Friday, December 20, 2013

News and links from December 20, 2013


From: Michael Raineri, Modesto Bee

Regarding "Water would be the focus" (Dec. 16, Page B1): A 20-person committee to study the county's groundwater? Sounds like a recipe to get nothing accomplished and prolong indecision. As supervisors, do the research, and make the choices for the long range.

Coalition response... Mr. Raineri astutely observes there is a need for local solutions to groundwater challenges in California. Finding rational, workable answers to these issues will take the active engagement of all local water users.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Douglas Obegi, NRDC Blog

As California begins what appears to be a third consecutive dry year, corporate agribusinesses and politicians in the San Joaquin Valley have begun calling for the State and federal government to waive environmental rules governing the Bay-Delta estuary - the same environmental rules that not only protect salmon and other wildlife in the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, but also protect thousands of fishing jobs and water quality for Delta farmers.

Coalition response...  Doug Obegi needs to turn up his reality meter when he's talking about farmers asking for "a waiver of environmental protections." As a lawyer he should know the difference between a waiver and a governmental agency exercising the discretion it has under the law. All farmers are asking for is that agencies consider a wide range of impacts, as they were directed by federal judge Oliver Wanger, and be a little flexible in difficult times.

That said, does Obegi think that fish should be insulated from the drought? They weren't 100 years ago before California's big water projects were built. Is it responsible to be using water stored for other purposes to maintain a dependable flow year-round for fish despite the fact that it is completely unnatural?

There is some middle ground to be had and the Governor, scientists, water planners and others are working hard to find it. Too bad Obegi isn't.

From: John McManus, Sacramento Bee

Re "Tunnels' wildlife impact unclear" (Page A1, Dec. 18): The Golden Gate Salmon Association agrees that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's proposed tunnels are bad for California's iconic salmon and salmon-dependent communities. The plan calls for two gigantic tunnels, big enough to divert the entire Sacramento River at most times of the year. History shows we'd be fools to trust the tunnel backers' promise they'll never divert enough water to harm salmon. And restoration of 100,000 acres of Delta wetland won't do much for salmon, even though it may be good for waterfowl. Let's be honest. The "peripheral tunnels" were conceived to help a handful of San Joaquin Valley growers get more water, not recover imperiled species like winter and spring run salmon. Why not put this to a vote of the people?

Coalition response... It is stunning that an organization like the Golden Gate Salmon Association is fighting the best opportunity in years to fix problems in the Delta that could improve salmon populations. Twenty years of water supply cuts have achieved nothing and he wants to keep doing the same thing? Unbelievable.

He doesn't trust water project operators to limit use during times of the year when it's necessary to help fish? What does he think is the reason many farmers are facing a 20 percent or less supply of water this year? It is regulatory restrictions that are keeping the pumps from running.

And his statement that the project is intended to benefit "a handful of San Joaquin Valley growers" is not even close to the facts. Water flowing through the Delta meets part of the needs of 25 million Californians and almost 4,000 family farms encompassing 3 million acres from Patterson to the Coachella Valley.

An honest discussion would include questions about how many baby salmon are consumed by other fish in the Delta, such as bass, which have doubled in population since 1982. A recent Tuolumne Rivers study shows that more than 90 percent of the baby salmon never make it through the Delta because they become lunch for non-native game fish. Think about the long-term population consequences of millions of baby salmon never making to the ocean to mature and then return to spawn. Why isn't GGSA troubled by that?

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Jerry Meral, BDCP Blog

This is the last of a three-part blog summarizing the evolution of public policy for Delta water supplies. Part I examined the original planning for the State Water Project. Part II discussed the impact of the controversy over the Peripheral Canal.

There should be no question that public thinking about the Delta will continue to change in the future, given the lessons of the past. The first question anyone must ask about the future of the Delta is whether the voters will continue to subsidize the maintenance and improvement of the Delta levees, based on the public benefits the levees provide.

Salton Sea

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

The Salton Sea Authority approved a resolution of support for the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative on Thursday.

"As we move forward on the restoration and the renewable initiative, it's going to become very important that that we all get on the same page," said Jim Hanks, Imperial Irrigation District director and Salton Sea Authority president.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

News articles and links from December 19, 2013

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Staff, CBS-LA

Community leaders and consumer watchdog groups Wednesday were set to voice their opposition to a Northern California tunnels project that could impact neighborhoods here in the Southland.

Members of eight Los Angeles neighborhood councils, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, Southern California Watershed Alliance and Environmental Water Caucus claim the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would raise rates and property taxes without delivering any new water to Southern California. 

Coalition response... Food and Water Watch warns Southern Californians that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), "...would raise rates and property taxes without delivering any new water to Southern California." Amazingly, at the same time, their own web site calls the BDCP a "corporate water grab for big agriculture and real estate developers."

Which is it? A water grab or no new water? The fact is, the BDCP is designed to restore the reliable delivery of water that 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of productive farmland already have a legal right to use. Farmers and Southern California consumers both stand to lose if we don't fix the environmental problems behind our state's water crisis.

Water Bond

From: Staff, Santa Cruz Sentinel

It's needed and it's a better proposal.

These truths were on display Tuesday in Seaside at a state hearing about a water bond moving toward the November 2014 ballot.

The $6.8 billion measure presented by state lawmakers replaces a twice-postponed and pork-laden $11.1 billion proposal that was widely expected to fail.

Coalition response... This editorial is exactly right when it says, "California needs more water storage in reservoirs and underground basins and the more this bond measure specifically provides for collecting water from storm runoff, mountain snow packs and rivers and streams, the better." Unfortunately, both the Assembly and Senate water bond proposals fall short on funding for storage. And the manner in which the $1.5 billion in storage funding from the two competing proposals is allocated doesn't provide a chunk of money big enough for any specific region in California to build a project big enough to resolve our biggest water storage needs.

Monterey County officials are right when they say the proposals are insufficient to meet their local needs. That's the same message being heard from around the state on these two bonds. Too little. Too fractured.

Most everyone agrees that the original $11.6 billion bond proposal could be revamped. It still represents the kind of robust investment California needs to make in its water infrastructure to meet tomorrow's needs.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Jerry Meral, BDCP Blog

On a quiet summer day in June 1972, the failure of the Andrus-Brannan Islands caused sea water to rush into the Delta, jeopardizing the quality of supplies for the Contra Costa Water District and for the exports that serve millions of consumers in the Bay Area, Southern California and the Central Valley. This event forced decision makers to focus on the need for an alternative way to export water that currently flows into the Delta, given the mounting concerns about the reliability of its levees. In 1973, the Legislature established a program to provide funds for maintenance of the Delta levee system to reduce the risk of levee failure and island flooding.

From: Mike Wade, Lompoc Record

Clarifications on the "Protesting a pipe dream for more water" commentary are needed to concerning the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and California water rights.

The BDCP is in response to a 2009 mandate by the Legislature to restore the ecosystem of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay Delta, and to create a reliable water supply for 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of productive farmland.

From: Amanda Carvajal, Merced Sun-Star

Farmers receiving water from the Delta-Mendota Canal along the west side of our county saw their water deliveries reduced by 80 percent this year. Dry conditions and unproved Endangered Species Act regulations that redirected water to endangered fish in the Delta forced the water cutbacks. These cutbacks have caused land to go unplanted and workers to lose their jobs.

When farmers and workers do not have money to spend, the effect is felt throughout the local economy. For instance, Firebaugh business owners are reporting 25 to 30 percent losses because water is not flowing to local farms. Listen to them speak on "Farm Water and the Business Crisis" that is available on YouTube at

Water Supply

Gov. Jerry Brown is convening a task force to help determine whether a statewide drought declaration is warranted.

The governor on Wednesday asked staff from state water, agriculture and emergency services agencies to meet every week to help strengthen drought preparations and advise him on next steps.

From: Staff, CBS47

Water pouring out of California's dams could be sights and sounds of the past unless we get some rain.

In 2013, farmers on the Central Valley's west side only received a 5% water allocation. Next year could be even worse.

"Unless this water year is definitely on the wetter side, they'd expect those folks to get an initial allocation of zero," said Jeanine Jones, Dept. of Water Resources.

From: Hank Schultz,

A looming water crisis in California has led more than 50 California lawmakers to request the declaration of a state drought emergency.   The dire water situation for the upcoming crop year could send ripples through US agricultural supply says the California Water Alliance, an advocacy organization.

Water Storage

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

San Francisco has a place of honor for a pen wielded by President Woodrow Wilson a century ago today.

He used it to sign the Raker Act, which allowed the city to divert some of the Tuolumne River upstream of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts.

From: Bill Jurkovich, Sacramento Bee

Re "Reservoirs also are important" (Capitol & California, Dan Walters, Dec. 16): Dan Walter's column lays out the reasons and need for added water storage in California. The doubling of the population since the last building program and climate change has resulted in an increasingly critical water shortage in the state. Scientists tell us that there will be climate swings between floods and droughts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

News articles and links from December 18, 2013

Bay Delta Conservation Plan 

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The state's ambitious plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has two main goals: improve water supplies and remove dozens of native animals from the endangered species list. Yet for nine key species - including salmon, Delta smelt and greater sandhill cranes - it remains unclear whether the plan will ultimately help or hurt.

Coalition response... One wonders how far opponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will reach to pick holes in it. In this story Matt Weiser lists so-called adverse impacts on endangered species when he says, "Another concern is that the birds (sandhill cranes) could be killed by colliding with new power lines required for the project, both during the project and after." Seriously? There are power lines that already criss-cross the Delta including the area where sandhill crane habitat exists. No one is hearing about sandhill crane deaths from the large power lines that are already there.

If there is going to be a genuine discussion on the costs, benefits and challenges of a project like the Bay Delta Conservation Plan then we need to do away with baseless "concerns" that seem to be included in a story just for the added color.

From: Staff, Chico Enterprise-Record

Our view: We can only hope the south state realizes there really isn't enough water to make the expensive twin tunnels work.

The latest documents are out on the plan to put a pair of huge tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and despite amounting to 34,000 pages, there's darn little consideration of where the water is coming from.

Coalition response... It simply isn't accurate to say that there isn't enough water to make the twin tunnels work. Prior to 1990 south of Delta CVP contractors received 100 percent of their allocations, with the exception of 1977, the driest year on record.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan's goal is to reliably deliver water that 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland already have a legal right to use. The BDCP is intended to improve environmental resources so water supplies can return, at least in part, to the levels they once were.

From: Bob Wright, Stockton Record (Subscription Required) 

California's water woes can only worsen. Our farmers have given their all, they've pioneered an industry others can only follow. The world reaps our harvest while our farmers take the arrows. The days of good jobs and reasonably priced food and fiber are over.

Feeding and clothing a hungry world requires trucking water out of state. Water tables have sunk to unrecoverable levels; wells are failing, salt as sea water leaches backward into the voids.

Coalition response... The Bay Delta Conservation Plan's goal is to reliably deliver water that 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland already have a legal right to use. It is not a water grab. The volume of water that went to Californians south of the Delta was restricted beginning in 1990 when environmental cutbacks reduced their supply. The BDCP is intended to improve environmental resources so water supplies can return, at least in part, to the levels they once were.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Jerry Meral, BDCP Blog

Californians have been debating the role of the Delta and the best way to move water to where it's needed for nearly 70 years. The recently released draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and accompanying draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) reflect the ongoing evolution of Delta water policy in the critical areas of supply, water quality, environmental impacts, species preservation and the interests of the Delta communities. This is the first of a three-part blog that summarizes how our understanding of these issues has changed in relation to the dynamic growth of California and our constantly expanding appreciation of the needs of its environment.


From: Ken Carlson, Modesto Bee

As Stanislaus County leaders made sure farming interests had seats on a new Water Advisory Committee, certain urban interests made a pitch for places on the advisory panel, too.

Water Supply

From: Staff, Western Farm Press (Subscription Required)

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has mobilized a new drought management effort to prepare for and reduce potential impacts of what is expected to be a third straight dry year in 2014. DWR Director Mark Cowin said the department is focusing its personnel and programs "to offset potentially devastating impacts to citizen health, well-being and our economy." Cowin appointed Bill Croyle to lead the effort as department drought manager.

From: Theo Douglas, Bakersfield Californian (Subscription Required)

Officials from four San Joaquin Valley water agencies joined state and federal lawmakers Tuesday in applying pressure to the president and governor to declare a drought emergency and relax endangered species standards as a dry winter looms.

From: Staff, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

After two consecutive dry years in California, this year is shaping up as a third.

In many parts of the state, this has been the driest year on record. And the long-range forecast is bleak, leaving water officials to ponder historic droughts.

Water Bond 

From: Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Sacramento lawmakers came to Seaside on Tuesday to shop a $6.5 billion plan to keep California's water infrastructure from going further down the drain.


From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

El Centro farmer and former Imperial Irrigation District director Mike Abatti is again challenging the IID's water apportionment plan.

In a lawsuit filed Nov. 27, he accuses the district of placing Imperial Valley's municipal and industrial water needs above the area's agricultural needs.


From: Staff, California Irrigation Institute

What is the future of the water-energy relationship? Can a balance on water use efficiency and energy use be found?  Come engage with other water and power professionals as we explore the future of water and energy efficiency at the 52nd Annual California Irrigation Institute Conference!  

Thursday & Friday, Jan. 23-24, 2014
Sacramento Arden West Hilton
2200 Harvard Street, Sacramento

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

News articles and links from December 17, 2013

Water Supply 

From: Myron Gomes, Sacramento Bee

Re "Delta details unveiled - in 34,000 pages" (Page A1, Dec. 10): So we've got this pork barrel Delta project that will allow Gov. Jerry Brown to spend more than $25 billion to supposedly protect our future water supplies. Yet, the same day's paper informs us that a multicountry Dead Sea/Red Sea desalination project, costing just $500 million, will solve a drinking water shortage in that area. Why aren't we pursuing desalination in California? Even if just for agricultural needs. It seems like it could be a bargain and leave our terra firma alone."

From: H. David Knepshield, Sacramento Bee

Re "Red Sea project will boost Dead Sea" (Page A6, Dec. 10): This story about building a desalination plant in the Middle East says the cost is $500 million and that the plant will produce millions of gallons of fresh water. Why does California need to build Delta tunnels costing about $15 billion to move water from Northern California to Southern California, when we could build more than 28 desalination plants there for the same cost? It seems to me that desalination plants will eventually need to be built, simply because of the uncertainty and randomness of rainfall. Besides, moving water through tunnels and canals and pumps is so last century.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Jerry Meral announced his retirement Friday. In a career at the Department of Water Resources and as deputy director of the California Natural Resources Agency, Meral championed many projects, but his latest will likely define his legacy. Meral is considered one of the primary architects of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, just as he was a key figure in formulating the peripheral canal in the late 1980s. Now, as then, a lot of people are refusing to buy into his plan to send a vast portion of the Sacramento River's flow directly south via two tunnels to water-craving fields in the South Valley and thirsty cities beyond.

Friday, December 13, 2013

News articles and links from December 13, 2013

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Mark Wilson, Sacramento Bee

Re "One shot to save Delta's ecology" (Forum, Dec. 1): The Delta ecosystem is imperiled. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan's proposal to take more freshwater from the Delta will not help. The BDCP's environmental report says the very fish the plan purports to protect are jeopardized by the constriction and operation of the project. The BDCP is clearly a water grab, and California cannot afford it financially or environmentally. Unscreened south Delta pumps are fish killers, and BDCP won't do anything to fix them. Those pumps would still be used half the time. Before we consider new BDCP pumping from the Delta, we need to know how much water can be safely taken out while still improving the fishery and protecting our existing, sustainable Delta farms.

Coalition response... Mr. Wilson repeats oft-disproved myths about the BDCP.  The importance of having a reasoned, factual discussion of the merits of the plan's key elements of restoring thousands of acres of ecosystem and improve water supply reliability can not be overstated.  These myths are repeated so often that the BDCP administrators have compiled them into a section of their website - "Correcting Stubborn Myths" available at:

From: Sally Oliver, Sacramento Bee

Re "One shot to save the Delta" (Forum, Dec. 1): Dennis McEwan needs to accept that the twin tunnels project (officially known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan) is about transferring additional water from Northern California to the Central Valley and Southern California, with no thought to the environmental and economic devastation that will be created in the northern half of the state. The project has proposals for additional dams, which makes clear the true intention of the plan. Stewart Resnick and a few others took over the publicly developed Kern County Water Bank for private sale, with the blessing of the State Water Control Board and State Water Resources Department. Such action is a perfect example of what the citizens of California can expect in the future from our government. Gov. Jerry Brown is not protecting the general welfare of the people of California by supporting this project but rather using us to pay his political debts.

Coalition response... Claiming that the BDCP is an effort to take more water, or to inappropriately acquire additional water from North State water users is a myth. The BDCP is in fact an effort to improve the stability of supplies and improve the Delta ecosystem. These myths and other distractions from the facts of BDCP are refuted so often that the BDCP administrators have made them the focus of a recent website, "Correcting Stubborn Myths." Learn more about the myths at: 

From: Bill Allen, Ed Casey, L.A. Daily News

Californians build great things. Our people build new ways for the world to connect at companies like Apple, build new ways to combat deadly disease through work at companies like Amgen, and build new ways to explore our universe at places like SpaceX. For a state that has led the way in building so many things for our future, why would we neglect the infrastructure that is absolutely critical to our entire state's jobs base, economy, and quality of life?

Nowhere has this lack of infrastructure investment been more blatant than in our efforts to-date to ensure a secure, reliable and affordable water supply. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives California a near-failing grade for our levees, which are critical to our supply of fresh water.

From: Molly Peterson, Southern California Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources begins taking public comments Friday on plans for its most ambitious water project ever.

It wants to restore the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, commonly known as the Bay Delta, while re-plumbing how Southern California gets much of its water. And ratepayers here could foot much of the project's $25 billion dollar tab.

From: Jerry Meral, Sacramento Bee

Re "Capital area left high and dry by Delta water tunnel scheme" (Viewpoints, Dec. 5): Councilman Darrell Fong's concerns about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan are understandable, but facts mitigate those concerns. None of the water needed by Sacramento would be exported from the Delta. Nothing will be done to impair Sacramento's water rights, among the oldest in California. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan will not cause Folsom Reservoir to reach the "dead-pool effect." That threat is caused by climate change and increasing upstream use of water. The California Water Action Plan identifies these climate change challenges and the local and state partnerships required to solve them. The proposed tunnels would restore a more natural flow in the Delta, just as Councilman Fong calls for. The earthquake threat to Delta levees is real and helps justify the investment by the state of hundreds of millions of dollars in levee improvements in the last few years.

From: Dan Walters, Ventura County Star

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration released two massive documents Monday, detailing its plans to build twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and complete the last link of the water system his father began more than a half-century ago.

Water Supply

There's been a lot of news about water lately, just not enough talk about it falling from the sky.

Basically, we're in the midst of record-breaking dry year, and we've got to take steps now to make sure we don't run out of water when we really need it.

To that end, many of our state's politicians are requesting that Gov. Jerry Brown declare a state of drought emergency. The first letter arrived Monday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with Rep. Jim Costa to implore the governor to act. The following day, state senators Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella and Andy Vidak joined with five members of the Assembly, including Adam Gray, in a similar letter.

From: Mark Christian, ABC23- Bakersfield

Republican and Democratic lawmakers across the state are urging Governor Brown and President Obama to take steps to alleviate California's water woes. After an unusually dry start to the rainy season, two California lawmakers are urging Govenor Brown to declare a drought emergency.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, sent a letter to the governor's office this week, saying the state is facing its third consecutive year of scant rainfall that could deplete state reservoirs and leave farmers without enough water to grow their crops.

From: David Silva, Merced Sun-Star

I am a retired dairy farmer. I read recently that despite the drought, the game refuges in Los Banos and other parts of the state have been receiving their full allotments of water. In 1992, the Bureau of Reclamation decreed that California game refuges do not have to pay for water. What most people don't know, is that the duck clubs are in that category. There are well over 100,000 acres devoted to duck hunting in California and the owners are pretty much guaranteed three acre-feet of water.

Water Storage 

From: AP Staff,; Modesto Bee

Federal officials are proposing a $360 million expansion of one of California's largest reservoirs and a key water source for Central Valley farmers.

The Modesto Bee reports that the expansion proposal would increase the height of the 305-foot-high earthen dam at the San Luis Reservoir by 20 feet, creating another 130,000 acre feet of storage capacity.