Wednesday, May 28, 2014

News articles and links from May 28, 2014

Water Rights

From: Dale Yurong, ABC30

The Friant Water Authority filed suit against the US Bureau of Reclamation to halt the flow of water out of Friant Dam to some growers on the Valley's west side. But its bid for a temporary restraining order was rejected in US District Court in Fresno.

Many Valley farmers face zero allocation but thousands of people with historic water rights don't have to cut back at all. Water users staked their claim on the water flowing through the San Joaquin and other rivers generations ago.

San Joaquin River

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

The U.S. District Court in Fresno Tuesday refused to stop Millerton Lake water from being sent to wildlife refuges and farmers with historic rights on the Valley's west side.

East San Joaquin Valley farmers, facing a zero allocation of Millerton water, asked the court last week to stop the flow. Federal officials this month began releasing water, and about 200,000 acre-feet is expected to be released to the west side by late August.

From: Staff, Porterville Recorder

Water that could have saved East Side growers will continue flowing west down the San Joaquin River. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill denied a request for a temporary restraining order requested by the Friant Water User Authority and its member districts to halt the delivery of water from Friant to West Side growers.

"The Friant Water Authority (FWA) is disappointed by the federal court's denial of FWA's request for a temporary restraining order. However, this is an interim ruling by the court and not a final decision on the merits, so FWA will still have a chance to prove its case when it gets its day in court," said the Friant Water User Authority.

Water Management

From: Katharine Mieszkowski, San Francisco Chronicle   

The last time California endured a drought, legislators set their sights on the state's biggest water users: farmers.

The state designed laws to push agricultural water districts to track their water flow and make the largest districts charge farmers based on how much they use. The economic theory was simple: If you aren't paying for how much you actually use, you have little incentive to consume less.


From: Peter Sugia, Modesto Bee

In the context of our current drought and efforts to address decreasing groundwater levels, I am disappointed that some landowners are reluctant to embrace a crucial paradigm shift. In the interest of maintaining current usage, some don't want their pumps monitored. From a short-term perspective, based on minimizing cost and maximizing withdrawal, that is understandable. However, research suggests water levels are dropping; public records indicate a significant number of new well permits have been issued, and it is clear the current policy is not sustainable.

Overdrafting increases pumping costs to others when wells go dry. Subsidence decreases the future capacity of aquifers; surface water is depleted when there is a shortage of groundwater, and the cost of treating groundwater near the bottom of an aquifer is expensive. We need comprehensive groundwater reform that is based on long-term costs, benefits and sustainability.

From: Jay Lund, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences Blog

Without access to groundwater, this year's drought would be truly devastating to farms and cities throughout California. Groundwater is California's largest source of water storage for drought. However, reduced recharge and growing groundwater use in wetter years threatens to diminish its availability in droughts. This can become a serious threat to California's agriculture and rural residents. The current drought highlights how much California's agricultural prosperity depends on groundwater - and agriculture's growing need for managing it.

From: Juliet Williams, San Francisco Chronicle

The state Senate approved legislation Tuesday asking local agencies to develop plans to manage groundwater, a supply that is largely unregulated throughout the state even amid a statewide drought. "We shouldn't waste the opportunity to act this year," said the bill's author, Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills.

Careful reporting and monitoring of groundwater levels is critical to ensuring the supply is not totally diminished, said Pavley, who added that the intent of her bill, SB1168, is to allow local agencies to manage their own water.

Water Transfers

From: Lois Henry, Bakersfield Californian  

Back in November when we learned that Tejon Ranch had purchased a chunk of what I call "the Nickel water" for its proposed Grapevine village, I said with all the water the ranch had been buying in recent years, it was positioning itself as a private water seller. Yup. I was right.Tejon Ranch made $3 million, net, ($7.4 million gross) from selling most of that Nickel water in the first three months of this year, according to its quarterly earnings report.

It sold 6,250 acre-feet of water starting in February to several western Kern County water districts, including Belridge Water Storage District, Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District, Berrenda Mesa Water District and Lost Hills Water District.


From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee   

Nearly 1 million juvenile Chinook salmon this week will get a truck ride from Red Bluff to San Pablo Bay as a detour around harmful Sacramento River conditions caused by drought.

The fish are the last of 12 million fall-run Chinook salmon produced this year at Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff. Normally, all those fish are released into Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento, to journey downstream to the Pacific Ocean on their own.

From: Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

When fish are swimming they are difficult to count. From Allen Harthorn's vantage point on an elevated deck above Butte Creek, he believes there may be 10,000 spring-run chinook salmon in the creek. A Vaki River Watcher video system lower in the creek has counted only 4,000 fish moving over a fish ladder.

The discrepancy in fish numbers can be expected. The Vaki cameras are placed on a fish ladder. During high storm flow in March and April, fish didn't need the fish ladders to move upstream, thus they avoided the cameras, explained Clint Garman, a fish biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. By any count, the spring-run chinook numbers look good.

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