Wednesday, February 5, 2014

News articles and links from February 5, 2014

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Staff, Chico Enterprise-Record

We agree with Gov. Jerry Brown: We don't trust a divided Congress in Washington to solve our state's water problems. The problem is, we don't trust Brown to do so either.

Brown's emergency drought declaration last month seems to have the same objective as legislation in Congress - to pump more water out of the delta and send it south. Both would throw out provisions of environmental law, which means they are pitting the delta ecosystem against San Joaquin Valley farmers and water-strapped cities.

Coalition response... The Bay Delta Conservation isn't a drought planning tool. It is a long-term piece of California's water system designed to provide reliable deliveries of water to many people and thousands of farmers that already have a legal right to use that water, while restoring more than 100,000 acres of the Delta to habitat. The tunnels wouldn't be operating right now because there is little water in the system. They would have, however, been enormously helpful last year when 800,000 acre-feet of water was flushed out to the ocean instead of being put to use by farms, homes and businesses throughout California.

Water Bond

From: Rory Carroll, Reuters

California's senate leader is preparing a $644 million emergency drought relief bill designed to quickly fund shovel-ready projects to combat the state's severe water shortage, according to a draft of the bill.

The wide-ranging effort would fast-track water supply projects, speed up funding for expanded use of recycled water and stormwater capture projects, and better monitor and manage groundwater resources.

Water Supply

From: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times

Beneath unyielding blue skies on a recent afternoon, Ryan Indart knelt down to examine what was left of one of his sheep pastures.

Land that should have been lush with native grasses this time of year has been reduced to powdery dirt, splotched with a few withered strands of filaree and foxtail. And where there's no vegetation, there are no sheep.

Federal officials have announced $20 million in aid for California farmers affected by the ongoing drought.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. He said the money will be earmarked for improvements in irrigation and assistance with water facilities, among other things.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

The federal drought aid announced Tuesday could bring drinking water to some beef cattle, improved irrigation systems for some farmers, and soil erosion controls for those who will not grow a crop this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $20 million to California, a small fraction of the federal aid that could come if the drought does not ease.

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

In this severe drought, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy wants to "ensure any water that does move down the Sacramento River ultimately flows to Kern County and Central California." The Bakersfield Republican ought to use his clout and ability to help craft a statewide solution - not simply siphon water away from others who need it just as much.

As it is, McCarthy and congressional Republicans from the south San Joaquin Valley, with support from the entire California Republican delegation, have reintroduced a failed 2011 bill that would ship more water out of the Delta and block efforts to restore the San Joaquin River.

From: Michael Doyle, Sacramento Bee; Merced Sun-Star; Modesto Bee 

The Agriculture Department on Tuesday offered new aid to water-starved California farmers, while lawmakers tussled over competing anti-drought proposals.

Underscoring how California's water crisis has reached a political boil, top federal and state officials jointly announced the relatively modest new package of aid that features $20 million for agricultural water conservation efforts. Additional aid for California will be announced by the Forest Service on Thursday.

From: Bartholomew Sullivan, Ventura County Star

California's two Democratic senators sided with the majority in a 68-32 vote for the farm bill Tuesday, with Dianne Feinstein calling it "a win for farmers and consumers."

The $956 billion, five-year bill passed the House last week with all three members representing Ventura County - Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara - voting for it. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it quickly.

From: Staff, Ventura County Star

Ventura County growers probably will receive none of the $20 million for California agricultural water conservation efforts announced Tuesday by the Agriculture Department, said John Krist, CEO of the Ventura County Farm Bureau.

"The way this particular program seems to be targeted is looking at primarily growers who've seen their either Central Valley water project or state water project deliveries cut back because of drought," he said. "That doesn't describe anybody in Ventura County.

From: Staff, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Fish or families? Locally, the historic drought is having an impact that will only intensify unless substantial rainfall comes this season.

Monday, it was the Santa Cruz Water Commission's turn, recommending the Santa Cruz City Council approve water rationing of between 15 to 25 percent this spring. To do that, the council will have to declare a water emergency, which will allow the Water Department to mandate conservation and raise the price of water to cover shortfalls because of less consumption. 

From: Andrew Creasey, Marysville Appeal-Democrat

It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop, or maybe it's lots of other shoes. Local agencies already know the drought will affect their water deliveries to a historic degree. All that's left is figuring how much water, if any, will be delivered for summer crops and city supplies.

On Friday, the State Water Resources Control Board announced a curtailment of all post-1914 water rights holders, which will affect about 500 water contracts in Yuba, Suter and Colusa counties.

Now, as water managers wait for those curtailment notices to arrive, the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal partners will announce additional responses to the drought at a press conference today in Sacramento.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass a water bill Wednesday that Republicans call a necessity for drought-stricken California, but which Democrats label a "water grab" and political power play that undermines years of delicate negotiations.

The bill -- which opponents say would give more water to farmers at the expense of the environment -- is probably dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where both of California's senators oppose it. But the bill, which has drawn a scathing criticism from Gov. Jerry Brown, highlights a deepening partisan divide over solving the Golden State's water woes now and for decades to come in a way that balances the needs of farmers, environmentalists and average Californians who expect clean water when they turn on the tap.

From: Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star

Merced farmers already expect extreme water shortages this year and the available water likely will be more expensive.

Merced Irrigation District officials on Tuesday took the first step toward raising water rates for growers and may seek to increase a maintenance assessment, commonly referred to as a standby fee, for all farmers in the district.


From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Tuolumne County is desperate for water. Forget washing cars or filling swimming pools. The situation is far worse than that.

Tuolumne's Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency Tuesday, warning that the drought poses "an imminent threat of disaster" that may "cause widespread harm to people, businesses, property, communities, wildlife and recreation."


From: David Bitton, Marysville Appeal-Democrat

Water, or the lack of it, was the topic of concern for more than 100 people who attended Tuesday's South Sacramento Valley Winter Almond Meeting.

The annual event, which had previously been held in Arbuckle, was moved this year to the Colusa County Fairgrounds to coincide with the 49th annual Colusa Farm Show.

From: Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration has selected the locations for seven new regional centers that will help farmers and ranchers adjust to the increasing risks and extreme weather associated with climate change.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the sites Wednesday, according to a White House official. President Obama unveiled the program this summer as part of his broader plan to address global warming.

Press Release

From: Staff, Bureau of Reclamation Press Release

The Bureau of Reclamation announces the availability of up to $2 million for award under the Bay-Delta Restoration Program: CALFED Water Use Efficiency Grants. The federal funding cap is $300,000 per award, not to exceed 50 percent of project costs.

The Bay-Delta Restoration Program is a collaborative effort among 25 state and federal agencies. Their joint mission is to improve California's water supply and the ecological health of the San Francisco Bay/ Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta). The Bay-Delta provides water for urban, agricultural, industrial and environmental uses.

From: Staff, Bureau of Reclamation Press Release

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are collaborating in providing federal funds to California water districts, irrigation districts, tribes, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in California to improve the efficiency of agricultural water use throughout the state.

One of the worst droughts in decades prompted Governor Jerry Brown to issue an emergency drought proclamation on January 17. In order to provide flexibility for local and state water managers, the Obama Administration is committed to coordinated federal actions and investments.

From: Staff, ACWA

Whether it's the lowest Sierra snowpack on record or the historic announcement of zero deliveries from the State Water Project, it's clear that California is in a drought of epic proportions.
Local, state and federal agencies are mobilizing to address the challenge, but experts agree we are in unchartered territory. What will these unprecedented conditions and unprecedented response measures mean for Californians in 2014? How will impacts of the drought reverberate across the state this summer?

WHAT: 2014 Drought Briefing - Impacts and Actions: What You Need to Know 
WHEN: Friday, February 14, 2014, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 
WHERE: Crest Theater, 1013 K Street, Sacramento

For more information go to

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