Monday, January 27, 2014

News articles and links from January 27, 2014

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Sacramento Bee

During the current drought, the public will hear a lot about water management in California. Unfortunately, Californians are being presented with a false dichotomy - that California's water problems are about fish vs. people. It's what large corporate agribusinesses from the Westlands Water District and Kern County Water Agency have been pushing on the public since 2009. While we agree with these opposing groups that we have a water management problem that is harming everyday people, the facts show that the causes and solutions are different than what they claim.

Coalition response... Pointing out unemployment statistics on the San Joaquin Valley's Westside and then calling for more land retirement is illogical nonsense at its worst. About 35,000 residents in the communities of Firebaugh, Huron, San Joaquin and Mendota depend on farm jobs that reliable water supplies bring. Does Restore the Delta have a plan for these displaced workers and are there a legislators in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. that want their names associated with it? I doubt it.

Water Supply

From: Eric Zamora, Fresno Bee

Federal water leaders Friday painted a dire picture for California's water managers -- key reservoirs down to 58% of average and Sierra watersheds with less than 15% of expected rain and snow at this point.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation made a presentation at the annual regional water-users gathering in Reno. After two below-average winters and a record-setting dry spell this winter, conservation was the urgent message.


The California drought will soon expose the geographic, political, personal and institutional divisions that complicate meaningful congressional action.

Forget farmers versus environmentalists, that classic California plot. These divisions go deeper, and could easily kill the legislative fixes House Republicans vowed to make at a Bakersfield-area farm last week.

From: Staff, Fresno Bee

Citizens all over the United States count on their lawmakers to pull together and come up with solutions in times of crisis. Whether it's a devastating hurricane, earthquake or wildfire, we look to these leaders to make the case for relief funding and to navigate the bureaucratic mazes in our state capitols and Washington, D.C.

With California in the midst of a drought, the responsibility for action rests largely on the shoulders of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein as she has a record of working in bipartisan fashion and has been highly involved in water issues since her election in 1992.

From: Norm Groot, Salinas Californian

Salinas Valley growers have created a unique situation here for a water supply solution: release water from reservoirs on a year-round basis to allow for percolation to the groundwater basin, thus causing recharge for the water pumped for irrigation purposes. This is an effective and efficient solution to providing water to one of the best farming regions in the world.

From: Reed Fujii, Stockton Record

With 2013 San Joaquin County's driest year on record, and January - typically one of the highest rain months - coming to an end with no measurable rain, area farmers are increasingly worried.

The drought has already taken a heavy toll on those who depend on fall rains, mostly ranchers whose grazing animals can't find feed on the dry, brown pastures. But even farmers with sources of irrigation, whether well water or available surface water, are facing higher costs and mineral buildup in the soil.

From: Dennis Taylor, Salinas Californian

There's a waterless cloud hanging over the Salinas Valley this winter - a likely harbinger of a hard, bleached summer to come.

When it comes to drought in the Salinas Valley, no one wants to be an alarmist. Words are chosen carefully. Everyone seems stoic and reminds one other often that they've been through it before and survived. And the most common refrain in the agricultural community these days: "We still have two months left in the rainy season."

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

California's current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state's recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West's long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

And they worry that the "megadroughts" typical of California's earlier history could come again.

From: Jason Dearen, San Francisco Chronicle

In January, business at the 101 Livestock Market's cattle auction on California's Central Coast is usually slow. The busy season is normally in June or July, when ranchers have had time to fatten their animals for weeks on spring grasses. This year, however, business is bustling, with packed pens of moaning cattle and cowboys standing on tip-toe to get a glance at their potential prizes.

Because of historically dry conditions, California's soil moisture - a key ingredient for the forage that cattle graze on - is low throughout the state. With feed costs high and weeks of dry weather in the forecast, ranchers are already selling off parts of their herds as normally green grazing pastures have turned brown.

From: Edward Ortiz, Sacramento Bee

It's easy to see how harshly drought has visited Stanley Van Vleck's 10,000-acre cattle ranch. In all directions, across plain and foothill, the landscape is colored sickly brown.

Winter is normally the time that California ranchers rely on the rain to turn the grass green, providing food for cattle that roam the hillsides. This year, though, there is no green grass to be found on Van Vleck's sprawling ranch south of Highway 16 near Rancho Murieta.


California's climate is highly variable. In the not-too-distant past, century-long droughts tested the resilience of Central Valley ecosystems and native culture: 892-1112 AD and 1209-1350 AD.

However, the last 150 years have been abnormally wet. Had 20th-century agencies and entrepreneurs been aware of California's arid average, it is unlikely they would have invested so much treasure in building dams and canals to develop desert agriculture and grassy municipalities.


From: Staff, Desert Sun

Thanks to a record-breaking drought, fire season never ended in California. January is usually a slow month for firefighters, but that isn't the case this year. Cal Fire responded to nearly 300 fires this month. Last January? Zero.

Gov. Jerry Brown's declaration of a drought emergency sheds an even stronger light on the challenges in our desert. The Coachella Valley may be used to dry weather, but we're affected by the drought. As Coachella Valley Water District board President John Powell Jr. puts it, we're in a perpetual state of drought. Palm Springs averages about 5.5 inches of rain a year, and it doesn't look like we'll come close to that this year.


From: Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle

The lack of rain this winter could eventually be disastrous for thirsty California, but the drought may have already ravaged some of the most storied salmon runs on the West Coast.

The coho salmon of Central California, which swim up the rivers and creeks during the first winter rains, are stranded in the ocean waiting for the surge of water that signals the beginning of their annual migration, but it may never come.

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