65% Percent Water Allocation for Westlands with 163 Percent Snow Pack

Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s April Water Allocation Announcement

News Release from Westlands Water District

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors is being increased to 65%. In light of current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, this minor increase is astonishing.

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s general manager, stated: “This announcement begs the question, what has to happen before south-of-Delta farmers served by the Central Valley Project can get a full supply?”

With San Luis Reservoir full and flood flows coming, the 65 % allocation was more than disappointment.

Since October 1, the beginning of the current water year, California has been blessed with abundant precipitation; the 2018-19 water year is now classified as wet. As of April 8, the snow water content in the northern and central Sierra Nevada was 160% and 163% of the long-term average, respectively. Storage in every CVP reservoir used to supply south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors was more than 100% of average for that date. Indeed, these reservoirs were and remain in flood control operations.

Birmingham added, “I know that Reclamation staff understands the consequences of the decisions they make. Reclamation staff understands reduced allocations in a year like this needlessly increases overdraft in already overdrafted groundwater basins. Reclamation staff understands delayed allocation announcements make it nearly impossible for farmers to effectively plan their operations. If Reclamation’s leadership could, they would make a 100% allocation. But Reclamation’s hands are tied by restrictions imposed by biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act. These restrictions have crippled the CVP and have provided no demonstrative protection for listed fish species, all of which have continued to decline despite the draconian effect the biological opinions have had on water supply for people.”

Birmingham concluded, “Notwithstanding the restrictions imposed by the biological opinions, Westlands firmly believes that there is sufficient water to allocate to south-of-Delta agricultural water services contractors 100%. Today’s announcement by Reclamation is disappointing for every south-of Delta farmer served by the CVP, and we hope Reclamation will increase the allocation quickly to enable farmers to quit pumping groundwater.”

After 2019, no one will be able to argue that water supply reductions for south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors are a result of hydrologic conditions. This year demonstrates only too well the crippling consequences of ineffective and unchecked regulations. Because of restrictions imposed on operations of the CVP under the guise of protecting fish, the CVP cannot be operated to satisfy one of the primary purposes for which it was built, supplying water to farmers.

Modesto Irrigation District Files Legal Action Against State Water Board

MID Lawsuit Challenges CA Water Board On Misguided Plan

News Release from Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District (MID) filed a lawsuit on Jan. 10 against the California State Water Resources Control Board in response to their vote to approve Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

MID’s lawsuit primarily challenges the State Water Board for failing to comply with both the United States and California Constitutions and the California Environmental Quality Act.

MID is among many parties—including our partners in the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority—who are pursuing independent legal action against the State Water Board.turlock irrigation canal

“The State Water Board misused its power to adopt a misguided and devastating plan,” said MID Board President Paul Campbell. “Given their current plan, we’re left with no choice but to pursue legal action. We must protect our more than 130-year old water rights, our water supplies, and the communities we serve.”

To balance the needs of our environment and customers, MID continues to advocate with our Tuolumne River partners for a durable solution composed of both flow and non-flow measures. Parallel to filing this lawsuit and consistent with the State Water Board’s direction, we’re working collaboratively to present a voluntary agreement for the State Water Board’s consideration in the coming months.

“Our voluntary agreement will ensure water security and reliability, includes environmental improvements, enhances fish populations far beyond what is projected in the state’s current plan and most importantly, guarantees timely implementation,” said MID Board Vice President John Mensinger. “Their plan threatens not only Central Valley ag and urban water users, but also the water supply of more than two million people living in the Bay Area.”

MID’s legal action reinforces our commitment to protect the environment, our customers, our region, and our water supply. For more information and to read MID’s full filing, visit www.mid.org.

EPA Blasts State’s Water Grab

EPA’s Acting Secretary Andrew Wheeler Visits The Valley With Congressman Denham

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

Following his recent visit to the Valley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in Sacramento, expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed Bay-Delta plan. A copy of the letter is available here.

In the letter, Wheeler questions the effectiveness of drastically increasing flows to improve native fish species when studies show several additional factors contribute to their dwindling populations—including predation from non-native species, which the Bay-Delta plan does not address.

“I’m pulling every available resource to stop the state’s dangerous water grab,” said U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock). “Both the Department of Interior and EPA have now directly weighed in against Sacramento’s plan to steal our water.”

Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell said: “Finally, EPA Administrator Wheeler’s letter has put common sense back on the table in addressing the State’s draconian Water Plan. Thank you Congressman Denham for your efforts in bringing Mr. Wheeler to our area to hear our concerns.”

“This State Water Plan will devastate water storage in our dams, drive river temperatures to lethal levels and destroy the very fish species we at the local level are trying to protect. Our rivers deserve better. We have the science to show this, we have provided it to the State, and they have ignored it. We continued to advocate that sending more water down the river and not addressing other stressors is not an answer, and the State has ignored that too.”

South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk said: “On behalf of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, I would like to thank you and your staff for bringing Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to our region on October 11, 2018. The meeting was a success, and our message was clearly heard, evidenced by today’s letter from the EPA to the State Water Board. We’ve continued to lament the devastating impacts of State’s plan to local drinking and irrigation water supplies, and to protected fish species within our rivers, and it is great to know that the EPA has listened and will be looking for balance and accountability from the State Water Board if they choose to approve this outrageous plan.”

At Denham’s request, several key administration officials have visited the Central Valley and have been actively engaged in policies to fight Sacramento’s water grab and increase water storage for our farmers and residents. This is the latest result of many such actions.

On July 27, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman submitted a strongly worded comment expressing serious legal concerns with the latest Bay-Delta amendment. The comment followed a visit by U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke to our impacted reservoirs at request of Denham on July 20. Additionally, Zinke sent an internal memo to DOI agencies on August 17 requesting all Central Valley Project authorities be provided to him for disposal to combat the state’s plan.

Following Denham’s September 28 letter requesting executive action, the President signed a memorandum to bring more storage to the Valley and address hydroelectric relicensing at Don Pedro, requiring agencies to consider local plans like the Tuolumne River Management Plan developed by Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Denham previously released an animated video on NMFS Sacramento’s dangerous water grab.

As a follow-up to the presidential memorandum, Denham recently hosted a call with senior administration officials from the Bureau of Reclamation to discuss the details of the memorandum, next steps in the process, and allow irrigation districts and farm bureaus an opportunity to ask questions.

The president’s order supplements legislation authored by Denham to support innovative financing opportunities for water projects throughout the western United States. Denham’s New WATER Act (H.R. 434) passed and was signed into law as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (WRDA). Eligible projects include new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects. This legislation supports large projects like enlargement of Shasta Dam, construction of Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Dam, and expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir.

Nisei Farmers League Grateful for President Trump’s Executive Order on Water

Nisei Farmers League: It Was A Bold Move 

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of the Nisei Farmers League thanked President Trump for his Executive Order last week, which will streamline federal regulations and improve water reliability.

“We want to thank President Trump, Congressman Devin Nunes, and the entire Valley delegation for their efforts that will improve the lives of many, especially in the San Joaquin Valley,” Cunha stated. 

There will be a strict timetable for rewriting the biological opinion that caused millions of acre-feet of water that would have been used in the San Joaquin Valley to be flushed out to the ocean. This action prioritizes building water storage projects that are badly needed.

This bold move is a welcome announcement to farmers, families, and communities throughout California who have suffered through many dry years and have been harmed by the Endangered Species Act, which reduced much-needed water supplies to restore fish populations.

“I would like to thank Mario Santoyo and the California Latino Water Coalition for leading the ‘March for Water’ in 2009 that started the ‘turn on the pump’ effort to bring additional surface water supplies to our Valley. It has taken 9 years to get to this point, but we never gave up,” Cunha said.

It is a good day for California, for our hard-working families, and for our communities.

Steve Malanca Voices Frustration Regarding Water Grab

More Water Storage is What is Needed

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

At the capitol building in Sacramento, more than one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a big rally to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today met with Steve Malanca, co-founder of My Job Depends on Ag, as he explained the concerns for water storage.

“Being in western Fresno County at Ground Zero, where the water take has been going on for 30 years, we have continually asked for more storage,” he said.

Steve Malanca
Steve Malanca

The lack of surface delivery water and the lack of storage in the state of California is not good for anyone.

“The fish need water. The farms need water. We need fresh drinking water, and the problem continues to get worse with the amount of water we lose every winter out to the ocean,” Malanca said. “If that water could be saved and properly stored … this would generate more cold water for the salmon to live and spawn in. We just want them to know that we need help, but we need more water.”

U.S. Representative for the 16th district Jim Costa also attended the water rally and explained the devastating impact of the water restrictions.

“If there are 40 percent unimpeded flows were allowed to go through, it would have a devastating impact on those counties,” Costa said.

Jim Costa

California has reallocated water in the past and has not had very good results.

“What we have really got to do is talk about other proposals that take into account habitat, non-native predator species, non-point discharge and a balance that makes sense,” Costa said.

Assemblyman Adam Gray Speaks Out on Water Grab

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.”

“The Fight For Water” Film On Amazon Prime

Award-Winning film by Juan Carlos Oseguera Expands

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

An award-winning documentary film on the California water crisis, The Fight for Water, has made its debut this week on Amazon Prime. This is its largest release, as Amazon has over 90 million Prime members in the U.S. alone.

Since its release in 2012, the documentary film has gone on to screen at numerous national and international film festivals, where it also won awards, and has continued to hold numerous community, library and college screenings around the nation. Because of this ongoing success, the film’s distributor, Passion River Films, felt the film could still find a greater audience through this online venue as well.

The 78-minute long movie features interviews with farmworkers and farmers, many who were members of the Latino Water Coalition. The Fight for Water film spotlights the 2009 historic Water March from Mendota to the San Luis Reservoir, as well as telling the stories of two central San Joaquin Valley farmers, Joe Del Bosque and George Delgado.

“Understanding water issues have captured the attention of many, not only in California but also around the nation and the world, the documentary serves not only as an educational film on water, but also offers a historical perspective on environmental issues,” said filmmaker Juan Carlos Oseguera.

The film specifically chronicles an environmental decision that affected a community, united an entire region and galvanized the entire state into action, all to fight for their right to water.

For more on the film, visit www.thefightforwaterfilm.com now.

To Feed the Nation, Farmers Need Water

California Water Alliance is Good for All

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

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

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.

CA Agriculture Leadership Transitions

CA Agricultural Leadership Transitions: Barry Bedwell to Head CALF, George Radanovich to Lead CFFA

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

There is a change in leadership at the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), where Barry Bedwell has served as president for 13 years. The new president, as of August 1st, is former eight-term member of Congress for Mariposa County, George Radanovich, “and a five-year retiree in Mariposa, too,” said Radanovich.

“Don’t forget to add that,” he insisted. “Yes, the opportunity came up. My son King graduated from high school, and now he’s off to college at Ole Miss. This gives me the time to get back and start working on water and labor issues that I love—and being involved with the ag industry. The timing is perfect, and it’s a real exciting adventure for me.”

George Radanovich
George Radanovich will head California Fresh Fruit Associaition

Radanovich served in Congress from 1995 to 2011, representing a big chunk of the Central Valley in California’s 19th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. While there, he served on the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its subcommittees: Communications, Technology and the Internet, Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection (Ranking Member) and Oversight and Investigations. Radanovich also served as co-chair of the Water Caucus, Congressional Wine Caucus and Congressional Croatian Caucus, as well as being considered an agricultural expert in areas related to water supply and immigration reform.

Barry Bedwell will now assume presidency of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF), a non-profit corporation committed to leadership training and transformational learning experiences in partnership with California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo and Pomona; California State University, Fresno; and the University of California, Davis.

“I am excited about it,” Bedwell said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for myself and a chance to really take what I’ve learned over four plus decades in California agriculture and put it to good and practical use.”

Bedwell will be replacing Bob Gray at the Agricultural Leadership Foundation. “Bob Gray has done an absolutely fantastic job in really focusing the program more on leadership development,” noted Bedwell. “It is really doing personal coaching and working on leadership tendencies. When I was there thirty-four years ago in Class 13, the foundation tried to expose people in agriculture to things outside of the realm of agriculture; but now, they’ve taken it even a step further to say, ‘Here’s how to make you a better leader. Here is how to really strengthen your areas so that in the end, everyone coming out of this program will be a better person and representative for California agriculture.'”

Barry Bedwell
Barry Bedwell Will lead the CA Ag Leadership Foundation

“The program has changed from 24 months down to 17 months, but it’s still a very valuable proposition,” noted Bedwell. “I think the estimated monetary value of what this means to the individuals involved is something like $50,000,” he said.

Bedwell brings to CALF a depth of experience in agriculture. “How do you develop the Leadership Program for maximum benefit?” asked Bedwell. “That’s where I think I can particularly help, knowing the issues that face California agriculture and what we have to deal with primarily in Sacramento. I think that will be a big help.”

Bedwell also emphasized the importance of keeping CALF alumni engaged. “With over 1300 graduates, this program is a powerful force out there,” he said. “We want to continue to build on what we have, and engagement with those alumni is critical, moving forward,” said Bedwell.

And perhaps certain alumni could be the new messengers to Sacramento. “What’s clear right now is we don’t necessarily have the right messengers. This Ag Overtime bill [AB-2757 Agricultural workers: wages, hours, and working conditions], which was reintroduced after failing in the Assembly a few weeks ago, has convinced me that although we went in and explained the negative impact it would have on employees, quite frankly, certain members did not believe us,” said Bedwell.

“We have to change the messenger, or the message gets lost sometimes,” Bedwell commented. “So that’s part of what we have to think about in looking at the future. We say the right things, but they are not getting through, so now we have to figure out how we get through,” Bedwell said.

Report Highlights Urgent Need to Address California’s Groundwater Management

Management of California’s groundwater basins is fragmented, and many groundwater management plans are outdated and lacking important details, leaving significant room for improvement, according to a report released today by the California Water Foundation (CWF).

The report, An Evaluation of California Groundwater Management Planning, assesses the current condition of groundwater management planning in the state and makes recommendations to support sustainable management.

Lester Snow, Executive Director, California Water Foundation
Lester Snow, Executive Director, California Water Foundation

“California’s limited approach to groundwater management has been a concern for a long time, but the drought has drawn renewed attention to this increasing problem,” said Lester Snow, executive director of CWF. “Developing effective plans for how we manage this valuable resource is a crucial step to ensure that California’s farms, cities, and environment have reliable water supplies today and in the future.”

Groundwater is a critical part of California’s water supply, used to meet approximately 40 percent of the state’s water demands in an average year and up to 60 percent or more during droughts. In some regions, groundwater provides 100 percent of the local water supply. Yet, California is the only state without comprehensive statewide groundwater management programs.

The report released today reviewed 120 groundwater management plans adopted by local water agencies to manage their groundwater basins and concludes that current state groundwater management laws are inadequate. While many districts are effectively managing their groundwater resources, the report found significant limitations to the overall quality of groundwater plans in all parts of the state. Many plans lack basic basin management objectives or an implementation strategy for ensuring that objectives will be met. Most of the plans did not include or describe stakeholder outreach and participation. Additionally, 28 percent of the plans examined were written in 2002 or earlier and have not been updated.

The report makes the following recommendations to advance the development and implementation of groundwater management plans:

  • Establish a statewide goal that groundwater plans must describe how they will achieve sustainability of each groundwater basin.
  • Organize and empower local groundwater agencies to manage groundwater sub-basins.
  • Require the development and enforcement of groundwater management plans by local groundwater agencies.
  • Provide local agencies with technical guidance and financial support from the state of California.
  • Empower the state of California to oversee program implementation.

The state’s growing groundwater overdraft problems have resulted in a number of adverse consequences, including saltwater intrusion, increased energy costs due to pumping from greater depths, environmental degradation, and land subsidence that results in costly damage to infrastructure.

In May, CWF released a report of findings and recommendations to achieve sustainable groundwater management in California. Learn more at: http://www.californiawaterfoundation.org.

An Evaluation of California Groundwater Management Planning was prepared for CWF by RMC Water and Environment. The California Water Foundation’s (CWF) vision is to sustainably meet the water needs of California’s farms, cities, and environment today and into the future. CWF supports innovative projects and policies and brings together experts, stakeholders, and the public to achieve 21st century solutions.

Photo Credit: CDFA