpful.
“Anything that’s going to help give us water and allow it to be more reliable is very helpful. However, the issue is timing and … anything that’s going to take more time is more water loss, and that creates a struggle for all of us,” he explained.
“Regarding pump drilling, there are always discussions going on, but I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we can make any of those decisions just because we don’t know for sure what’s … going to come down the pipeline,” Hartwig said. “We’re evaluating, and we’re monitoring, and trying to be involved in these groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) discussions.”
Again, having surface water is the key to the future, noted Hartwig.
“The lack of surface water is a huge problem. I mean, we would not have to pump as much groundwater if we were able to get as much water as we are supposed to be receiving from the state and federal water projects,” Hartwig said.
Water Board Must Understand the Impact of Taking Water from Farms and Communities
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
At the recent Water Rally in Sacramento, more than 1000 farmers and other stakeholders were protesting the California Water Resources Control Board, which is proposing a water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers to increase flows for salmon. According to Adam Gray —21st District State Assemblyman, representing Stanislaus and Merced—counties said that large losses would occur in jobs and profits if the water grab is implemented.
“This is thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic loss to agriculture, to California, and we can’t afford that,” Gray said. “Not to mention the impact on drinking water in communities. Most of the communities in my district are on well water, and what people don’t think about is when you take water away from farmers and that water doesn’t go back into the ground. That further depletes our groundwater and our aquifers, and it creates more subsidence and environmental issues.”
Gray said that this is not about the environment versus business, or fish versus people. This is about the whole community, the schools, the ag economy and a lot of job losses for the people he represents.
“It’s dishonest; the Water Board is not admitting that there’s going to be an impact in the affected areas. They say farmers are going to offset the water losses by pumping more. Well, you and I both know with the implementation of SGMA and all of the other challenges, that’s not a reality,” he said.
“So how about we sit down and come up with a water plan that takes everybody’s needs into consideration and again, I’m not an us versus them advocate,” he said. “Southern California needs water, the coast needs water, northern California needs water and the San Joaquin Valley needs water. How about we sit down and make a water infrastructure plan for the next hundred years that serves all Californians.”
Gray said the farming community will stand up for the investments made to secure water.
“We are not going to lie down. We’re not going to apologize for being a farming community,” he said. “We’re going to stand up; we’re going to defend the investments we’ve made and the long-term planning we did, and we’re going to ask the state to step up and do some of their own.”
Agricultural leaders from cities, along with state and federal officials representing the Central San Joaquin Valley, are reeling with anger and disappointment with the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.
“The California Water Commission have ignored the facts and their own guidelines and have ignored the will of the people,” said Lee Brand, mayor of Fresno. “We believe the voters, especially those in the Central Valley, overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 where there was an expectation that their hard-earned money would be spent to help build water storage.”
“We desperately needed the Temperance Flat project. It will help us secure our water supplies against the droughts we know surely come,” Brand said.
The push to get funding for Temperance Flat dam was truly a valley-wide effort, with supervisors from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties, along with many cities and water agencies.
“Voters not just in the Valley but across the entire state should be upset over this decision. It is unthinkable that the Water Commission did not understand the benefits of the temperance flat project,” Brand said.
“Clearly all of us … are disappointed and clearly many of the voters in this valley are angered because we have been overlooked in terms of the water needs that are so essential for our valley,” said Jim Costa, D-CA 16th District, which includes Fresno.
“The Valley needs a reliable supply of water, and we supported this initiative on the basis that we would gain a more reliable supply of water. And clearly the recommendations of the Water Commission who took their staff’s lead was a very, very big disappointment for me. And I think all of us,” Costa continued.
“We’re not given up. That’s the bottom line. We’re not giving up,” he said.
Founded in 2009, the California Water Alliance is the leading educational voice and authority on California water. The Alliance is a 501c4 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for the water needs of California families, cities, businesses, farms, and the environment. The California Water Alliance is working to assist the farming community in multiple ways. Being transparent is at the forefront.
William Bourdeau is executive VP of Harris Farms and a board member of the Alliance. The alliance is telling the truth and being transparent, and that is very important, he said.
Bourdeau explained that California farmers, need water to feed the nation, and it is important to take an interest in the agricultural industry.
“The farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are the most regulated, the most skilled, and the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “Water and food are critical to any nation, and it’s not only important so we can provide the food for our children, but it’s important for national security reasons.”
“And this is not a California-centric issue. We grow food that people eat all across the country, and so everybody needs to take an interest in this and understand that it’s important that we have a vibrant agricultural industry because, without it, we will become vulnerable,” Bourdeau said.
The understanding of what factors are associated with farming in California is important for the general public to be educated. Anyone that is consuming safe, affordable, nutritious food needs to better understand where that food comes from and what effort is required to produce it.
“This isn’t easy. There are many, many factors that increase the challenge and risk associated with growing food. It’s capital intensive. It requires water. There are many, many opportunities to fail and we’re underappreciated and over-regulated,” Bourdeau said.
Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.
California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.
“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”
“Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”
“Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.
“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”
“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”
Labor is affecting everybody in California.
“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.
Big Study Shows Loss to Central Valley Economy with Loss of Water
By Patrick Cavanaugh. Farm News Director
A new study entitled, “The Implications of Agricultural Water for the Central Valley,” by Dr. Michael Shires of Pepperdine University, shows the economic implications of water in the Central Valley, and the potential outcome of continued water reductions in agriculture.
Agriculture is a major part of California’s economy, and this study illustrates both the outcome of increased water allocation and the potential growth that would come with it, or what could happen to the economy if this decline continues. This continued loss of water would result in a huge increase in the unemployment rate. Fresno would require 6.2 billion in solar farm investment annually to replace agricultural jobs that would be lost.
Johnny Amaral is the Deputy General Manager of External Affairs of the Westlands Water District. We spoke with him about Dr. Shire’s study, and what it means for the Central Valley. Shires is an economics professor at Pepperdine.
“He’s been involved for years, and has done economic reports and studies for other organizations and other groups with a particular interest in how public policy affects the economy and certain industries,” Amaral said. “And a couple of years ago, we started working with Dr. Shires in this debate over public policy as it relates to water.”
A lot of false information circulates about water use and agriculture. Most of this misinformation leads to a general negative opinion about agriculture, especially when it comes to water use.
“We’re constantly dealing with misinformation, deliberate misinformation about water policy, about agriculture,” Amaral said.
“You hear all the buzz words all the time about ag uses 80% of the water, which is not true. We’re constantly dealing with misinformation, so we thought it would make sense to have a document put together, a study done to show just what agriculture means to the Central Valley and to the state,” Amaral said.
Former head of California Farm Bureau Federation played instrumental part in many ag issues
California Ag Today enjoyed a recent conversation with Bill Pauli who farms wine grapes and Bartlett pears in Mendocino County on the North Coast.
Pauli was one of many that interviewed at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 98th annual Conference in Monterey earlier this month.
Pauli served as President of the California Farm Bureau Federation during some very challenging times. “I started clear back in 1981 as a vice-president of the California Farm Bureau, and culminated with president in 2005.
“During that period, I was heavily involved with CALFED and the Delta issues, which are so important to us and for which we’re seeing the issues today with the Delta and water supply and water management and availability,” Pauli said.
CALFED was created because of the importance of the Delta to California. The majority of the state’s water runs through the Delta and into aqueducts and pipelines that distribute it to 25 million Californians throughout the state, making it the single largest and most important source of water for drinking, irrigation and industry.
“I was also involved in a lot of the worker compensation issues, because when Governor Schwarzenegger came in, that was the big issue, or rates and what we were paying. That was always the important issue for me. We had all the other issues related to labor over that period of time, along with the environmental issues that continue to expand.
It’s not news that California Farm Bureau carries the water for almost all the other farming organizations in many ways noted Pauli.
“The thing that’s so unique about the California Farm Bureau, and our county farm bureaus in every county of the state, is that we represent all of agriculture.
CFBF represents 450 different commodities for the individual grower all the way down to the local ag level in California.
We have the big, broad-picture issues, but there’s also the local issues that are so important to the individual producer,” Pauli said.
The San Joaquin Valley Weather Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), a Joint Power of Authority composed of many San Joaquin Valley cities, counties and water agencies, is charged with the goals of ensuring completion of the Temperance Flat Dam feasibility studies and preparing the necessary bond funding application to get the structure built.
Stephen Worthley, president of the SJVWIA and member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors said, “The big step for us is going to be the preparation of the application, which has to go to the Water Commission in a little less than one year’s time. So the important focus is to bring together a plan, present it in a way that will make sense to the Commission so they see this project as we envision it—a transformative project for the irrigation waters and the communities of the Central Valley.”
Worthley said when Temperance Flat is built it will be a monumental event. “It would be the first water infrastructure to be built in California in 50 years. It is unique because it will triple the storage capacity of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam and it will have the unique ability to send water both north and south if needed.”
“This is why the feasibility study done by the Bureau of Reclamation was so important. They came back with the finding of feasibility and that’s what has to happen,” noted Worthley.
“In order to get the funding from Proposition 1, we’re going to have to demonstrate that this project is feasible and it is; and Friant Dam that will be in front of the Temperance Flat dam is just uniquely situated to provide water going north, either in a channel of the San Joaquin River, which may be able to be recaptured and returned south, or along the existing canal, which runs from the Madera Canal, which runs north.
Currently, most water flowing through Friant Dam moves southward through the Friant-Kern Canal.
“And with the extra water that will be provided by Temperance Flat dam is will enable us to major projects throughout the San Joaquin Valley, which is really critical,” said Worthley. “At the end of the day, I think the recharge is going to be as important, if not more so, than the storage and when you look at the feasibility study that was done by the Bureau of Reclamation, that was just purely on storage. They weren’t even considering recharge, so recharge is a whole new addition to that.”
“There are many opportunities of recharge that will be necessary to maintain agricultural pursuit in the San Joaquin Valley because with the Sustainable Groundwater Act, otherwise, without new water, you’re going to see many areas that rely entirely on pumping, are going to have to curtail their operations, either by fallowing the land or farming in a different fashion where they get by with less water,” said Worthley.
“With the drought and severe environmental restrictions, our valley surface water has been critically restricted. That happens two ways. One, of course, is that most of these, well, really all of our communities have their origin in and their continued existence in agriculture so agriculture production is critical to these communities even existing and continuing to exist, but beyond that is the direct need. That’s an indirect benefit, but the direct benefit is that these communities that rely upon Friant water for their potable water supplies, this is going to be a reliable water supply because right now they don’t have reliability,” said Worthley.
Temperance Flat Dam Would Provide Groundwater Relief, Jobs
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Mario Santoyo, executive director, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (Joint Powers of Authority), described the major and historic event held last week at the Friant Dam regarding the Temperance Flat Dam and California’s future water supply.
“At the event,” Santoyo said, “a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and the Joint Powers Authority, basically defines what the scope of work is going to be. In essence, it is full cooperation between their technical people and our Joint Powers Authority. Our people are working on tailoring the application to the state to optimize how much money we get from them. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we’re not talking a million or a hundred million.”
Santoyo hopes to receive $1B in funding for the Temperance Flat Dam, although “it is going to cost somewhere around $2.8B. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4B. We don’t expect to be getting that because there is a lot of competition and there’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion,” he stated.
“In parallel with our efforts with the state,” Santoyo explained, “we’re working on the federal side with our senators and our congress members to obtain what they call a federal construction authorization—which allowsthe federal government to move ahead with this project. Then we work on appropriations,” he said.
Santoyo said the funding necessary to complete and complement dollars from the state will be procured in the same fashion as have projects in the past. “The Bureau of Reclamation typically funds the construction of a project and then recovers the cost through long-term water supply contracts or adjustments to existing water supply contracts,” he stated. “In this case, it would be adjustments to existing water supply contracts.”
Santoyo also noted preliminary feasibility studies are underway. Those already completed triggered the final feasibility report, “which is going through a final upper management review before being released to the public. I think we are all pretty confident it will come out in a very positive manner. I would expect that in the next sixty days,” he said.
The expected completion of the project varies. Santoyo estimated physical completion within five years,” but it has to go through design and environmental paperwork, plus legal challenges could cause setbacks as well. By the time you’re good to go, you’ll end up having this project built in probably under 15 years,” he said.
DAM CREATES NEEDED JOBS FOR VALLEY RESIDENTS
Nevertheless, Santoyo said the benefits of the Temperance Flat Dam project is to creates an economic boom and an increase in available jobs. “You’re going to be spending about $3B here for materials, labor, and everything that goes into it. It will be an economic boom; and once it’s built, we get more water reliability, creating a better situation for the farmers, and that creates employment. I wouldn’t look at waiting 15 years, it starts as soon as we start building,” he said.
“The best year for Temperance Flat is when we have high runoff periods, and we have those frequently,” Santoyo elaborated. “What I’ve determined is that there’s a 50% shot every time we have one that we will be dumping more than a million acre-feet into the ocean. That’s equivalent to a full-year of water supply for the east side of the valley. That’s a lot of water.”
DAM PROVIDES GROUNDWATER RELIEF
“The fact is, without this project, we will not be able to meet the ground water sustainability laws that exist because this water will be necessary to move underground to all these regions,” he said. “Right now, as it stands, San Joaquin River Settlement has taken away the Class II water that used by the Friant contractors to replenish the groundwater. Unless we have a means of replacing it, and that would be through Temperance Flat, we’re going to encounter very serious problems,” Santoyo noted.
“Take the typical example of a year in which we can save a million acre-feet in storage. We are not going to keep it there,” he said. “We are going to move it via the canal systems to the various groundwater recharging basins,” which capture and replenish underground water. “It’s not a matter of whether groundwater storage is better [or worse] than above-ground storage; they work in conjunction with each other to maximize storage.”
DAM SERVES A PURPOSE IN TIMES OF CRISIS
“There are a lot of conversations about the San Andreas Fault rumbling. If we had an earthquake, we could have a seismic event in the Delta,” Santoyo said. “What differentiates this project from all the other projects is that we could take Temperance Flat water and go north via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, or south via the Friant-Kern canal, across the valley canal to the California aqueduct then subsequently down to southern California,” he said.
“In a scenario of Delta failure, in which water was no longer moving to the millions of people in Southern California, that would be a crisis,” he stated, “they would be looking for help in any way, shape, and form. Temperance Flat could do that. That’s one of the public benefits being looked at by the California Water Commission, in a category called emergency services. That was written in there specifically because of Temperance’s capability.”
The California Irrigation Institute recognized Dr. David F. Zoldoske as its Person of the Year at its 53rd annual conference on Feb. 2-3 in Sacramento.
Zoldoske, director for the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State, is the 36th recipient of the award sponsored by the state’s oldest independent forum on irrigation and water.
“On behalf of the board of directors, it is a pleasure and honor to bestow this award upon our friend and colleague, Dr. Zoldoske,” said Inge Bisconer, California Irrigation Institute board member and past president. “He has worked tirelessly for decades to promote water and resource use efficiency in agricultural and urban applications in California and beyond. We are fortunate that he chose to apply his passion, energy, skill and expertise to help address one of the most important topics of our generation: water.”
Zoldoske is the third recipient with Fresno State ties. Winston Strong, former plant science and mechanized agriculture professor was recognized in 1985 for his pioneering work in sprinkler testing, and former Center for Irrigation Technology director Kenneth Solomon was honored in 2004.
The annual conference brings together water experts, government agency representatives, water district managers, innovative farmers, urban water managers and commercial interests to focus on pressing water issues, explore innovative solutions, and discuss results of research and practical experience in the field.
Zoldoske was recognized with a similar national award in November 2013 as the Irrigation Association’s Person of the Year.
Fresno State has been involved in irrigation testing and research for more than 60 years, and Zoldoske has played a key role for four decades. He started his irrigation career as a graduate student research assistant before beginning work as a full-time research technician in 1983.
In 1994, he was named director of the center that is internationally-recognized as an independent testing laboratory, applied research facility and educational resource.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by a group representing all of California’s irrigation partners,” Zoldoske said. “The award is more of a recognition of our talented staff and all their successful and hard work. We have been tied closely with the California Irrigation Institute since the 1980s, and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”