Wednesday, April 9, 2014

News articles and links from April 9, 2014


From: Staff, Chico Enterprise-Record

When it comes to the water that sits in north state aquifers, we trust our local counties to safeguard it and determine how to use it much more than we trust the state to manage it. Even though water is abundant in the north state, we generally know how valuable the resource is. We manage it wisely for the most part.

Especially in a drought, other areas covet our water. Despite vague remarks of indifference by water managers south of the delta, the underground reservoir here is coveted as much as the water in the above-ground reservoirs. And just like the building of Shasta, Trinity and Oroville dams was done solely to capture that blue resource, we know in this state that no expense is too great and no justification too exaggerated for getting their hands on any water source. Ask the folks in the Owens Valley or Trinity County.

Coalition response... Locally-controlled groundwater management is a reasonable plan for every part of the state. Many of the orchards that are in peril today were planted prior to changes in federal fishery regulations that have drastically reduced water deliveries in the last five years.  Simply put, farmers made decisions based on what they knew at the time, and then the rules changed. Blaming them now is unfair. California's water supply didn't get where it is because of a few dry years. Two decades of environmental-based water supply cuts that have decimated San Joaquin Valley farmers have done little to improve conditions for wildlife. It's time to try something different that protects water users in northern, central, and southern California and produces real improvements for threatened and endangered species. We hope elected and appointed officials don't base sweeping changes on a few dry years, and instead return some sensibility to water supply and ecosystem management.

San Joaquin River

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

The San Joaquin River is America's most endangered waterway this year, says the national advocacy group American Rivers, known for annually picking the country's 10 most troubled rivers.

The San Joaquin's water is spread too thin among farmers, hydroelectric projects and other uses on the mainstem and three tributaries, the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers, the group announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Water Storage

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The federal government's operation of Folsom and Nimbus dams is harming fall-run Chinook salmon and steelhead in the American River, several environmental and fishing groups allege in a complaint filed this week with the state.

The groups are urging the State Water Resources Control Board to amend the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's permits to require colder and faster river flows from the two dams. The board has authority over water rights issued to the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as responsibility for protecting public trust resources, including fisheries and water quality. The board first issued operating permits for the dams in 1958.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts took a key step Tuesday morning toward using Don Pedro Reservoir for perhaps another half-century.

Their boards voted 5-0 at separate meetings to file a final license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a huge set of documents with many details on how they would manage the reservoir. A crucial issue - how much water to release for fish in the lower Tuolumne River - remains unsettled because studies are ongoing.


From: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee

There's no longer a dispute over whether the Modesto Irrigation District should help drought-stricken farms get more water this year by paying some growers a fixed price to forgo their water shares or by allowing open-market sales among farmers.

The MID board on Tuesday quit arguing which approach - both approved in February - best fits the district's mission and agreed that both will proceed.


From: Thomas Elias, Hanford Sentinel

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.

Federal Regulations 

From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star 

The interconnection of the natural world has long been part of human wisdom. "All the rivers run into the sea," notes Ecclesiastes, and they do this even if they are streams that do not flow all year. As long as water flows downhill, pollution in one place can be carried to another.

So it makes sense that the Environmental Protection Agency has long sought to recognize this reality. But Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 have confused the understanding of which waterways can be subject to EPA rules. On March 25 it issued a proposal to clarify that intermittent streams near bigger ones will be covered.

Farming News 

From: Greg Northcutt, Western Farm Press

On April 1, Mendocino County wine grape grower Zac Robinson was feeling more upbeat about the prospects for his 2014 crop than he was two months earlier. Since then, the rain has returned to his Anderson Valley vineyards. That includes a total of about 3 inches that fell just in the last six days of March.

"In terms of water supply, we started the year in a dire place and things have gotten better," he says. "We're probably out of the range of unprecedented drought and into a severe drought."

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