Thursday, April 17, 2014

News articles and links from April 17, 2014

Water Supply

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's drought bill, introduced in February, was an improvement over the water grab bill that passed in the House. A big plus in her original bill was $300 million for conservation and efficiency measures, aid to low-income farmworkers harmed by the drought, technological tools to help farmers get through this dry year and emergency projects to address drinking-water quality problems.

That $300 million, however, has been stripped out in order to get Republican support for Feinstein's bill. What remains in the revised version are two troubling provisions that The Bee's editorial board urged her to amend in February.

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.  

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 thousands of people out of work. 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.

In the last six weeks the amount of Delta outflow has exceeded water exports by more than two to one. It is certain that Senator Feinstein is mindful of the balance needed to continue to protect fisheries. During this period of drought, all water users will be suffering. The commercial salmon industry shouldn't expect special treatment.

Water Supply

From: Bettina Boxall, L.A. Times

A decision by a federal appeals court Wednesday could allow for changes in water deliveries to irrigation districts that hold senior rights to Sacramento River supplies.

The unanimous opinion by an 11-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two previous rulings that found the federal government lacked discretion to alter water contracts with senior irrigators in the Sacramento Valley. The new decision sends the matter back to a district court for further consideration, leaving both sides in the nearly decade-old case unsure of the ultimate outcome.  

From: Staff, AP

An appeals court said Wednesday that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

From: Karen Gullo, Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Long-term water supply contracts in California, which had its driest year on record last year, must be revised to protect smelt in the California River Delta, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The San Francisco-based court ruled for the Natural Resources Defense Council and other conservation groups, saying they had legal standing to challenge the contracts and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages a series of dams and reservoirs that draws water from the delta, had some discretion to help the smelt, which are small, bony fish.

From: John Michelena, Modesto Bee

I have mixed feelings when I see those blue "Pray for Rain" signs along our country roads. Though I thank the Almighty for sending rain, I think our state and federal governments have been lying to us about California's drought and water.

Through early February, Northern California was on course to receiving its worst rainfall since the 17.1 inches it got in 1923-24, according to the Northern Sierra Precipitation: 8-Station Index. The second-driest period on record was 1976-77 with 19.0 inches. Then in February and March, we had a convincing answer to our prayers, when late rains brought 26.6 inches by April 4 - which typically ends the rainy season. The average from 1922-98 was 50.0 inches.


From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

Biologists this week helped 54,000 Northern California salmon become San Joaquin River inhabitants - launching the river's largest experiment to rejuvenate a long-dead salmon run.

As part of the nearly 5-year-old San Joaquin restoration project, half of the juvenile fish will be released today for a long, dangerous swim to the Pacific Ocean. The other half will be released Friday.


From: Joe Matthews, Sacramento Bee

When you're faced with two different thorny problems, sometimes the best way to make progress is by combining them. I'm talking to you, Jerry Brown.

Your first problem involves water. Residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta - California's most vital estuary and source of water - fiercely oppose Brown's plan to build tunnels that will divert water from north of the Delta to provide more reliable supplies to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California. Their opposition is based on fear.


From: Staff, Modesto Bee

A hard-fought battle over California's next water bond comes today to Modesto, the last stop in a series of state Assembly hearings on seven proposals vying for a single place on the November ballot.

Drought has raised awareness of a dire need for water projects, but differing interests among political parties and regions, including the San Joaquin Valley, have produced the many proposals, and lawmakers face a June 26 deadline for reaching a compromise.

For more information, click here.

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