Thursday, February 6, 2014

News articles and links from February 6, 2014

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Joaquin Palomino, East Bay Express

Dan Errotabere's family has been farming the dry soils of the western San Joaquin Valley for nearly a century. His grandfather primarily grew wheat and other grains. His father grew vegetables and other annual crops almost exclusively. But in 1999, Errotabere decided to plant his first almond tree. Today, almonds account for more than a quarter of his 3,600-acre farm.

"Out here it's nothing but topsoil," he told me during a tour of his property late last year. He added that his land is especially good for growing nuts."

Coalition response... Much of California relies on water that falls on one part of the state and is moved to where it is needed, including much of the San Francisco Bay Area. Water is a public resource administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. That has helped fuel California's economy in the Sacramento, Silicon, San Joaquin and San Fernando valleys. Each of these regions, and others, provide a valuable contribution to the diverse and interwoven economy of our state.

Sacramento Valley almond production is actually quite comparable to the San Joaquin Valley, not "four times the yields using the same amount of irrigation water," as the author states. Almond production, like many of California's farm products, provides value added benefits to the economy through jobs in processing, transportation, wholesale and retail businesses. A significant number of jobs at the Port of Oakland are the result of farm production throughout California. Farms are one of the few bright spots in the balance of trade, thanks to people like Dan Errotabere and almost 4,000 others like him who grow the food we buy around the corner and around the world.


From: Sam Brasch, Modern Farmer Magazine

Meteorologists are already calling the current California drought the worst on record. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, used tree rings to look even farther back into the state's past, only to find more bad news. She claims that this year is the state's driest since Sir Francis Drake visited the west coast in 1580.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of drought emergency, which makes it easier to move water around the state, hire seasonal fire fighters and limit the landscaping irrigation around state highways. But even as cities struggle with extreme shortages, farmers - who take up 77 percent of the state's water - have the most to lose.

The California Farm Water Coalition (CFWC) estimates the drought could take a $5 billion dollar bite out of an industry that brings in $44.7 billion annually.

From: Alastair Bland, Sacramento News and Review

The dusty brown shoreline surrounding Folsom Lake descends steeply into the greenish water. Overhead, the sky is an unseasonal blue, and the exposed lake bed is parched and cracked. Boat ramps, which have delivered countless water skiers and fishermen to the reservoir's edge, no longer reach the shore. The lake's tributaries have turned to trickles, and the towering concrete wall of Folsom Dam has been rising out of the lake, which has been shrinking for months.

Water Supply

From: Steve Gorman, Reuters; CNBC; Chicago Tribune    

Drought-stricken California farmers facing drastic cutbacks in irrigation water are expected to idle some 500,000 acres of cropland this year in a record production loss that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage, industry officials said.

Large-scale crop losses in California, the No. 1 U.S. farm state producing half the nation's fruits and vegetables, would undoubtedly lead to higher consumer prices, especially for tree and vine produce grown only there. But experts say it is too soon to quantify the effect.

From: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

I have a question every elected and appointed official in the State of California should be forced to answer publicly: Then what?

What happens when California reservoirs dry up and water can no longer be delivered to farms and homes? Then what? What happens in the 17 California communities reported to have as little as 100 days of available water from their water providers? Then what?

What happens when Millerton Lake near Fresno dries up this summer and water cannot be delivered down the Friant-Kern Canal to homes and farms from Chowchilla to Bakersfield, which simple math suggests will happen by July 1 of this year? Then what

From: Lois Henry, Bakersfield Californian (Subscription required)

Bids for a chunk of water being sold by a local agricultural water district came in so high Wednesday that one district pulled its bid in the middle of the process figuring "why bother?"

In response to California's devastating drought, the Buena Vista Water Storage District announced last month it would sell 12,000 acre feet of its stored water to local growers by auction as part of a larger water conservation program. The minimum bid was set at $600 per acre foot.

From: Paul Hendrix, Visalia-Times Delta 

This is written in response to the story "Running Dry - With Many California Aquifers Declining, Calls Grow for More Oversight of Groundwater," published in the Jan. 4-5 weekend edition of the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register. The story was a collaboration between the Times-Delta, the Salinas Californian and the Desert Sun.

The article addressed three regions of the state, one being the agriculturally-rich San Joaquin Valley. Yes, the problem persists with falling water levels and the loss of groundwater, commonly called overdraft. And yes, the article correctly acknowledges that water managers have known of the problem for decades.

A Republican bill that would increase the amount of water available to farmers in California's fertile but parched Central Valley passed the GOP-majority House on a mostly party-line vote of 229-191 Wednesday.

Seven Democrats voted for it and two Republicans voted against. Californians were split along party lines, with Democratic Reps. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Sam Farr of Carmel voting no and Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare voting yes.

From: Bartholomew Sullivan, Redding Record-Searchlight; Ventura County Star (Subscriptions required)

California's water wars extended to the House floor Wednesday as more than a dozen state representatives debated reducing environmental efforts and allocating more San Joaquin River water to Central Valley growers.

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

A bitterly divided House approved a sweeping California water bill Wednesday that puts the Senate on the spot and splits the drought-ridden state into several competing camps.

Forgoing the usual oversight and hearings, Republican leaders pushed the drought-inspired bill through at warp speed and largely along party lines. The 229-191 House approval of a bill introduced last week now sets up a clash with the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been promising for some time to introduce her own ideas.

From: Staff, KGET 17

There's a water fight underway on Capitol Hill, after a bill passed the House of Representatives Wednesday to address California's water crisis.  The Emergency Water Delivery Act generated a heated debate between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Republicans said the water act will allow more water to be sent from pumps in the delta, south to San Joaquin Valley farms and cities.  

Two local congressmen, David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy, are co-sponsors of the water act.

From: Derek Wallbank, Bloomberg Sustainability 

The U.S. House passed legislation that would allocate more water for irrigation in parts of California to help ease a worsening drought, a measure opposed by President Barack Obama's administration.

The vote was 229-191.

"There will be thousands of individuals in California, there will be cities that will go without water this year," Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the third-ranking House Republican, told reporters yesterday.

From: Author, KTVU 2; KCAL 9; KCRA 3; KFMB 8

Federal officials have pledged another $14 million to help California through its worst drought in recorded history.

Officials for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Natural Resources Conservation Service announced the funding at a Sacramento news conference on Wednesday that included key state and federal agencies responding to the drought.


From: Staff, Western Farm Press

Top city and water agency officials will address California's historical drought, including its anticipated impact and water supply actions, during the World Ag Expo Water Forum.

The event will be held on the Thursday of World Ag Expo, Feb. 13, from 12:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the International Agri-Center's Heritage Complex, 4500 South Laspina St., Tulare, Calif.

WHAT: World Ag Expo Water Forum
WHEN: 2/13/14, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: International Agri-Center's Heritage Complex, 4500 South Laspina St., Tulare, Calif.

From: Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star

Water rates, emergency planning and a drastically shortened growing season will likely be the major themes of a drought meeting Friday hosted by the Merced Irrigation District.

Friday's meeting is one of several planned to help farmers plan for what many believe will be a very tough year. Growers face the worst drought year in memory, with water and snowpack levels at historic lows. Mike Jensen, MID spokesman, said conditions are breaking records set in 1903.

WHAT: 2014 Drought Crisis & Water Supply Outlook meeting
WHEN: 2/7/14, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Sierra Hall at the Merced County Fairgrounds

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