Attorney Suggests That Meters Go on Pumps Now for SGMA

Meters Could Help From a Legal Standpoint

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

There are different options available to make the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) a bit easier on farmers. Lauren Layne of Baker, Manock & Jensen is helping her clients in the Central Valley carry out the SGMA Act in the most beneficial way possible.

“We want to see the Central Valley thrive. So we represent irrigation and water districts who are the local agencies that are forming these groundwater sustainability agencies, and I serve as a council to a number of those groundwater sustainability agencies as well,” explained Layne.

According to Layne, a lot of farmers are considering fallowing certain land to put in recharge projects that will allow them to regulate irrigation, while simultaneously being beneficial to the groundwater basin as a whole.

Layne also highly encourages growers to install meters or transducers to monitor how much water is being used, and what the groundwater table looks like.

“Data is very, very, important from a legal standpoint. It’s important to have the information as a backup for any argument we’re going to make,” she said.

If the cost of installing a meter is an issue, Layne is working on an incentive program that will grant funding to farmers and incentivize them to put meters on.

Farmers Frustrated Over SGMA

CA Department of Water Resources Rolls Out SGMA Regulations at Meeting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California Department of Water Resources held a recent workshop in Clovis, CA, to lay out the key components and regulations for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA. It’s thought that SGMA could forever change the face of agriculture in the central San Joaquin Valley, as it will limit the amount of groundwater that can be pumped.

turlock irrigation canal
If surface water was available for growers, the SGMA law would not have been created.

This entire approach of the Department of Water Resources is not sitting well with most farmers. Keith Freitas, who farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, was at that recent workshop. “How can you call a program fair, but the stakeholders you bring to the table, before they enter the room to negotiate the deal, you cut their legs off?” Freitas asked.

“That’s basically what we have. We have a foot race here, but our legs have been cut off before the race even starts,” he said

And here’s the problem – there’s six deadly sins: lowering ground water levels, reducing ground water storage, increasing sea water intrusion, causing unreasonable water quality degradation, causing land subsidence and depleting surface water supplies that would have a significant and unreasonable adverse impact on beneficial uses of the surface water.

“The reason there’s six deadly sins is ’cause they’re all about the sins of the farmer. Not one of those sins is environmental,” Freitas said. “You think about it. We already have a subsidence and they know it, they don’t blame the environmentalists for subsidence, they blame farming.”

Farmers feel that if environmental water restrictions were not in place, there would be no overdraft of ground water or subsidence.

“How do you think we’re going to sustain overdraft pumping,” asked Freitas, “if they don’t have surface water to recharge the ground basin?”

“My perspective is that like Westlands Water District, who decided to turn down the twin tunnels – that decision was made I think in parallel to the overall consensus of farmers saying that if it’s going to be this way, if these are the rules that you’re going to set and these are the game rules, then we have no choice but to fight back,” Freitas said.

Fresno County 2014 Crop Report May Fall Further than 2013

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright Concerned About Regaining #1 County Status

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor

Recently, California Ag Today spoke with Les Wright, Ag Commissioner of Fresno County on how that county is traditionally the highest rated in statewide, and nationwide, in agricultural output of many specialty crops, but water restrictions have bumped the county down a few rungs.

“Fresno County, since 1954, has been the number one agriculture producing county in the world, with two exceptions. The most recent exception was in 2013, documented in our last crop report, when the water shortage was a West Side-only issue,” said Wright.

That year, the East Side received a nearly 50 percent allotment from the Friant Water Authority of the federal Central Valley Project. In 2014 there was a zero allocation for both an East-side and a West-side issue.”

“I’m not sure how 2014 will wash out, but other dynamics are also playing into it. Nut crops are very valuable, and they have high yields, and our Southern neighbors are planting a lot of nuts.”

But Wright said that things are different in surrounding counties. “They don’t have the diversity that Fresno County has. I’m very optimistic that once we get our water allotments back, we’ll be number one again. But until that occurs, I’m not sure where we are going to end up.”

More Evidence of Damage From Drought/ Water Restrictions

The continual trend of water restrictions in regards to the drought on the Central Valley is affecting multiple facets of the Industry, and even exterior businesses as well.

Doug Thiel is the owner and operator of Thiel Air Care, Inc. located in Chowchilla. He provides aerial application service throughout the central Valley.  This season, his business is off  due to the drought and environmental regulations protecting fish and ducks.

“It’s tremendously slow, with zero water allocations in many areas of Merced County and throughout the West Side of Fresno and Kings County. It is  really hindering us. There’s nothing planted, there’s nothing to spray,” said Thiel.