Friday, January 31, 2014

News articles and links from January 31, 2014


From: Gabriel Lewin, Sacramento Bee

Re "Agribusiness excess is reason California again running dry" (Viewpoints, Jan. 26): People say "Should we help people or fish?" It seems obvious that people should take preference, but remember that extinction is forever, and that fish are food, too. To render salmon species extinct for just a few more acres of walnuts is not wise. Farmers do not seem to get that there is a limited supply of water. I see signs next to Interstate 5 saying "Dust bowl created by Congress," but where is the sign reading "Peach orchard created by Congress"? Farmers seem unaware of the fact that we have had drought conditions for many years, and that, with burgeoning populations, water demands have increased, not just for home use, but industry as well.

Coalition response... While it has certainly been dry for a couple of years, we have not had "drought conditions for many years" as the writer states. California has experienced wet and dry periods throughout its history. It is for just this reason that farmers were among the strongest supporters of the advanced statewide water system that we have today. When it is operated as designed, it provides water reliably and consistently to the cities and farms of California. It is our understanding that farmers who place the signs you mention are responding to Congressional interference in the operations of this water system, not the weather.

From: Tony St. Amant, Sacramento Bee

Re "Agribusiness excess is reason California again running dry" (Viewpoints, Jan. 26): For decades farmers in the western San Joaquin Valley have expanded their need for water imported from the Sacramento Valley through a steady shift to crops that need to be watered year-round. They got away with it because of the political leverage they could exert in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. No one concerned with long-term water supplies could make a dent in their political armor. Now, as the state dries up, those same farmers are whining to their state and federal representatives that they are owed water as a matter of priority over municipal, environmental and Sacramento Valley needs.

Coalition response... Between 1952 and 1989 the federal Central Valley Project had been able to deliver 100 percent of its contracted deliveries every year except 1977, our previously driest year on record. When Congress put environmental uses, based on the ESA, ahead of the original CVP project purposes it utterly changed the reliability of the system for the thousands of farms, homes and businesses that depend on it. Sadly, the ESA isn't working for anyone, including the environment. There have been no positive results from destroying California's economic base in the name of protecting the environment. It is long past time for changes that will restore water deliveries AND have the ecosystem benefits that people want. The efforts over the last 20-plus years clearly aren't working.


From: Glen Cagley, Sacramento Bee

Re "Agribusiness excess is reason California again running dry" (Viewpoints, Jan. 26): In 1999, I toured Israel near the Sea of Galilee, where I saw a banana plantation (well above the lake) which had only drip irrigation. There were no visible ditches or canals. This demonstrated to me that California agribusinesses have solutions that they could use but choose to ignore. The canals, too, could be converted to pipelines, safe from water loss due to evaporation.

Coalition response... Contrary to the writer's belief, California farmers have invested heavily in improved irrigation technology and water use efficiency. Since 2003 San Joaquin Valley farmers have invested more that $2 billion upgrading the irrigation systems on more than 1.8 million acres. Statewide between 1994 and 2008 the area devoted to drip irrigation has increased 150 percent while gravity and sprinkler irrigation has declined by more than 20 percent, according to the Center for Irrigation Technology at CSU Fresno. It is not necessary to travel far and wide to see the newest and most efficient technology. It's right in our own backyard.

Water Storage

Farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are breathing a sigh of relief after federal officials said they won't seize water in the San Luis Reservoir intended for the farmers' crops.

West San Joaquin Valley farmers don't have to worry about losing the 340,000 acre-feet of water they stored in San Luis Reservoir last year - the federal government won't take it.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had been considering taking the water to fulfill obligations to other farm water contractors who have more senior rights to water. Bureau leaders Thursday told Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, that the water would not be used.

"The bureau's decision to honor their original promises will help ensure farmers and contractors who invested in drought reserve water supplies will have the certainty they need to plan for the coming year," Valadao said in a news release.


From: Julie Lynem, San Luis Obispo Tribune

Two North County groups with a plan to manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin adamantly oppose banking water, selling it or exporting it out of San Luis Obispo County and have taken issue with another group they say is misleading the public about their intentions.

The Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions and PRO Water Equity have been working for months to establish the Paso Robles Basin Water District.

Water Supply

From: Lester Snow, Los Angeles Daily News

California water managers trekked across the Sierra Nevadas earlier this month on their annual mission to measure snowpack and gauge our water conditions for the year. Instead of struggling through snow drifts, their boots stomped across bare dirt, spotted only with the smallest of slushy patches. Their monitors forecasted troubled times and coined the new catchphrase #MegaDrought, recognizing we may be heading into the worst drought on record.


From: Staff, Bakersfield Californian

The terrifying consequences of California's "drought emergency" cannot be denied: acres of mature, nut-bearing trees dug up; fertile land unplanted; agriculture jobs gone. Some communities are even struggling to provide drinking water for their residents.

But last week's "press availability" that starred three South Valley Republican congressmen -- Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Devin Nunes of Visalia and David Valadao of Hanford -- as well as House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, seemed more about politics than about bringing real aid to the emergency.

Water Bond

From: Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee

California politicians grappling with a drought now have a third proposal spelling out which water projects should be placed in a bond on the November ballot.

Republican state Sens. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Andy Vidak of Hanford today announced a proposal to put a $9.2 billion bond on the ballot. That's nearly $2 billion less than the bond legislators approved in 2009 but have delayed placing on the ballot.


From: Steve Milne, Capital Public Radio

Marc Marchini heads the California Asparagus Commission. He's also a farmer who grows asparagus on Union Island in the South Delta.

"It's very important to have water on right now," said Marchini. "As a matter of fact, I am irrigating right now just to replenish the ground water that we normally would be getting if it was raining."

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