Monday, April 7, 2014

News articles and links from April 7, 2014


Water Supply

From: Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle

There was a time not long ago when much of civilized society considered each drop of river water that reached the ocean a wasted resource.

That was before environmentalists pointed out the benefits of the outflow to fish, wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, setting off an ongoing tug-of-war between fishermen and farmers in California that has reached a critical stage this year as the state struggles through a drought.

From: Lauren Sommer, KQED

With California's reservoirs running low, many Central Valley farmers are struggling to keep their trees and crops alive this year. In the southern San Joaquin Valley, some are getting extra water from an unlikely source: the oil industry. California is the third largest oil-producing state in the country, extracting roughly 200 million barrels a year. But in the process of getting oil, companies also produce massive volumes of water, found naturally in the same underground formations.

"To produce one barrel of oil, we produce about nine barrels of water," says Chevron's Thep Smith, walking around the company's Kern River oil field, east of Bakersfield. Almost 10,000 pump jacks cover the hills. The field is more than a century old, but is still the second-most productive in the state.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts could take another step Tuesday morning toward a new federal license for Don Pedro Reservoir.

Their boards, meeting separately at the same time, will consider filing a final application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The document would include public comment and other information received since they filed a draft application in November.

Water Bond

From: Staff, San Francisco Chronicle

California's drought has set off a frenzy in Sacramento and Washington to see who can pass legislation to gain political leverage and maybe do something to address the state's water problems. Will legislators offer a plan, as they should, that promotes more efficient water use and reuse? Or will they merely continue the battles over supply? Battles apparently are preferred. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has fast-tracked a bill in the Senate that lifts environmental protections to maximize water deliveries to the Central Valley.

In the House, several of California's delegates have proposed building or expanding dams. Each project would cost billions of federal and state dollars, take years to build and presupposes nature will provide enough rain to fill the reservoirs, despite predictions the climate is becoming drier. The federal government hasn't authorized spending on dam building for years and is unlikely to do so now.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Nancy Vogel, Chico Enterprise-Record

Regarding the editorial about the proposed Sites Reservoir: The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan is not meant to replace necessary storage projects. Rather, it is the most comprehensive and cost-effective effort to date to protect California's water supplies against regulatory and seismic risk. At $14.5 billion over a 50-year period, the water facilities would not deliver more water, but simply move water more effectively.

From: Peter Jacobsen, Sacramento Bee

Re "Water Projects have many cost questions" (Editorial, March 30): Thanks for your Sunday editorial. Who pays is key. If the water exporters had to pay for tunnels and reservoirs, they would not support them.

I encourage you to discuss costs with the most on-the-hook water agency: Kern County. Since they are part of the State Water Project, they will have to pay the construction costs. Assistant General Manager Brent Walthall is in Sacramento, but he can be a little slick. You might try the general manager or some of their board members. You will find very tepid interest in the tunnels.

Fisheries

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

In the shallow, gently flowing San Joaquin River, three tiny chinook salmon swim into a trap that saves their lives.

Federal biologists Don Portz and Charles Hueth wade across river cobble at Scout Island to fetch the trio and carefully move them into a tank of water for a truck ride more than 100 miles downstream. Over the last few weeks, the biologists have trucked nearly 900 young fall-run salmon to where the Merced River empties into the San Joaquin and reconnects this long river to the Pacific Ocean.

Groundwater

From: Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee

Flat as a tabletop, the furrowed, brown farm fields east of this San Joaquin Valley town are some of the most productive on Earth.

Every spring, they are planted with a smorgasbord of crops that in one form or another are trucked to grocery stores across America, from fresh juicy tomatoes to freeze-dried onion flakes, honeydew melons to tortilla chips.

Now that bounty is threatened by a crisis of geological proportions: The land is sinking - crippling the region's irrigation and flood control infrastructure and damaging aquifers that are buffers against climate change.

From: Jerry Meral, Sacramento Bee

While more visible water conflicts rage in California, such as calls for new dams throughout the Central Valley and disputes over the need for water to save endangered fish, a lesser-known water crisis threatens the viability of much of California's agriculture, and even the water supply of some Central Valley cities. That crisis is over-reliance on water from wells: groundwater overdraft.

Farming News

From: Reed Fujii, Stockton Record

While the skies threatened heavy rains last week, discussions at a USDA research facility here largely focused on what farmers can do to deal with California's generally arid climate, made worse by the current drought.

For example, cover crop and tillage studies at the National Resource Conservation Service Plant Materials Center examine ways to boost the organic content of soil, center manager Margaret Smither-Kopperl said.

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