Friday, March 21, 2014

News articles and links from March 21, 2014

Water Supply 

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Echo chambers are great if you like the sound of what you're saying. But they're not much use if your goal is to find solutions everyone can agree to.

Most congressional field hearings, like the one in Fresno on Wednesday, are essentially echo chambers. Those invited to speak generally hold the same views as those who invited them. In this case, that's Republican representatives Jeff Denham of Turlock and David Valadao of Hanford.

Coalition response... The Bee is right to expect balance in a process to improve water supply for the region and the rest of California. In reality the purpose of Wednesday's Congressional field hearing was to try and restore balance to a water supply system that has favored environmental priorities over the needs of people for almost three decades.

Criticizing farmers for planting trees ignores the fact that a lot of them were planted before some of the recent, most damaging rule changes were implemented that have strangled water deliveries to otherwise productive farmland. Part of the problem centers on the fact that water is being used to push migrating fish out to the sea. Instead, new science is showing that we need to provide sufficient in-Delta habitat for fish to grow and get strong before their long journey.  That problem is worsened by the devastating impact predatory fish have on baby salmon. Western Outdoor Magazine was brutally honest in a 2009 bass fishing article that said, "The whole key to this game is to find areas where stripers (striped bass) can easily pick off salmon as they move downriver. It's a one-sided bloodbath, and when the spray and foam settles, the stripers emerge fat and happy while the Chinook (salmon) suffer heavy losses."

The salmon industry should be outraged but they remain silent.

Environmental water allocations aren't doing the job we've been told they should do. Endangered fish continue to struggle despite the millions of acre-feet of water that have been released to the ocean. It's time that people stand up and demand accountability for the resources and tax dollars that are being wasted on a failed approach to endangered species recovery. Journalists should be leading the charge and asking environmental water managers to show some improvement in exchange for the public investment we all make.

From: Staff, Fresno Bee

The third year of the California drought brings a reminder of just how fractured and messy democracy can be. There have been dozens of proposals -- seven versions of a state water bond, for example -- to improve the water situation and more are surely on the way.

We're wondering if the politicians are even keeping track of all that has been proposed. To a degree, we understand why this effort is complicated. California is a large and diverse state. Our elected officials represented widely varying interests and constituencies. And tossing out ideas is part of the process -- especially as lawmakers attempt to balance environmental concerns against the need to store and move water.

Coalition response... The Fresno Bee is absolutely wrong when it says, "...the debate has to move beyond whether to build more dams," and that there "...needs to be a discussion about possibly limiting the number of thirsty almond trees grown in California."

The amount of water that is being lost to the ocean with little, if anything to show in the way of environmental benefits is criminal. Outflows that fail to demonstrate benefits to fisheries or water quality are lost opportunities to protect farms, families and businesses from devastating water supply cuts. One wonders whether the purpose is to actually help endangered species or to put farms out of business by starving them of water.  

Instead of advocating for authoritarian-style land use restrictions, journalists should be asking why agricultural and urban water users are held accountable to meet efficiency standards but environmental water managers are not. They are unable to quantify the benefits of the 48% of California's dedicated water supply that is committed to environmental purposes.

Water Bond 

From: Seth Nidever, Hanford Sentinel

The pressure is mounting for new water storage in California, and it's not just the Republicans beating the drum.

Case in point: Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno; and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, announced a water bond bill today that provides the funding agricultural groups consider necessary to kick-start new dam projects.


From: Staff, CNBC

California-hammered by a severe drought-may see nearly a million acres of land go idle this year, a report said on Friday.

According to the Western Farm Press agriculture news site, the California Farm Water Coalition has sharply increased its projection of idle acres this year to 800,000, up from 500,000. The report cited the group's estimates showing that lost farm production could deprive the Golden State's economy of nearly $8 billion.

From: Dale Yurong, KFSN-30

Consumers are already feeling the impact of the drought conditions at the grocery store. Prices for beef, milk and vegetables are on the rise.

Sarah Lisitsin of Fresno is among the many valley shoppers who have noticed the price of her bagged groceries has gone up. Lisitsin replied, "Oh everything, milk. I would say it's more expensive to fill up the pantry than it was before."

From: Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle

Tens of thousands of squiggling salmon fattening up on bugs and other nutrients on flooded cropland in the Sacramento Valley could soon provide a solution to the long-running dispute over who should get the bulk of California's diminishing supply of water: farms or fish.

There appears to be a way to satisfy both. Researchers from UC Davis flooded rice paddies on a 1,700-acre farm in nearby Woodland (Yolo County) and converted the fields into wetland fish habitat, much like the vast marshlands that once covered the state's inland valleys during the winter.

From: Robert Rodriguez, Fresno Bee

A robust export market, strong consumer demand and increased production will benefit several of the San Joaquin Valley's major crops even as California farmers struggle through a historic drought, said several agriculture industry leaders Thursday.

Citrus, dairy, tree fruit, table grapes and nut crops are all in growth mode or at least showing signs of stabilization.


From: Ian James, Desert Sun

Wide-ranging discussions about water use on farms and golf courses, wastewater recycling and how to encourage conservation emerged as the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency led a tour of water infrastructure Thursday focusing on management of the area's groundwater.

The water agencies offered the tour to participants in Thursday's symposium in Palm Springs focusing on drought and water scarcity. The group of government officials, water experts and local residents visited places including ponds on the outskirts of Palm Springs where imported water from the Colorado River flows in and seeps down to the aquifer.

From: Ian James, Desert Sun

Sen. Barbara Boxer called for the West to set aside legal fights over water and adapt to drier times by moving more quickly to expand water recycling and adopt new water-saving technologies.

Speaking during a symposium on drought and water scarcity on Thursday, Boxer announced that she is preparing new legislation that would provide incentives for efficiency and conservation, promote drought preparedness and provide financing for wastewater recycling and other projects.

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