Wednesday, April 16, 2014

News articles and links from April 16, 2014


From: Carolyn Lochhead,

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's revised drought bill is coming under increasing attack from the left even as the California Democrat tries to woo Republicans to speed the bill's passage through the Senate without committee consideration.

More than a dozen environmental groups, including Sierra Club California, Audubon California, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a letter late Monday demanding changes to the revised bill, S.2198.

Coalition response... Isn't it disingenuous for environmental organizations to defend commercial salmon fishing while at the same time demand farm water pumping restrictions because of the impact it might have on salmon?

On the other hand, if it's an economic argument let's look at the numbers.

According to a 2009 CBS News report, California's salmon industry is worth about $82 million in economic activity based on $22 million worth of salmon caught in rivers and the ocean. Environmental activists justify reducing farm water deliveries to prop up an industry that contributes less that $100 million to the state's economy. At the same time, farm water cuts stand to put almost 30,000 people out of work, based on farm-related employment estimates in a 2004 report by the Pacific Institute. The cost to California's economy this year from lost farm production, jobs and associated business activity is 60 times ($5 billion) the economic value of salmon.

Are salmon important to California? Absolutely. Is commercial salmon fishing comparable to the jobs and economic activity generated by farming? No.

Water Use

From: Tom Pfingsten, San Diego Union-Tribune  

The size of the trees was probably the first thing Kurt and Jennifer Bantle noticed about the grove that would all but consume their weekends and most of their waking thoughts after they decided to become avocado farmers.

"The trees were 40, 50, 60 feet tall," Kurt Bantle said on a recent afternoon. "Best I can tell, they were put in during the early '80s."

Coalition response... California's growers have long sought to address the water problems the Bantle's are facing in their grove.  Scientific irrigation, used in most modern production agriculture seeks to optimize not only the quantity of water applied through the use of laser leveled fields, drip emitters and buried irrigation tape, but also the timing of the irrigation. The Bantle's will undoubtedly be looking into the different soil moisture monitoring equipment being used by growers to ensure that water is being used as efficiently as possible.  Water too much, and you risk not just wasted water, but promoting plant diseases; water too little, and the crop is a bust.  The best of luck to the Bantle's as they pursue a bountiful crop.


From: Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal

Grocery shoppers may soon need more green in their wallets to afford their next salad. The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.

The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

Nearly nine out of 10 Californians say the state is suffering from a "serious water shortage," according to a new poll that confirms widespread concern over the lack of rain, diminished Sierra snowpack and low reservoir levels after three years of drought.

But deep, decades-old divisions remain across the state on how to solve the dilemma, the statewide Field Poll of 1,000 registered voters found - with the biggest differences being between the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

From: Tom Vacar, KTVU

A clearer picture is emerging about how much more nagging drought is going to cost consumer shopping for produce this spring and summer. It will take more of your green to get greens at the market. California is the nation's produce basket.

Melanie Snell, who took her kids to the Alameda Farmers Market Tuesday, was aware the drought would soon affect produce prices.

From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

Californians agree their state is parched, but they diverge by region on how supplies dried up and what should be done about the drought.

"There's clearly a consensus that the state has a serious water shortage," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said of a survey on the subject released Tuesday. "There, however, is no consensus to what got us into this situation."


From: Randy Record & David Orth, Sacramento Bee

It's the height of the spring planting season in the San Joaquin Valley. But this year, the sight of well-digging rigs is adding a new dimension to a problem quietly unfolding beneath large swaths of this fertile land.

Faced with the prospect of receiving little or no surface water due to drought, growers are relying on groundwater like never before to stay afloat this year. It's a symptom of a problem that is sparking new levels of concern among the state's water managers."

Water Supply

From: Dennis Wyatt, Manteca Bulletin

Water Manteca residents send down the drain could one day help irrigate South County crops. Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum convinced his colleagues Tuesday to have staff explore working with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to see if 7 million gallons of treated wastewater the city releases back into the San Joaquin River could instead be diverted for local farm use.

Mayor Willie Weatherford believes 100 acres designated for open space as part of the 1,471-home Trails of Manteca neighborhood  being pursued south of Woodward Avenue  and west of McKinley Avenue could be used to create a large holding lake for treated wastewater. From there, the SSJID could pump it into its delivery system serving  farmland south of the city. At the same time, the manmade lake could also help recharge underground water tables that ultimately are tapped by Lathrop and Manteca municipal well systems.

From: Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star

Irrigation district officials on Tuesday formally requested more water from state authorities as part of a complex proposal that would extend the drought-shortened growing season, help migrating fish and possibly provide the cash-strapped district with an extra $5 million.

After Tuesday's vote by the Merced Irrigation District board of directors, irrigation officials will pursue a request with the state Water Resources Control Board to relax the so-called minimum pool requirement at Lake McClure.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

Farmers in the Modesto Irrigation District got a 10 percent increase in their basic water rate Tuesday, along with a temporary drought surcharge that's much bigger.

The board also capped 2014 water deliveries at 24 vertical inches per acre - better than the 18 inches that had been planned, but still far less than the average of 42 inches since 1989. Even with the increases, MID has some of the cheapest water in the San Joaquin Valley, and this year's allotment is much better than what some farmers in the region face.

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