Friday, April 11, 2014

News articles and links from April 11, 2014


From: John Upton,

California has a radical plan for managing its rivers and reservoirs as drought grips the Golden State for the third consecutive year. It could help the state cling to water that would normally flush through rivers and into the Pacific Ocean - at the expense of wildlife and fishing folk who rely on the health of those rivers.

The seven-and-a-half-month plan, developed in consultation with federal officials, doesn't increase the amount of water that will be delivered to customers, but it makes major changes to how precious drops remaining in snowpacks, reservoirs, and rivers will be managed.

Coalition response... In periods of severe drought, everyone will be impacted by water shortages.  California's commercial fishing industry, recreational boaters and fishing enthusiasts included. For decades in-delta water quality has benefited from flows provided by the State and federal water projects regardless of water shortages elsewhere within the projects' service area.

This is especially true in the late summer and fall. During the third dry year in a row and long after human users are no longer able to rely on deliveries from our state's infrastructure, the projects might also fail to satisfy the desires of those who want more water released for fisheries. Water managers are working hard to protect the environment - with refuges served by the Central Valley Project receiving 40- 75% allocations, while farmers still receive none.

From: Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on reluctant GOP senators Thursday to support her drought bill, which she altered earlier this month to win support from Central Valley House Republicans.

The California Democrat has been pushing hard to get more water to San Joaquin Valley farms, urging federal agencies to relax environmental rules to do so.

Coalition response... Elected officials are charged with representing the needs and interests of their constituents, a difficult challenge for Senators in a state as diverse as California. Elected officials, unlike agency staff are accountable to the constituents they represent, and as such are the appropriate ones to engage in policy-making. When a law or other policy isn't working, they have the responsibility to evaluate it and make the necessary changes.

Environmental interest groups like the Bay Institute seem to want flexibility by everyone but themselves. There is little care for the people who are standing in food lines because no water is being delivered to support their jobs. In extreme years like this you would hope that even the most ardent environmental activists would show a little humanity.

From: Chris Clarke, KCET

A joint state and federal drought management plan released this week for the summer includes bad -- but not particularly surprising -- news for the Central Valley's wetlands.

The plan reaffirms that wildlife refuges and other managed wetlands in the California's largest valley will receive just 40 percent of the water from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) in 2014 that they get in a typical year.

From: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

Despite more late-season storms in California, state and federal water planners weren't ready April 9 to start sending water to farms without senior water rights.Agencies maintained zero-water allocations for State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project contractors as they unveiled a comprehensive drought management plan to guide them through the remainder of 2014.

Officials said new allocations could still come in the next couple of weeks as they examine improved March runoff and an April 1 snowpack survey that was conducted amid a rather prolific snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada range.

From: Alan Bjerga, BusinessWeek

The drought that is withering vegetable and fruit crops in California may push up food prices more than the dry spell that ravaged the Corn Belt in 2012, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
That's because the current crisis has brought planting in California to a near-halt, while corn and soybean crops were still being produced during the 2012 drought, he said.

"It's simply because folks aren't planting," Vilsack told reporters today after a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. That may force the U.S. to rely on more-expensive imports of perishable goods, he said.

From: David Castellon, Visalia Times-Delta  

Even though it's spring, temperatures have already passed the 90-degree mark in the Valley, which has added to worries that one of the worst droughts in California's history seems likely to continue through the summer.

Expectations are that thousands of acres of crops may be lost because of lack of water, which in turn could cost numerous jobs both in and outside the agricultural industry, a decline in home buying and a slowdown in retail sales.

Water Supply

From: Rich Atwater, Los Angeles Daily News

Earthquakes have been shaking things up around the Southland, reminding long-term residents and transplants alike that we live in an earthquake-prone region and that a devastating quake could strike at any time. While scientists say a major quake is inevitable, we as a state are woefully unprepared for the next disaster.  

Nowhere is this more evident than in our water supply. The hub of our state's water supply is protected by a series of 100-year-old dirt levees that have grown dangerously fragile over time and are increasingly vulnerable to a major quake.


From: Donna Jones, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Pajaro Valley farmers are on track to break irrigation records in 2014 after tapping groundwater at unusually high levels during the first quarter of the year. Drought drove demand, and the combination of inadequate rainfall and heavy irrigation is adding stress to a strained groundwater basin.

That was the sobering backdrop to an irrigation and water conservation conference Thursday at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. More than 100 farmers, landowners, irrigators resource experts, agricultural consultants and vendors attended.

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