Thursday, April 3, 2014

News articles and links from April 3, 2014


Sacramento River

From: Tom Philpott, MotherJones.com

California is locked in an epochal drought-and yet produce aisles nationwide still brim with reasonably prices fruit and vegetables from the Golden State. How does California continue proving half of US-grown vegetables under such parched conditions?

Peter Gleick, president of the president of the Pacific Institute, one of the world's leading think tanks on water issues, broke it down for me. He says that despite the drought, California farmers will likely idle only about a half million acres this year-less than 10 percent of normal plantings, which are about 8 million acres. And most of the fallowed land will involve "low-value" crops like cotton and alfalfa (used as a feed for the dairy and beef industries)-not the stuff you eat directly, like broccoli, lettuce, and almonds.

Coalition response... California's water infrastructure is designed to avoid groundwater overdraft in the Central Valley.  Decades ago, experts came together to design a system to ensure that future generations would reduce reliance on the finite groundwater available while fostering economic growth, encouraging vibrant rural communities, and encouraging investment in improved agricultural productivity. The system they envisioned would provide other benefits too - providing critical water for California's growing businesses and cities, reduce flooding risks, improve the water quality in the Delta, and prepare the people of California for drought.

The system they designed is the surface water delivery system we have today. For decades water delivered reliably through the Central Valley and State Water Projects met these goals. Reservoirs, canals, levees and pumps were designed to work in concert to achieve multiple benefits for water users across the state.

While the Central Valley is certainly one of our State's most important agricultural regions, we can't neglect the other regions. Consumers are currently enjoying fresh California produce that is being grown in the sunny southern portion of California, in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, areas that have not been significantly impacted by the drought facing the northern portion of the state. As the year goes on, food that would have been grown in the Central Valley won't show up in the produce aisles across the nation. Consumers will be faced with the choice between more expensive California-grown produce or food grown abroad - food that is for the most part uninspected as it enters the country, and grown without the level of accountability for food safety and labor that farmers here in California have.

Water Supply

From: Raju Chebium, Salinas Californian

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday applauded a decision by federal and state officials to release more water in the Central Valley, and pushed for much more supplies to be made available to the parched farming region.

At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that she presided over, the California Democrat said the latest fish surveys show a negligible number of deaths among endangered species like chinook salmon and the Delta smelt.

From: Raju Chebium, Salinas Californian

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday applauded a decision by federal and state officials to release more water in the Central Valley, and pushed for much more supplies to be made available to the parched farming region.

At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that she presided over, the California Democrat said the latest fish surveys show a negligible number of deaths among endangered species like chinook salmon and the Delta smelt.

Water Bond

From: Peter Jensen, Napa Valley Register 

The Napa County Board of Supervisors won't support a $6.8 billion water bond measure carried by State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, until it contains more funding for water storage and recycled water projects.

The board was asked to endorse the package during its meeting Tuesday, but the supervisors said they wouldn't do so unless it was amended.

Transfers

From: Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

Farmers with surface water rights are scrambling to decide if they will pump groundwater to make up for cutbacks from the state water supplies along the Feather and Sacramento rivers.

In the meantime, a "relatively quiet" proposal to transfer water from Biggs-West Gridley Water District to south of the delta a has some farmers in the Sacramento Valley upset.

Mark Kimmelshue, a rice trader, said he's not opposed to water transfers as a general rule. However, it's important to look at whether there is a need for local water within the county before making a sale, he continued.

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