Monday, May 19, 2014

News articles and links from May 19, 2014

Water Supply

From: Staff, Fresno Bee

Well, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California really has touched a nerve this time.
After years of politically paddling a little to the left and a little to the right, it appears she might leave her environmentalist friends on the left behind -- once and for all.
This week, Feinstein told Carolyn Lochhead, the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington, D.C., correspondent, that environmentalists "have never been helpful to me in producing good water policy."

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: John Kirlin, Sacramento Bee

Discussion about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan mostly revolves around new water intakes and the twin tunnels. But this ongoing debate misses a large elephant in the room; the plan proposes to lock in public policies on water operations for 50 years, and limit future policy decisions even though circumstances can - and inevitably will - change.

Fifty years is a long time; having been engaged in public policy analysis for nearly as many years, I know well the long-term impacts of policies that no longer fit the times. Before the state moves forward with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, potential unintended consequences need to be examined. In particular, Monday's announcement of the formation of the "Delta Conveyance Facility Design and Construction Enterprise" is worrisome, in that it shares state agency authority with water contractors. This will undoubtedly muddle accountability and invite conflict.


From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Water shortages are forcing almond growers to make tough and costly decisions this spring. That includes killing off the natural vegetation that normally grows between orchard rows, even though those weeds and wildflowers are home to the beneficial insects needed for integrated pest management.

"We spray the weeds to kill them so they don't consume any water," botany consultant Wes Asai of Turlock explained Friday during the Almond Board of California's Environmental Stewardship Tour. "This is the first year we've had to do it."

From: Sharon Girod, Bakersfield Californian

Maybe Froma Harrop ("Even in drought, there are fortunes to be made," May 6) should ride around other cities and decry the use of water for swimming pools, fountains, lawns and car washes. Using water for growing crops that feed families, provide jobs and keep our state and country strong is, in my humble opinion, a much better use of this vital resource. Those farmers, their employees, their vendors and their suppliers all pay taxes: sales taxes, property taxes, vehicle taxes, use taxes, environmental impact fees, income taxes, payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, disability insurance and the list goes on. Those taxes are the life blood of state and county agencies and programs, which also employ people.

From: Pete Menting, Hanford Sentinel

One of the big issues the Central Valley - as well as most of California - is facing is the current drought and water shortage. It affects farmers and farmworkers. Other agriculture industries and consumers are also affected by the drought as well.

One filmmaker saw the plight of the Valley's farmworkers and decided to turn it into "The Fight for Water: A Farm Worker Struggle" documentary. When Firebaugh resident Juan Carlos Oseguera began filming in 2009, he thought it was going to be a short film.

From: Dennis Dimick, National Geographic 

The wildfire season arrived early this week in southern California, at a time of the year when skies usually are covered in cooling clouds of gray. But this spring, the skies have been more like ashen gray, and fire agencies have responded to nearly 1,400 fires this year-twice the typical number, a Cal Fire spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. A New York Times report May 16 said fire season in the West is now 75 days longer each year than it was a decade ago.


From: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee

Some critics of a controversial Modesto Irrigation District subsidy are getting more vocal.

A former district administrator has fashioned a slide show attacking MID's policy of charging electricity customers more to keep farmers' irrigation rates low, and another power customer has created a Facebook page assailing the same practice. Lee Delano, a former MID assistant general manager over water operations, presented his 48-frame slide show to the Modesto Engineers Club earlier this month and wants to take it on the road to show other groups.


From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star

A plan to pump 23,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Merced County and sell it to a water district in Stanislaus needs closer examination. And the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was right to grant the Merced County Board of Supervisors an extra day to think it over.

4-S Ranch Partners, which owns 7,000 acres west of Atwater and outside any water district, wants to run 13 of its wells 24 hours a day for eight months to extract a substantial amount of groundwater. To get that groundwater to its customer, 4-S has requested permission to move the water either through the San Joaquin River or the East Side Bypass into the Bureau of Reclamation's San Luis Reservoir. From there, the Del Puerto Water District in western Stanislaus County would take it out.


From: Damon Arthur, Redding Record-Searchlight

State and federal wildlife officials are asking ranchers and farmers in Siskiyou and Tehama counties for help in saving endangered fish in streams at risk of going dry. Agencies responsible for looking out for endangered salmon and steelhead trout are focusing on Mill, Deer and Antelope creeks in Tehama County and the Shasta and Scott rivers in Siskiyou County.

"There's a serious potential for these streams to dry up," said Howard Brown, Sacramento River basin branch chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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