From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee
As California's drought stretches toward the hot summer months, state and federal officials are planning extraordinary measures to protect drinking water supplies and endangered Sacramento River salmon, according to a plan unveiled Wednesday.
The "Drought Operations Plan" was released by the state Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the primary systems of water reservoirs and canals in California.
Coalition response... All water users must share in the challenges of this drought, including commercial fisheries. 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 wish list of a few outspoken environmentalists who want more water released for fisheries. On one hand they criticize the projects and the almost 4,000 farmers south of the Delta who grow hundreds of different crops with water that flows through the Delta. At the same time they want water quality and supply benefits from the projects with little regard for the people who are actually paying for them.
From: Staff, San Francisco Chronicle
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is fast-tracking a bipartisan bill through the Senate that seeks to unravel decades of carefully crafted protections for the San Francisco Bay estuary in an effort to divert more water to Southern California farms and cities.
Feinstein's call for more "flexibility" in when and where more water is captured benefits Central Valley interests but undermines two decades of hard-won decisions to protect sufficient flows for salmon.
Coalition response... Odd that the SF Chronicle is criticizing water diversions meant to supply one of California's most important food-producing regions while at the same time is benefitting from its own Delta water diversion far upstream at Hetch Hetchy.
From: Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle
First came the urgent e-mail to two cabinet secretaries from San Joaquin Valley farm interests, demanding that officials allow "maximum pumping" of water from recent storms for agriculture and cities and minimize flows for endangered fish making their river migrations amid the worst drought in years.
Two days later, on March 25, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein allied herself with the same Central Valley House Republicans she had criticized just weeks earlier for trying to override endangered species laws. In an urgent letter to the cabinet secretaries, Feinstein and the Republicans echoed the farming groups, calling for capturing "the maximum amount of water from this week's storm."
From: K. Fielde & V. Novack, KPCC Radio
Last year, as California endured one of its driest years on record, the Westlands Water District made it rain 3,000 miles away, on Capitol Hill. The nation's largest agricultural water district, located in the Central Valley, spent $600,000 on lobbying efforts, according to an analysis by KPCC in partnership with the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That's by far Westlands' biggest annual expenditure for lobbying - about six times what it spent in 2010.
The lobbying comes as Congress and federal agencies consider how to respond to three years of drought conditions that have cut water supplies across the state and ratcheted up political pressure from the hard-hit agricultural sector, including many of Westlands' customers.
From: Staff, CBS-LA
Water managers are determining if recent storms helped California's dwindling water supplies enough to warrant increases in water deliveries to farms and thirsty cities. Meantime, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday announced that water deliveries will remain at zero until the analysis is complete.
State Water Project allocations have been cut to zero for the first time in the system's 54-year history, and the federally run Central Valley Project has also cancelled deliveries to most recipients.
From: Staff, AP
Water managers are determining if recent storms helped California's dwindling water supplies enough to warrant increases in water deliveries to farms and thirsty cities.
Meantime, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday announced that water deliveries will remain at zero until the analysis is complete.
From: Jeff Barnard, Modesto Bee
Farmers on the Klamath Reclamation Project straddling the Oregon-California border are facing irrigation cutbacks caused by drought for the third year in a row. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operations plan released Wednesday shows only 61 percent of the water needed for full irrigation is available to the 1,200 farms on the project.
Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association said that even with contracts paying farmers to leave their land idle, and groundwater pumping, the agency will have a tough time meeting all the demand for water this year.
From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record
State officials unveiled a longer-term plan to deal with the drought Wednesday, one which relaxes some water-quality standards and endangered species protections in the Delta to allow for more water to be sent south to parched cities and farms.
Officials described the plan as a "balance" that attempts to bolster supplies to the extent possible while minimizing harm to fish.
Still, "We know many water users, as well as fish and wildlife, will suffer hardship this year," said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources.
From: Staff, San Jose Mercury News
In a remarkable turn of events, California's devastating drought could produce one of the state's biggest environmental breakthroughs in decades.
Lawmakers need to seize the moment and enact groundwater management legislation to halt the draining of the aquifer under the state's most fertile farmland, a deepening crisis that the Mercury News' Lisa Krieger vividly described in a Page One story in March.
From: Bryce Lundberg, NCWA Blog
Despite recent rainfall in March, there will be significant surface water cutbacks in the Sacramento Valley during the third consecutive year of drought. Reduced water use by farms and wildlife refuges will directly impact wildlife habitat, rural communities and our economy.
For areas where surface water is available for use this year, the water resources will be managed so that every drop will serve multiple uses. For example, water released from the various reservoirs will serve triple duty - as cold water for salmon rearing in the upper reaches, to grow crops in the valley and to provide significant wildlife habitat for millions of birds along the Pacific Flyway.