Tuesday, April 22, 2014

News articles and links from April 22, 2014

Delta

From: Staff, San Jose Mercury News

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's willingness to do Big Ag's bidding at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is increasingly alarming. Last week she released a revised drought bill that has environmentalists up and down the state fuming -- with good reason.

Feinstein stripped out the best part of her original legislation: $300 million for conservation and efficiency measures and aid to low-income farmworkers hurt by the drought. She admits she did it to attract Republican support. It raises the question of how far she is willing to go to maximize the amount of water sent from the Delta to Central Valley farmers, even if it causes catastrophic harm to the estuary.

Coalition response... One thing should be clear, this bill is intended to help real people who struggle to make their home payments, worry about their children's futures and try to make ends meet through agriculture in California.

It is about the almost 4,000 family farms that receive water that flows through the Delta to sustain one of California's most important food-growing regions. It is also about trucking, processing, wholesale, retail and port jobs that all depend on the food produced by hardworking California farmers. It is about the millions of consumers who benefit from the low food costs that investments in efficient agricultural production brings.  

California's almond production supports many thousands of jobs in transportation, processing, retail, wholesale and high-paying port jobs. Years ago people complained that crops like cotton and alfalfa used too much water and that farmers should grow higher value crops. The value of California farm production has risen enormously while applied water on our farms has declined by 14 percent, according to the Department of Water Resources. It is mystifying how anyone can refer to that as a "dirty little secret." The fact is, farmers grow crops that they can sell. It makes little sense to plant a crop to supply a market that doesn't exist. And we still provide roughly half of the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables, much of it from high-producing farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Santa Clara Valley's efforts to restore groundwater are to be commended. But the recovery wouldn't have been, or continue to be, possible without  imported water supplies from the Delta to fill the gap in local supplies versus demands.   Like Silicon Valley, much of California relies on imported water to provide a quality of life and vibrant economy that is the envy of the Nation, but when it's not serving those in its backyard, the Mercury calls it a water grab.

Let's stick to the facts, and not promote baseless regional conflict.  This is too important to have a "Beat L.A." bumper sticker mentality. The Mercury needs to recognize that the state is facing many challenges in having to repurpose a system that reallocated water for environmental uses that were simply not part of its original design.  Senator Feinstein should be applauded for her leadership on behalf of the entire state and its environment, rather than being falsely and cynically accused of "pandering".

Drought

From: Kirk Siegler, NPR

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gathered on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.  

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gathered on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.  

Water Supply

From: Thomas Elias, Salinas Californian

The next front in California's long-running water wars has already opened, and the reasons for it will sometimes be hard to see - but not always.

That next fight is over ground water, source of about 35 percent of the state's fresh water in normal years and a much higher percentage in dry ones like 2014. This battle has the potential to become far more bitter than even the quarrels over how to distribute water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.

From: Lisa Lien-Mager, ACWA

The Sierra snowpack is now just 18% of average, down from a seasonal high of 35% on April 7. According to snowpack data tracked by the California Data Exchange Center, some areas - including the Northern Sierra - lost half of the snow water content in a single week, largely due to unusually high temperatures in the West. In California, temperatures were 9-12 degrees above normal, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From: David Keller, New York Times

"Swim to Sea? These Salmon Are Catching a Lift" (front page, April 19) is one facet of an incredibly sad story.

Over the past 166 years, since California's Gold Rush first destroyed rivers en masse in the quest for gold and silver, we have continued to decimate our rivers and groundwater for our growing population and agriculture, including all the Public Trust resources that had thrived with them.

We have altered our geography, hydrology and geology, frequently depleting our water, soils, air and local economies.

Fisheries

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee 

Water flows in the American River are scheduled to increase through the Sacramento region starting tonight to help salmon and steelhead.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Folsom and Nimbus dams on the river, will maintain the increased flow for three days to help juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon migrate downstream, and to help improve in-river conditions for young steelhead.

Groundwater

From: Craig Miller, KQED

We hear a great deal about California's reliance on its "frozen reservoir," a reference to the (currently anemic) Sierra snowpack. We hear a lot less about the Golden State's invisible reservoir, the water that resides in underground aquifers beneath our feet.

That's about to change. Today, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) rolls out a trio of water conservation bills, the centerpiece of which (SB 1168) is a frontal assault on the management of California's groundwater, which, compared to other western states, is almost unregulated.

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