Tuesday, February 18, 2014

News articles and links from February 18, 2014


From: Justin Gillis, New York Times

In delivering aid to drought-stricken California last week, President Obama and his aides cited the state as an example of what could be in store for much of the rest of the country as human-caused climate change intensifies.

But in doing so, they were pushing at the boundaries of scientific knowledge about the relationship between climate change and drought. While a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions, including parts of the Mediterranean and in the Southwestern United States, there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor is there definitive evidence that it is causing California's problems.

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

With more than three-quarters of the state suffering extreme to exceptional drought, old, unhealthy disputes are resurfacing.

House Republicans, led by members from the southern San Joaquin Valley, passed a bill last week that amounts to a water grab for farmers in the south Valley. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have introduced a more reasonable bill that can be debated and amended to meet the needs of the entire state.

From: Thaddeus Miller, Modesto Bee

President Barack Obama's visit to the Westside was met with both excitement and skepticism from officials and residents here on Friday.

News had spread that the president would visit the farm of Joe Del Bosque, which straddles Merced and Fresno counties, on Friday afternoon. During his visit, the president also trumpeted his administration's efforts to bring relief for the region's most severe drought in 40 years.

From: Staff, The Food Journal

While the joint statement from Secretaries Tom Vilsack (Agriculture), Sally Jewell (Interior) and Penny Pritzker (Commerce) on Governor Jerry Brown's drought declaration in California ensured Federal help for farmers in counties severely affected by the drought, the broader message is "the long-term need to take a comprehensive approach to tackling California's water problems."

From: Darlene Superville, AP

President Barack Obama drew a link between climate change and California's drought, and said the U.S. must do a better job of figuring out how to make sure everyone's water needs are satisfied. On a tour of central California on Friday, Obama warned that weather-related disasters will only get worse.

"We can't think of this simply as a zero-sum game. It can't just be a matter of there's going to be less and less water so I'm going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water," Obama said after touring part of a farm that is suffering under the state's worst drought in more than 100 years.

From: John Ellis, Sacramento Bee

President Barack Obama took a tour of the central San Joaquin Valley's drought-damaged farm country Friday, getting a look at fallowed dirt and hosting a round-table discussion with farmers, industry representatives, environmentalists and politicians.

On his first trip to the Fresno area, the president spent barely three hours in the region before flying to Southern California, where he met with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage.

From: Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

President Obama's visit to California's Central Valley Feb. 14 gave the nation's chief executive a prime opportunity to hear from a selected few in agriculture impacted by the state's intensifying drought.

The president's visit, in itself, brought the severity of the drought to the attention of the American people which is a positive. As the president made his rounds, a news release from USDA outlined the administration's new federal financial assistance package to California agriculture and other sectors plagued by the worsening drought.

From: Gene Haagenson, KFSN 30

 The drought brought President Obama to Fresno for the first time and he called for a truce in the political water war.

"It can't just be a matter of there's going to be less and less water so I'm going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water. Instead we all have to come together," President Obama said.

But it's been a battle between democrats and republicans from day one. On his visit to the Valley the president was accompanied by California Governor Jerry Brown who's initial response to the drought was, "Governors can't make it rain."

From: Dave Hanson, Sacramento Bee

Re "Obama gets look at drought's toll" (Page A1, Feb. 15): So President Barack Obama visits the Central Valley on his way to a golf course and says global warming is cause for the lack of water for our farmers.

He must have forgotten he vetoed a water bill that would have diverted more water to the Central Valley farmers. Since the 1960s, California has had the infrastructure to store water to alleviate drought, but thanks to a federal judge we have been forced to flush water to the ocean.

From: Staff, Santa Cruz Sentinel

We get that farmers, and Republicans, want more than what President Barack Obama is offering to help California cope with the drought. And we also get that recent rains notwithstanding, providing water for people and crops takes precedence.

But the president rightfully wasn't about to wreak long-term environmental havoc on the San Joaquin River Delta to provide short term water for farmers.

Water Supply

The board of the Turlock Irrigation District on Tuesday will talk about a possible purchase of highly treated wastewater from the city of Turlock.

Directors will consider appointing General Manager Casey Hashimoto as the district's negotiator with the city.

Last month, the City Council considered selling wastewater to the Del Puerto Water District, based in Patterson, to help it through the drought. The council delayed a vote after TID officials said they had been led to believe that they could buy the same water."

Water Pricing  

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Farmers could face higher water bills and receive less water, according to an agenda for Tuesday's Oakdale Irrigation District board meeting.

OID leaders also will consider drought-related restrictions, when to start the irrigation season and the always contentious issue of transferring water outside the district.

Recent board meetings have been lively, with public pressure forcing leaders three weeks ago to abandon the idea of selling water for $400 an acre-foot to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District.


From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The sight is not uncommon in California: water moving slowly across farm fields, in broad sheets or through a grid of ditches, propelled only by the pull of gravity.

Flood irrigation is a tried and true method of watering crops in California, promising thorough coverage with minimal investment. According to data from the state Department of Water Resources, 43 percent of California farmland in 2010 used some form of gravity irrigation, an imprecise method that uses relatively large amounts of fresh water and represents a big opportunity for water conservation.


From: Andrew Creasey, Marysville Appeal-Democrat

The 2014 levee construction season is shaping up to be like nothing the region has ever seen. And the main event of the summer will be the Feather River West Levee Project. By year's end, 37 miles of levee will have had installed a slurry wall designed to protect parts of Sutter and Butte counties, and the billions of dollars' worth of property they contain, from 200-year floods similar to the 1955 disaster that sliced through the Feather River levees and killed 38 people.


People on the West Coast have counted on fish hatcheries for more than a century to help rebuild populations of salmon and steelhead decimated by overfishing, logging, mining, agriculture and hydroelectric dams, and bring them to a level where government would no longer need to regulate fisheries.

But hatcheries have thus far failed to resurrect wild fish runs. Evidence showing artificial breeding makes for weaker fish has mounted. And despite billions spent on significant habitat improvements for wild fish in recent decades, hatchery fish have come to dominate rivers.


Fourteen months into a historic drought, with reservoirs running low and the Sierra snowpack 27 percent of normal, a growing number of Californians are wondering: Why isn't everyone being forced to ration?

So far, Gov. Jerry Brown and most major water providers, from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, are calling for voluntary cuts -- not mandatory rationing with fines for excessive use.


From: Todd Woody, New York Times

The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California's agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water.

It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface.

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