Thursday, August 14, 2014

News articles and links from August 14, 2014

Water Bond

From: Staff, Associated Press

Details of the $7.5 billion water package approved by the Legislature Wednesday for the November ballot (the total repayment cost is projected to be $14.7 billion over 30 years, assuming a 5 percent interest rate on the borrowing):
$2.7 billion for water storage projects, with criteria that are designed to encourage building the Sites Reservoir in Colusa County north of Sacramento and Temperance Flat dam northeast of Fresno.

From: Sharon Bernstein, Reuters

California Governor Jerry Brown approved on Wednesday a $7.6 billion plan to improve water supplies in the drought-stricken state that will be put before voters in November, ending a year of political wrangling over the measure.

California is in the throes of a devastating multi-year drought that is expected to cost its economy $2.2 billion in lost crops, jobs and other damages.

From: Staff, CBS 13  

Part of California's $7.5 billion water plan approved by legislators on Wednesday will go into building a reservoir in Colusa County discussed since the 1950s.

Some neighbors are embracing the plan to submerge 14,000 acres of rolling hills 20 miles west of Colusa for the proposed Sites Reservoir. "Revenue, money, water, resources. Bring land value up. There is a lot of good reasons for it," said Donald Carter.

From: Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press

Driven to action by the state's historic drought, California lawmakers on Wednesday voted to place a $7.5 billion water plan before voters in November. The measure marks the largest investment in decades in the state's water infrastructure and is designed to build reservoirs, clean up contaminated groundwater and promote water-saving technologies.

It replaces an existing water bond that was approved by a previous Legislature but was widely considered too costly and too bloated with pork-barrel projects to win favor with voters.

From: Staff, Associated Press

California lawmakers on Wednesday voted to place a $7.5 billion water plan before voters in November, driven to action by the state's severe and costly drought.

The measure would mark the largest investment in decades in California's water infrastructure and is designed to build reservoirs, clean up contaminated groundwater and promote water-saving technologies.

From: Reid Wilson, Washington Post 

Voters in California will pass judgement on a massive $7.2 billion water bond package aimed at addressing a record drought after interest groups came to a last-minute agreement this week.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday unveiled a compromise plan that earned support from interest groups ranging from conservationists to the Chamber of Commerce and agricultural businesses. Late Wednesday, legislators passed the plan by the required two-thirds vote after scrambling to meet a legal deadline for this year's election.

From: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

After months of political haggling, a ballot measure that will ask voters in November to approve $7.5 billion in borrowing for water projects sailed through the Legislature on Wednesday.

Soon afterward, flanked by dozens of lawmakers from both parties, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure, which is intended to provide funds for new reservoirs, water cleanup and environmental protection.

From: Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle

California lawmakers voted Wednesday night to swap out an unpopular $11 billion water bond with one they hope voters will find more palatable: a scaled-back $7 billion version that earned widespread bipartisan support. It was promptly signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The smaller water bond will appear on the November statewide ballot as Proposition 1. Included in the deal is $2.7 billion for water storage projects, $900 million for groundwater cleanup and monitoring, $725 million for water recycling and $1.5 billion for watershed restoration programs.

From: Kevin Riggs, KCRA 3

Anyone who has followed water politics in California knows it is messy, divisive and often defies compromise. In view of those dynamics, Wednesday's near-unanimous floor votes to approve a new November water bond -- 37-0 in the Senate and 77-2 in the Assembly -- mark an impressive bit of political deal making.

Gov. Jerry Brown has made it clear he is no fan of additional deep borrowing by the state. But given the severe drought gripping California, he also recognized the need to push a comprehensive water bond that would provide relief through short-term fixes like recycling and treatment as well as longer-term remedies that take the form of more reservoir storage.

From: Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune

"You know why there are so many whitefish in the Yellowstone River?" asked Montana-based landscape artist Russell Chatham, in his 1978 book. "Because the Fish and Game people have never done anything to help them." I keep that quotation in mind whenever the government promises to solve a problem, especially a big one that promises to tame nature.

The very act of legislative sausage making - that age-old cliché about the ugly nature of lawmaking - assures that deals to please special interests and appease people with differing political philosophies and constituencies drives the final result. Ongoing efforts to craft a drought-related water bond fits that pattern to a tee.

From: George Skelton, Los Angeles Times

Five years after producing a pork-bloated water bond proposal that failed the smell test, the Legislature has offered up a new serving that's lean and digestible.

Credit mainly Gov. Jerry Brown, who had the right recipe: smaller portions, light on delta ingredients. The Legislature passed the bond bill Wednesday night. It doesn't quite fill everyone's appetite but will do just fine.


From: Adam Herbets, KBAK 29

The state of California uses more groundwater than any other state in the union, but it's also the only state in the West that doesn't have any regulations to make sure wells don't run dry.

Agriculture in Kern County is doing the best it can to produce crops during another year of drought.  At this point, farmers have given up on El Niño bringing through any rain, forcing them to rely even more on groundwater. "We're panicked," says Beatris Sanders of the Kern County Farm Bureau.  "It's incredibly vital.  We can't live without it.  We can't farm without it.  We can't produce food."

Water Supply

From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star

Officials with the Merced Irrigation District are urging growers to use all their water allocations by Sept. 15.

The irrigation season will end when Lake McClure's level drops to 85,000 acre-feet of water. Irrigation water is measured per acre-foot, which is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land a foot deep, or about 325,900 gallons.

From: Rick Elkins, Porterville Recorder

For the next 10 days, water will flow down the Tule River through Porterville and while the amount is not a lot, it will benefit not only growers in the Terra Bella area, but residents along the river and eventually the Porter Slough.

The 15-day water run began Aug. 7 and Sean Geivet, manager of the Porterville Irrigation District (PID), said at the end of the release out of Success Dam the water will be diverted down the Porter Slough to hopefully help residents along the slough whose wells have gone dry.


From: Rich Ibarra, Capital Public Radio

Farming in California isn't cheap.

Growers have expenses that include fuel, fertilizer, and feed, but the biggest cost is labor with one out of every four dollars spent on human workers. In the Midwest, predominant crops like corn can be mechanically harvested.

Stockton Grower Marc Marchini says his asparagus must be picked by hand. "A lot of people are trying to get away from labor, you know, trying to go to mechanical harvesting, mechanical pruning, mechanical everything," Marchini says.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

News articles and links from August 13, 2014

Water Bond

From: Steve Evans, Modesto Bee

In November, California voters will be asked how much money they want to borrow to improve the state's water infrastructure and fight the drought. Because polls show an $11.1 billion general obligation bond on the Nov. 4 ballot is too expensive for many voters, legislators are scrambling to revise the water bond to make it more palatable.
Along with the total amount, another point of contention is how much is allotted to building new and enlarging existing surface storage dams. The current bond and the $8.7 billion version proposed by Senate Republicans include $3 billion for new and bigger dams, but Gov. Jerry Brown's $6 billion proposal whittles this down to $2 billion. A coalition of environmental groups allocates $1 billion for surface storage in its $6 billion plan.
Coalition response... Contrary to Evans' repetition of antiquated view of water storage dams, for more than fifty years environmental interests have benefited from the many advantages that our past investments in surface storage provide to our managed waterways. Reservoirs have enabled us to meet the needs of fisheries, wetlands, and meet other environmental water issues while seeking to meet the needs of our cities, businesses and farms. 

We only have to look at where water in our rivers is coming from in the middle of this year's hot summer. It's not natural flow. The water we see supporting wildlife resources in our rivers and the Delta is coming from previously built upstream storage - storage that was built specifically for the purpose of providing water during a time of the year when nature can't.

Thankfully the legislature isn't falling for obstructionist rhetoric this time and is taking seriously the need to build new storage projects for California's growing economy. Wise investments will pay off down the road as previous ones are now. 

Water Bond 

From: Sharon Bernstein, Reuters

California Democrats scrambled on Tuesday to win Republican support for a plan to improve water supplies that has been mired in regional and party politics for a year, even as the state suffers from a three-year drought that shows no sign of ending.

A day after voting for a two-day extension to put a proposal on November's ballot to pay for reservoirs and other projects by selling bonds, Democratic lawmakers enlisted the support and negotiating clout of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, a fiscal moderate who said previous plans were too expensive.

From: Fenit NIrappil, Associated Press

Pressed by a deadline and California's severe drought, state lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a measure that would swap out an existing water bond on the November ballot and authorize billions in borrowing to pay for new reservoirs, groundwater cleanup and habitat restoration.

On Tuesday, lawmakers were negotiating what they hoped would be a final agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown for a plan that would boost the state's water supply while protecting the environment. The governor and Democratic legislative leaders had agreed on a $7.2 billion package to replace the existing, $11.1 billion bond, but Republican lawmakers were pressing for more money for water storage.

From: Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee

Chances are that sometime Wednesday the Legislature will place a new water bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. But it's not certain, because as of late Tuesday, not all Democratic legislators had signed onto a $7.2 billion plan and it still lacked votes it needs from Republicans even if all Democrats were aboard. 

From: Jessica Calefati, San Jose Mercury News

Powerful voices in California's water wars pledged their support Tuesday for a $7 billion state water bond that lawmakers must pass before Wednesday's midnight deadline if they hope to see it on the November ballot.

The California Farm Bureau Federation and Los Angeles County's Metropolitan Water District had hoped for at least $3 billion in the bond for construction of dams, reservoirs and other storage projects.

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

The state's water bond will turn into a rotten pumpkin if no deal is reached by Thursday's already extended deadline. But legislators from the Northern San Joaquin Valley might just be wearing glass slippers, if you'll forgive the fairytale metaphor.

Our state desperately needs a water bond, but with urban Democrats squabbling, our legislators have a chance to protect our region's water security.

From: Staff, Long Beach Press Telegram

Like Goldilocks tasting the bowls of purloined porridge, California voters have been looking for a water bond that is not too dear, and not too cheap, but just right.

If our Legislature has waited until not only the last minute - that was Monday - but created a new last minute, which is Wednesday, to finalize the language and thus the proposed scale of spending on a crucial water bond during this third year of statewide drought, well, what else is new? Legislative leaders were able to push the deadline for printing the argument for such a bond on millions of sample ballots by 48 hours, and if it results in a bond measure with the number of billions of dollars voters will approve and an appropriate scope of work that will aid in drought relief, so be it.

Water Supply

From: Staff, Daily Mail - U.K.

Once-teeming Lake Mead marinas are idle as a 14-year drought steadily drops water levels to historic lows. Officials from nearby Las Vegas are pushing conservation, but are also drilling a new pipeline to keep drawing water from the lake.

Hundreds of miles away, farmers who receive water from the lake behind Hoover Dam are preparing for the worst. 

From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record

Delta farmers have quietly sipped from rivers and sloughs for generations, but they face increasing pressure this drought year from outside interests who argue those water diversions are - or may be - illegal.

State and federal officials late last month asked regulators to use their emergency powers to demand information from more than 1,000 of those farmers as to how much water they're using.

From: Bill Jennings & Jerry Meral, Sacramento Bee

People who follow California's water wars may wonder whether experts who disagree on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan ever agree on anything at all. The answer is yes. We agree it's time to protect 37 miles of the Central Sierra's Mokelumne River as a state Wild and Scenic River.

Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, introduced the legislation to protect the river, Senate Bill 1199, which is now in the state Assembly. The legislation would bar new dams and diversions on 37 miles of the "Moke" between Salt Springs Dam and Pardee Reservoir and protect the river's water quality. It has no relationship to the larger water fights in the state but should be judged on its own merits.


From: Staff, Associated Press

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell agreed to an impromptu meeting with salmon advocates demanding more water for salmon in Northern California's Klamath and Trinity rivers.

After the Tuesday meeting in Redding, California, salmon advocate Regina Chichizola said Jewell agreed to send someone to assess the situation, but made no promises.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

News articles and links from August 12, 2014

Water Supply

From: Peter Fimrite, SF Chronicle

As cities brace for rationing and many California farmers yank out trees and fallow land for crops, growers and dairy farmers on 240,000 acres along the San Joaquin River near Los Banos are comparatively awash in water. The property owners and farmers who are within the 80-mile-long territory that falls under the authority of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors will get 75 percent of the water they historically receive this year from the California State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Coalition response... As a result of the Exchange Contractors agreeing to shift the source of their pre-1914 appropriative and riparian rights and enter into contracts with the federal government, San Joaquin River water became available to farmers on the eastside of the San Joaquin Valley who otherwise would not have that water to grow much of the food that we all look for in our grocery stores. Cities and small rural communities have also benefited from the water developed by the construction of Friant Dam, a cornerstone of the CVP, which would not have happened if the Exchange Contractors had not agreed to enter into the agreements with the federal government over 75 years ago. Conservation programs are extremely important and are implemented by each of the EC members.  This year the implementation of inflexible federal and state environmental regulations coupled with the drought has crippled the CVP and forced the federal government to make deliveries to senior right holders on the San Joaquin River. If anyone has benefited from this "good deal," as Tom Stokely describes it, it is the small rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley, refuges and consumers throughout our state and around the world. 

Water Bond

From: Steve Evans, Modesto Bee

In November, California voters will be asked how much money they want to borrow to improve the state's water infrastructure and fight the drought. Because polls show an $11.1 billion general obligation bond on the Nov. 4 ballot is too expensive for many voters, legislators are scrambling to revise the water bond to make it more palatable.

Along with the total amount, another point of contention is how much is allotted to building new and enlarging existing surface storage dams. The current bond and the $8.7 billion version proposed by Senate Republicans include $3 billion for new and bigger dams, but Gov. Jerry Brown's $6 billion proposal whittles this down to $2 billion. A coalition of environmental groups allocates $1 billion for surface storage in its $6 billion plan.

From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

Scrambling to place a new water bond before voters, California's legislative leaders on Monday converged on a $7.195 billion proposal and carved out more time to finish it by delaying a looming electoral deadline.

Contours of the water bond blueprint surfaced as the Legislature toiled under a rapidly closing window to act. With November elections months away, California's secretary of state was scheduled to begin printing voter guides on Monday evening.

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

An agreement on a revised water bond for the November ballot seemed within reach on Monday, but only if no side gets too grabby. That includes legislators from both parties and from all regions, and it includes members of Congress.

As The Bee's Jeremy B. White reported, California lawmakers converged on a proposed bond in the range of $7.2 billion. 

From: Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders said Monday they are closing in on a deal to overhaul a water bond on the November ballot, but their replacement plan still needs support from Republicans.

Both houses of the Legislature voted Monday to extend the deadline for printing voter pamphlets, giving lawmakers and the governor another two days to reach an agreement.


From: Katherine Noyes, Forbes

More than 80% of California is now in a state of extreme drought, according to the latest assessment. The environmental conditions that residents are experiencing today actually began in 2011. Still, there seems to be no end in sight. Water costs are sky high, as you would expect, but Californians are paying the price in more ways than one.

The state's Central Valley agriculture industry, for example, stands to lose $1.7 billion this year as a result of what some believe is the worst drought to affect the region in 500 years. Some 14,500 workers could lose their jobs in an area responsible for half of the state's agriculture and five percent of the entire nation's.

From: Tracy Brown, Associated Press

Nevada's Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, has hit an all time-low since it was first filled in the 1930s, raising concerns that a water shortage could be declared for a region home to 40 million people in seven fast-growing states.

From: Ian James, USA Today

The first half of 2014 was by far the hottest in California in 120 years of record-keeping, and that heat is exacerbating one of the most devastating droughts in state history.

Month after month, the red and burgundy patches on the California drought map have been spreading, with 82 percent of the state now classified as being in "extreme" or "exceptional" drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor website.


From: Casey Hashimoto, Modesto Bee

For an informed dialogue to occur, Turlock Irrigation District is compelled to offer additional information following a recent groundwater editorial (Our View: Stanislaus County officials finally responding to water crisis, July 31).

TID recognizes there are challenges within the Turlock groundwater subbasin, and sympathizes with people who have concerns. This is why we are continuing to fight to maintain surface-water resources for the area, and hope to expand our water supply beyond surface water and groundwater. We've also taken steps to conserve water and make our canal system more efficient, most recently in the development of a long-term TID water resources plan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

News articles and links from August 6, 2014

Water Bond 

From: James Nash, Bloomberg

California Governor Jerry Brown called on lawmakers to put a $6 billion "no-frills" bond measure on the November ballot, about half the size of a pending proposal, to secure the water supply amid a record drought.

Brown's plan would take the place of an $11.1 billion bond offering, scheduled for a vote in November, approved in 2009 by lawmakers and then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown said California can't afford the $750 million a year it would add to the state's $8 billion in annual bond debt service.

From: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

Seeking to balance the state's water needs with his reputation for fiscal caution, Gov. Jerry Brown called for a "no-frills, no pork" $6-billion water bond in an email to campaign supporters Tuesday afternoon..

Brown kicked off the letter by noting that "drought conditions in California grow more serious by the day," and acknowledging more must be done for the state's water infrastructure.


From: Krista Daly, Imperial Valley Press

As counties across California begin to submit their annual agricultural crop and livestock reports, the impact of the drought is being seen.

Fresno County, for example, is historically No. 1 in the state and the nation for crop output but has dropped below Tulare County this year, said Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau. Field crops had a 41.7 percent decrease followed by a 19.1 percent decrease in industrial crops. "Drought is a direct factor in that," Kranz said. "We would expect to see continuing impacts with 2014."

Water Supply

From: Jeff Barnard, Associated Press  

Water is being cut off to about a third of the farms on a federal irrigation project in the drought-parched Klamath Basin of Oregon and California.

A July 31 letter from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to irrigation districts says that the flows into the Klamath Reclamation Project's primary reservoir have been below pre-season forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, forcing a reduction in releases to districts with junior claims on water in order to meet minimum water levels for endangered fish.


From: Leigh Martinez, KOVR 13

The drought has forced many homeowners and farmers to dig deeper wells, tapping into the California aquifer. A recent Take Part web publication, citing NASA scientists, suggests using too much of this underground water could cause earthquakes.

University of the Pacific geology professor Kurt Burmiester said the possibility is a "maybe."

Burmiester said scientists have found that adding water, like in oil fracking, can cause the plates to slip, but removing water may produce smaller earthquakes outside of the faults.


From: Staff, Humboldt Beacon

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) released the following statement after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced its decision today to withhold water releases on the Trinity River needed to prevent a repeat of the 2002 Klamath fish kill:

"The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's decision today to withhold water releases needed to prevent a repeat of the 2002 fish kill in the Lower Klamath River is the latest example of how the federal government fails to plan for drought to the detriment of tribes, fishermen, and the environment.