Thursday, February 20, 2014

News articles and links from February 20, 2014


From: George Skelton, Los Angeles Times

Don't blame the little fish. And don't call it the Central Valley. Both comments, repeated incessantly, were irritants during President Obama's visit to parched California farm country last week.

The president was there-in the San Joaquin Valley-to cuddle with water hogs.

The hogs are large growers who use lots of water, have just about run out and are angry because they're being denied other people's. And they keep complaining that the government is favoring a little "bait fish" over farmers.

Coalition response... While George's singular affinity for salmon is obvious in this opinion - there are a few points that require additional consideration. First, salmon, like almonds, peaches, bell peppers, cantaloupe, (among hundreds of others produced in the areas he describes) is just one of the many food products California produces on water that flows through Delta. Also produced with this water from the Delta are jobs in the Los Angeles Basin. While Southern California has done a tremendous job investing in local storage and efficiency that will hopefully carry it through this period of drought, the future path of Southern California's prosperity, and in fact the entire state's prosperity, are undeniably tied to the water systems in the Delta.

George takes great pains to paint a picture in his piece that diversions are the sole cause of salmon decline- a convenient excuse, but nothing in life is that simple. Salmon are impacted by numerous factors in the Delta, not the least of which is predatory species such as bass - in fact, recent studies show that fewer than 10% of baby salmon hatched upstream make it alive out to sea. Among the many quotes by representatives of the commercial fishing industry is the quote by Zeke Grader that the salmon fleet of 1,000 ships is much smaller than in 1980, when it had nearly 5,700 ships. What is missing from Zeke's comment is that in 2003 and 2004, 1,500 commercial salmon ships were able to bring in the same weight of salmon as in 1980 - landing over 6 million pounds of salmon in each of those years; in 2012 the yield per ship was approximately twice that of 1980. It might be fair to say that commercial fishing fleet is also improving the efficiency of their operations.

Water Supply

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

San Joaquin Valley farmers are expecting devastating water news Friday -- the worst-ever forecast for federal water delivery, reflecting the landmark dry season.

Federal Central Valley Project leaders are expected to announce an unprecedented zero allocation for more than 2 million acres, spanning both east and west sides of the country's most productive farmland.

From: Erik Schatzker, Bloomberg

It's hard to believe that statistics understate what is going on in California, they are calling this the biggest route in more than a century -- the biggest drought in more than a century, everything is unbelievably dry, no matter where you go in the state.

I was in the sierra through the central valley, the farms, out to the coastal vineyards like this one, we are not too far from the pacific coast. All those people and industries in California are feeling the drought now.

From: Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

An unprecedented drought and water cutbacks of unprecedented proportion are sweeping through the Sacramento Valley. This time it was Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District's turn to hear the dry news: the lowest amount of water in its history and significantly less than required by its water contract.

Last weekend the Bureau of Reclamation sent a letter stating the district would receive 40 percent of its usual allocation of water from the Sacramento River.

From: Anthony York, Los Angeles Times

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders unveiled a proposed $687.4-million drought-relief package Wednesday to free up water supplies and aid Californians facing financial ruin because of the state's prolonged dry spell.

The proposal would provide millions of dollars to clean up drinking water, improve conservation and make irrigation systems more efficient. It would increase penalties for those who illegally divert water.

From: Jenny Espino, Redding Record-Searchlight (Subscription required)

Redding and other senior water rights holders say they will challenge a federal agency's decision to slash water deliveries by as much as 60 percent for the year.

Allocations from the Sacramento River provide nearly half of Redding's water, meaning the city will have to rely on groundwater and voluntary conservation efforts to meet demands to the levels of those from three years ago.

From: Staff, KCRA 3

Gov. Jerry Brown and other state leaders announced Wednesday proposed legislation that would provide $687 million to deal with the effects of California's worsening drought.

The governor announced the legislative proposal during a news conference Wednesday at Mather, describing it as "a call to action" as the nation's most populous state deals with one of the driest periods on record.

Brown was joined by Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg at Mather for the announcement.

From: Fenit Nirappil, AP

Gov. Jerry Brown and the top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday announced a $687 million plan to provide immediate help to drought-stricken communities throughout California, including $15 million for those with dangerously low drinking water supplies.

The proposal comes amid one of the driest periods in the history of the nation's most populous state, forcing farmers to fallow fields and some communities to warn of low water supplies.

From: Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to spend roughly $687 million to alleviate the impacts of California's drought, including efforts to clean and recycle water, improve conservation, capture rain, and give emergency food and housing assistance to farmworkers who will be out of work because their fields are fallow.

From: Jean Jubb, Sacramento Bee

Re "Drought may not be state's fate" (Capitol & California, Feb. 17): Can anyone explain to me why the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources systematically drained northern California reservoirs last summer?

Southern California reservoir Pyramid Lake is at 96 percent of capacity and Castaic at 86 percent. They have enough water to supply all their needs until 2016.


From: Gene Haagenson, Fresno Bee

The drought in California is having its biggest impact on agriculture. With virtually no water available in the state and federal water projects, growers are giving up on some crops.

Thousands of acres of land will not be in production this year, and that means a big hit to the local economy and the loss of thousands of jobs. Because of the drought, dusty fields in Western Fresno County won't be growing anything this year.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

 Call it a deep reality check. In a severe drought year, with the comment period winding down on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed twin tunnels project to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency has issued a sobering report.

The cost of construction would be high, the report says, and would be borne largely by those benefiting from the project, the water contractors south of the Delta, "regardless of the amount of water delivered from the Delta."

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