Tuesday, April 8, 2014

News articles and links from April 8, 2014


Drought

From: Chuck Harvey, Fresno Business Journal

California's $45 billion agriculture industry - supplier of half the nation's fruits and vegetables - faces significant burdens because of the drought.

Farmers are clearing orchards, rationing water and rethinking their long-term business strategy. Making matters worse, growers on both the east and west sides of the Valley expect a zero water allocation for this year, according to initial estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources.

Planning farm plantings and water schedules can be difficult or impossible, depending on the crop and where the farm is located. Farmers without well water will likely fallow most row crops, but they must do what they can to keep tree crops alive.

From: Edward Ortiz, Sacramento Bee

Water is the lifeblood of a rice farm, and Sacramento Valley's recent rains have given grower Tom McClellan a bit of hope that 2014 will not be a wasted year.

"We're seeing some regrowth of the grasses," said McClellan, who farms 1,500 acres on land that stretches from Sacramento to Sutter counties. "The rains have been substantial, to a point of almost being normal."

From: Jerry Olenyn, KRCR 7

Amid a year of historically low water deliveries caused by California's severe drought many Northstate farmers intend to cut their planting of crops. "Yeah, we're nervous," said Carl Hoff, the President and CEO of the Butte County Rice Growers Association.

In four days, the California Department of Water Resources will announce how much water from Lake Oroville will be sent to Northstate rice farmers, and thus, how many of the area's 100,000 acres of rice fields will grow crop.

"Obviously, how much rice gets planted impacts our operations from purchasing of supplies," said Hoff.

From: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee

A few farmers throughout the Modesto Irrigation District have offered to forgo 2,825 acre-feet of water this year at a fixed price so others can have more.

That amount represents less than 1.5 percent of the total that MID expects to deliver to growers this year. Participation might be low because farmers will get $400 an acre under the district-managed program, but might fetch higher prices selling to each other on the open market under a second innovation created especially for this drought season.

From: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

Recent rains in California have helped some reservoir levels so much that state and federal water regulators have finally agreed to increase pumping from the Delta region to off-stream storage sites such as San Luis Reservoir.

While the increased pumping from the Delta is not every bit of what agriculture has been asking for it's certainly a good step in the right direction. Let's store the water coming in so it can be used by agriculture, rather than simply letting excess amounts - those over and above what is needed to hold salinity levels in the Delta at bay - surge out to sea as has happened several times this winter.

Groundwater

From: Thomas Elias, Redding Record-Searchlight

The next front in California's long-running water wars has already opened, and the reasons for it will sometimes be hard to see - but not always.

That next fight is over ground water, source of about 35 percent of the state's fresh water in normal years and a much higher percentage in dry ones like 2014. This battle has the potential to become far more bitter than even the quarrels over how to distribute water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.

It's all but certain that regulations of some kind will come soon to this only source of California fresh water that currently has virtually none.

From: David Bienick, KCRA

The Association of California Water Agencies proposed Monday toughening the state's rules for groundwater management and allowing for state takeovers of some poorly operated systems.

"We're drawing on the savings account in a pretty significant way and causing some significant damage in some isolated areas of the state," said Dave Orth, a member of the task force that wrote the ACWA report.

Farming News 

From: Sasha Khokha, KQED

These are magic weeks in the groves of the Central Valley citrus belt, a time when orchards are buzzing with honeybees and redolent with the heady, sweet smell of orange blossoms. But around the Tulare County town of Terra Bella, farmers like Matt Fisher smell doom.

"You don't want all these flowers," Fisher says, reaching into a tree and knocking off some blossoms. "The reason this tree is blooming so hard, is because the tree by nature wants to come out fighting from a freeze."

Fisheries

From: Staff, Contra Costa Times

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will transport 100,000 juvenile Chinook salmon down the Sacramento River and release them into the San Francisco Bay on Wednesday as part of a five-year study to determine if the method increases survival rates.

Juvenile salmon, known as smolts, must travel from their upstream spawning grounds to the ocean where they mature to adulthood before returning to their spawning grounds three years later.

But smolts face a number of dangers in their trip down the Delta, including pumps, channel diversions and predators. The Fish and Wildlife study, now in its third year, is an attempt to help salmon avoid those dangers, said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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