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.

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Water Reductions Would Devastate Valley

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.

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Boxer Jose Ramirez Presents Check to SJVWIA

Professional Boxer Jose Ramirez Helps SJVWIA Fight for Water

(Updated from an earlier version 8/5/16)

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Jose Ramirez, a 2012 Olympian and current World Boxing Conference Continental Americas Champion, spoke at a special event TODAY at the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, where in the name of the City of Avenal—a community member agency of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), Ramirez presented a $3,300 check to the SJVWIA. SJVWIA, in turn, is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and many Valley counties, cities and water agencies to coordinate and complete the Temperance Flat feasibility studies and prepare the necessary bond funding application.

 

Ramirez, whose remarkable boxing record includes 17 fights and 17 wins—with 12 wins by knockoutgrew up in Avenal, California (Kings County) with his parents working in the fields. “I knew those jobs were important to my family because they gave me a future; they gave my brothers and sisters their future; my friends, their families, their future; they brought food to the table,” he said.

 

“When you’re a kid growing up in a small town like Avenal, you grow up with such innocence. There are a lot of questions that you don’t ask. There are a lot of things you don’t understand. I was just a kid who was happy to have any type of toy,” he said. “I didn’t have the privilege of having electronic games or the best clothes, but I had just enough to survive, just enough to have fun. I was very active.”

 

Boxing Champ Jose Ramirez presents a check to the SJVWIA
Boxing Champ Jose Ramirez presents a check to the SJVWIA

One day Ramirez asked his dad, why he bought his children sweaters instead of jackets. His dad replied, “Well, because jackets are expensive.” Ramirez reflected, “As a kid, you don’t really understand the way he managed his financials, but everything was given because of those jobs working the fields. Everything was given because of the agriculture in Central California.”

 

The “Fight For Water” boxing series, developed to help bring attention to the dire water issues in California, particularly in the Central Valley, has featured Ramirez in five victorious bouts to date. Despite an average year of precipitation, contracted federal water deliveries to many farmers in the Westlands Water District, for instance, have been cut by 95% thus far, this year alone, and the remaining 5% is now in jeopardy. Deliveries for the previous 10 consecutive years, were: 100% (2006), 50% (2007), 40% (2008), 10 (2009), 45% (2010), 80% (2011), 40% (2012), 20% (2013), 0% (2014), 0%(2015).

 

“We got in contact with Mario Santoyo and Manuel Cunha, from the Latino Water Coalition, and it has been an honor working with them. The experiences—I have really matured myself as a person,” Ramirez said. “Besides a fighter, I have learned so much. I have become more passionate about this issue. I want to continue fighting for the water. I want to continue fighting for what’s right for the people, for what’s right for my family, for what’s right for my friends’ families and for other families where I grew up,” he said.

 

“I am happy to work with the City of Avenal. I want [Avenal] to stay involved as much as they can. I want them to be a part of the programs, because I know Avenal is a good community,” he said. “They’ve done great with all the kids there.”

 

“It’s because of Avenal, I am who I am,” Ramirez said. “The opportunities that they’ve given me I will never forget. This is why I’m here, to make sure that they stay involved, to help them, to raise what needs to be raised and for them to be part of the team that we’re making, because I know that team is created by leaders, and I know that Avenal will do a good job being a part of it,” he said.

 

“I’m happy to say I will do as much as I can to make that happen. We’re going to continue fighting for the water, because I know that this is our future,” Ramirez said. “Being a father, I have to think about the future of my kids. And I have lots of friends who are fathers too, so I’ve got to make sure that they’re set, or at least have hope,” he concluded.


Resources

The Nisei Farmers League informs grower members about regulations and policies through meetings, seminars, newsletters and special bulletins.; provides legal assistance for labor and workplace related issues; maintains a close working relationship with local, state and federal agencies and legislators to protect grower interests; and collaborates with other grower and agricultural organizations in California and other states to help provide a powerful, unified voice for the agricultural community.

San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA)

Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation


 

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BREAKING NEWS: California Water Authorities Sue U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The following is a joint statement by Jason Peltier, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District on today’s filing of a lawsuit to compel the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation to reassess its Endangered Species Act (ESA)-related actions.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Fails to Consider the Environmental Impacts of Biological Opinions Which Have Been Devastating Communities

FRESNO, CA-TODAY the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) and Westlands Water District (WWD) filed a lawsuit in federal court to compel the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”) to examine the effectiveness of the existing measures intended to protect endangered species, the environmental impacts of those measures, and whether there are alternatives to those measures that would better protect both endangered fish species and California’s vital water supplies.

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority The existing measures, adopted in 2008 and 2009, are based on biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act.  The measures are responsible for the largest redistribution of Central Valley Project and State Water Project (water supplies away from urban and agricultural uses and have jeopardized the water supply for waterfowl and wildlife refuges.  Since 2008 and 2009, the farms, families, cities and wildlife that depend upon Central Valley Project and State Water Project water supplies have suffered substantial environmental and socio-economic harm from the reduced water deliveries caused by the existing measures, with little apparent benefit for fish.

Reclamation adopted the existing measures without any review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Federal courts, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, held this action violated NEPA, and Reclamation was ordered to perform environmental review.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote:

It is beyond dispute that Reclamation’s implementation of the Biological Opinions (BiOp) has important effects on human interaction with the natural environment.  We know that millions of people and vast areas of some of America’s most productive farmland will be impacted by Reclamation’s actions.  Those impacts were not the focus of the BiOp….  We recognize that the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) will not alter Reclamation’s obligations under the ESA.  But the EIS may well inform Reclamation of the overall costs – including the human costs – of furthering the ESA.

The court-ordered review provided Reclamation a rare opportunity to reexamine the necessity for and the benefits of the existing measures, as well as the resulting impacts on the environment and water supplies, potential alternative measures, and new information and studies developed since 2008 and 2009.  It provided Reclamation an opportunity to make a new and better-informed choice.

Unfortunately, Reclamation neglected to take advantage of that opportunity. In November 2015 Reclamation completed an EIS that did not examine whether the measures are necessary or effective for protecting endangered fish populations.  Instead of analyzing the existing measures, Reclamation accepted them as the status quo.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The EIS did not identify any mitigation for the water supply lost to these measures, despite current modeling that estimated how the existing measures would reduce the annual water delivery capabilities of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Loss was estimated to be over 1 million acre-feet on a long-term average and in spite of years of harm caused by implementing the measures.

Nor did the EIS try to identify alternatives that could lessen these impacts.  Reclamation attempted to minimize the impacts of lost surface water supply by unreasonably assuming the lost supply would be made up from increased pumping of already stressed groundwater supplies.  In its Record of Decision issued January 11, 2016 Reclamation announced that it would continue on with the existing measures, and provide no mitigation.

It is inexplicable that Reclamation would pass up the opportunity to reassess the existing measures and make a much more careful and robust analysis than what is found in the EIS.  NEPA requires no less.

The lawsuit filed today seeks to compel Reclamation to do the right thing and perform the analysis it should have.  If successful, the lawsuit may ultimately result in measures that actually help fish, and identify mitigation activities or alternatives that lessen or avoid water supply impacts that millions of Californians in the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project depend on.

Many of those affected reside in disadvantaged communities and are already struggling to pay for a water supply made scarce by layers of other, yet equally ill-advised bureaucratic regulations.  California’s water supply is too precious for Reclamation not to make the best informed decision it can.

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Trinity Reservoir Releases Water

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Releases Shared Water From Trinity Reservoir Despite Making Claims Of “California’s Historic Drought”

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority) along with Westlands Water District, according to their press release, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) from releasing Central Valley Project (CVP) water from the Trinity Division to the Klamath River.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said releases started Friday from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River, the Klamath’s primary tributary, and would continue into late September.SLDMWA logo
Yesterday, Reclamation announced the release of up to 88,000 acre-feet of CVP water from Trinity Reservoir in the hope of aiding returning non-listed Chinook salmon with the optimism of diminishing the effect of a naturally-occurring disease endemic known as “Ich” (pronounced “ick”) to the Klamath River system to which the Trinity River is connected. This action, which is outside of Reclamation’s authorized place of use, is a repeat of a similar action taken last year with the intention to help avoid an outbreak which has only been documented to have occurred once in 2002. Since 2000, a significant supply of water has been set aside each year from the Trinity Reservoir for fishery protection purposes. Specifically, over the past four years, this has equated to more than 200,000 acre-feet of water lost that was literally flushed down the Lower Klamath River.
“As our state is faced with a water supply crisis affecting every sector of people, businesses, and communities, an action like this is unthinkable. This will cause irreparable damage to drought-stricken communities already facing water restrictions,” said Dan Nelson, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.
The CVP and State Water Project (SWP) provide water for more than 25 million Californians who depend upon a reliable water supply. In the 50-year history of the Projects, water deliveries have never been lower–the CVP is experiencing its second year of a zero water allocation and the SWP sits at a mere 20 percent water allocation.
Reclamation is once again choosing to ignore the harms of its actions through the issuance of a “Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact” (FONSI) that hasn’t been properly analyzed. Further, Reclamation’s decision to release 88,000 acre-feet of CVP water for the Klamath River is a sad irony given that Reclamation is currently unable to meet its legally-mandated obligations within the CVP and SWP.
 Westlands Water District_logo
“The hardworking people of the State of California have been directed by state and federal agencies to conserve water in the form of dying lawns, fewer showers, unplanted fields, trees uprooted or turning brown, and community wells drying up. Yet Reclamation, which has been unable to deliver any water to farmers, has decided to release tens of thousands of acre feet in an arbitrary manner that the courts have previously held to be unlawful.” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District. “The fact that 88,000 acre-feet can be casually released without regard to the potential impacts on the environment, including at risk-species in the Sacramento River and the Delta, is a gross mismanagement of the state’s water supplies. The action filed today is intended to compel Reclamation to comply with its mandatory duties,” said Birmingham.
“During a time when we are experiencing the worst water management challenges in decades, when communities and agriculture throughout the state are suffering severe impacts that have negatively affected our economy, the labor force and the environment, the decision by the Bureau of Reclamation to repurpose precious Central Valley Project water resources to augment Klamath flows for non-endangered fish, an action that is of questionable benefit, is both irresponsible and incomprehensible. While the needs of cities, family farms, and endangered species that rely on CVP resources continue to go unmet, the reallocation of the Project’s limited supply of water defies all logic,” said Jeff Sutton, general manager of the Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, an organization that represents seventeen Sacramento Valley water districts that hold CVP water service contracts, that are also highly critical of the action being undertaken by the Bureau of Reclamation.
The water planned for release is enough to farm 31,000 acres of food, or to serve the domestic needs of more than 175,000 families for an entire year. The devastating effects of the drought will be felt for decades to come especially if arbitrary decisions like these continue.

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Senate Water Bill Hopeful

Senate Water Bill Introduction is a Glimmer of Hope for Water Agencies

FRESNO, CA – Last week’s introduction of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s legislation, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, is welcome news for the people of the State of California and the Central Valley enduring another devastatingly dry year. Once again, multiple Central Valley water agencies joined together to express their unified voice in support of an expeditious passage of this Senate water bill. This bill comes on the heels of the introduction and passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015.

 “We are encouraged by Senator Feinstein’s actions with the introduction of this legislation. There is no time to lose as the damaging effects of the drought continue to wreak havoc on local communities, businesses, farms and farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the State. Immediate solutions are needed, and the District looks forward to working with Members of both the House and Senate to find a reasonable solution that will benefit our great State.”

–Don Peracchi, Chairman of the Board, Westlands Water District

 

“The South Valley Water Association thanks Senator Feinstein for introducing the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 and encourages the balance of the Senate to make quick work in passing the bill immediately upon return from the August recess. This is a further important step to get legislation that will help those many farms and communities in California who are going without water. We look forward to the members of Congress resolving key differences between the California Emergency Drought Relief Act and H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, and finding real water supply solutions. The members of the South Valley Water Association stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

–Dan Vink, Executive Director, South Valley Water Association

 

“The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority thanks Senator Feinstein for the introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015. We realize this is another important step to passing a bill out of the Senate later this year that provides a meaningful legislative solution to the long-standing water supply shortages that is crippling the state. We are optimistic that members of Congress and the Senate can resolve the key differences in this bill, and the previously passed House Bill H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015. The Authority looks forward to working with our legislative leaders to pass legislation that benefits all of California.”

–Steve Chedester, Executive Director, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority

 

“There is no more important issue facing the Valley than the drought. It is a statewide crisis with the most direct and severe impacts in the Valley. The Kern County Water Agency appreciates Senator Feinstein’s and Senator Boxer’s efforts to help reduce the drought’s terrible impacts by introducing a bill in the Senate that can improve water supplies for farms and cities. We are anxious for the House and Senate to start working on a compromise between Congressman Valadao’s bill and the bill in the Senate, and we encourage the Senate to take swift action on the Feinstein/Boxer bill so that process can begin.”

–Ted R. Page, Board President, Kern County Water Agency

 

“No area of the State, and perhaps the nation, has suffered more disproportionately the harmful stress of chronic water supply shortages. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority is appreciative of the effort of Senators Feinstein and Boxer on the recently introduced California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 bill in the Senate. This bill is not only important to the San Joaquin Valley, but it is also vital for the entire state of California. We encourage the Senate to act swiftly, and encourage both the House and Senate legislators to begin work immediately on a meaningful compromise bill to ensure that long-awaited and much-needed relief is realized.”

–Dan Nelson, Executive Director, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority

 

 “Friant Water Authority welcomes the introduction of Senate Bill 1894, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015, and we thank Senator Feinstein and her staff for all their efforts in bringing this bill forward. The immediate task is to pass Senate legislation so that work can begin to craft a compromise with the House-passed legislation. Our farms and communities have suffered more under these water cutbacks than any other area in the nation. Our people are desperate for solutions that will provide real water for our area. This bill is a critically important step in the process of developing compromise legislation that can be signed into law by the President this year. As the bill advances, Friant looks forward to working with our representatives on both sides of the aisle to achieve drought legislation that will provide real relief for the 2016 water year and beyond.”

–Eric Borba, Chair, Friant Water Authority

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Westlands on Drought Relief Act

Westlands Water District Statement on the Introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015

FRESNO, CA – Westlands Water District is encouraged TODAY by the introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015. The State is facing unprecedented drought conditions, and the water supply shortages caused by four years of extraordinary dry conditions have been exacerbated by the restrictions imposed on the operations of the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project under federal law.

The introduction of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 is an important step in the enactment of legislation to provide much-needed relief for the public water agencies that receive water from these projects and for the people, farms, and businesses they serve. There are great similarities between this bill and H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which passed in the House of Representatives on July 16, 2015. However, there are also great differences.

Westlands looks forward to quick passage of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2015 by the Senate and to subsequent discussions in conference to reconcile the two bills. Through its work with Senator Feinstein and Members of the House of Representatives, Westlands knows that these policymakers are genuinely interested in working together with the District and other interested entities (a) to find a meaningful legislative solution to the chronic water supply shortages that have devastated the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the State and (b) to provide effective means of protecting at-risk species. The District looks forward to working with them to find common-sense solutions that serve the interests of all Californians.

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Westlands Water District Announces Westside Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to the Westlands Water District Westside Scholarship Recipients!

Six outstanding high school seniors from communities on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley have been selected to receive scholarships offered by the Westlands Water District. The 2015 scholarships are offered by Westlands under a program to recognize and reward exceptional academic achievement and leadership by graduate seniors at area high schools.

The recipients of the 2015 scholarships are:

Aneet Hundal, a senior at Coalinga High School. Ms. Hundal is an honors student who plans on attending the University of California, Irvine to pursue a degree in nursing. She was actively involved in the Academic Decathlon, Mock Trial, Link Crew, California Scholarship Federation and tennis and basketball. Additionally, she has received a number of awards including the Superintendent’s Honor Roll, Lab Biology II Star of the Month and Wendy’s High School Heisman.

Phillip Augusto, a senior at Lemoore High School. Mr. Augusto plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in BioResource and Agricultural Engineering. He is an honors student who has received awards from the Future Farmers of America – Scholar Awards, State Degree, Chapter Degree and Greenhand Degree. Additionally, he has been a Robotics Team finalist at West Hills Collect Vex Robotics Competition and Student of the Month for the Lemoore High School Math Department.

Emily Parra, a senior at Tranquillity High School. Ms. Parra plans to attend Stanford University to pursue a degree in Economics/Education. She is an honors student who has been the president of the California Scholarship Federation, Associated Student Body Secretary and World Travel Club Vice President, Mathematician of the Year and Student of the Month.

Jackelyn Sanchez, a senior at Riverdale High School. Ms. Sanchez plans to attend University of California, San Diego to pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering. She is an honors student who has competed in Academic Decathlon, is an AVID 8th Grade Tutor, Student of the Month, Science Olympiad Competitor, and won an End of the Year Award for maintaining a GPA above 4.0 throughout her high school career.

Gaston Ruben Aganza, a senior at Mendota High School. Mr. Aganza plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in Engineering. He has held leadership positions in chess and Upward Bound and has participated in AVID, Young Legislators Program, Lend-A-Hand and MESA. Additionally, he was a cross-country runner.

Teddi Diedrich, a senior at Firebaugh High School. Ms. Diedrich plans to attend Menlo College to pursue a degree in agricultural business. She has received several awards in AVID (Student of the Year), Future Farmers of America Greenhand Degree, Honor Roll, Athlete Scholar, the Superintendent’s List and State Future Farmers of America and has also played softball and volleyball.

Each scholarship recipient will receive $1,000 to be used for community college or university expenses. Applicants were judged on their academic performance, school activities and community leadership. Each applicant submitted an essay on an agricultural-related topic.

“Westlands is honored to provide this assistance for these outstanding student leaders,” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands. “These scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks and support to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region such a productive and vibrant place.”

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BREAKING NEWS—Federal Water Users Once Again Will Get Zero Water This Year

Statement of Don Peracchi, President of Westlands Water District, on Zero Water

FRESNO, CA – For the second year in a row, California farmers will be receiving ZERO water from the Central Valley Project. The announcement today from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that more than one million acres of highly productive farmland will once again receive a zero allocation of water this year should make one thing abundantly clear.

The federal government’s Central Valley Project is broken. Its failure threatens the continued coordination of local, state and federal water agencies in operating the modern water system on which all of California depends. And as a result, some of the most vital elements of the state’s economy are being allowed to wither and die.

It is easy to blame this failure on the drought. But that is only a little bit true. There is no question that dry conditions in 2014 and 2015 have contributed to the crisis. But the Central Valley Project was designed and built precisely for the purpose of alleviating the effects of far more serious droughts than what we are experiencing today.

USBR WaterFrom 1987 through 1992, for example, in the midst of another prolonged drought that makes the current dry conditions pale in comparison, Reclamation was able to deliver 100%, 100%, 100%, 50%, 25%, and 25% of its normal allocations in each of those years.

Indeed, when Reclamation designed the Central Valley Project, it calculated how much water the system could reliably deliver even during a repeat of the most extreme drought that California suffered, from 1928 to 1934. And Reclamation based its decision on how much water it could make available to farmers based on that calculation.

Contrast that with the failure we are facing today. In 2013, a mere two years after the torrential rains we all experienced in 2011, the Central Valley Project was only able to deliver 20% of its normal supplies to farmers south of the Delta. And in 2014, Reclamation was not only unable to deliver any water to farmers, it could not even meet the “core demands” of its contractual obligation to senior water right holders on the San Joaquin River and its statutory obligation to managed wetlands.

Now, in 2015, we are told that the water supply conditions will be even worse than in 2014.

Why is the Central Valley Project no longer capable of fulfilling the basic purposes for which it was built? Don’t blame the drought. There is no question that new federal rules and regulations restricting the flow of water have contributed greatly to the human suffering that will occur in this third year of nearly zero or grossly inadequate allocations. And what is particularly tragic is that these new rules and regulations, which are intended to benefit threatened fish species, are based on conjecture and unproven theories that have done nothing to protect fish populations. Instead, fish populations continue to decline.

Central Valley Project, USBR
Central Valley Project, USBR

The governor has a plan for addressing California’s water crisis, and the public’s support for the water bonds last year is helping to implement it. But the breakdown in the Central Valley Project is not a problem that can be solved in Sacramento by the long-term solutions proposed in the governor’s plan. Fortunately California’s leaders from both political parties in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been working together for more than a year on legislation that would help to restore reliability to our water system in order to protect the economy and the environment.

In 1992, when Barbara Boxer first ran for the Senate, she challenged Californians to stand up for the issues they cared about. “Where are the voices?” she asked. “Where’s the spine? Where’s the anger? This isn’t about some theory. This is about [people’s] lives.”

Today is a very sad day for the people in California and all over the country who depend on food grown by farmers who receive water from the Central Valley Project. Today is a very sad day for the workers who will be without jobs because farmers have no water. And today is a very sad day for the environment, which will continue to decline because federal agencies trusted with protecting at-risk fish species are content to tie the hands of project operators whose mission is delivering water for human needs, while these same agencies do nothing to address the numerous factors that limit fish populations.

As she winds up her long career in public service, Senator Boxer’s questions are just as vital as ever. Where are the voices? Where’s the spine? Where’s the anger? This isn’t about some theory. This is about people’s lives.

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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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