Statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation
February 25, 2020
“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of a 15 percent initial allocation for water supplies south of the Delta is clearly the result of the dry hydrology California is experiencing. February is shaping up to be possibly the first time in recorded history without any measurable precipitation. That alone is evidence that California may be on the leading edge of another drought.
“These dry conditions are similar to what we saw in 2009. For months farmers were not given an allocation amount and told they may get zero water. In April of that year, well past the time to make effective planting decisions, the allocation was set at 10 percent.
“The new biological opinions implemented last week are already making a difference by allocating 15 percent in February. We’re obviously hopeful that allocations will rise, but we’re pleased to be off to a better start than we were under the old operating rules.
“Had the new biological opinions been in place last year we believe an additional 1 million acre-feet of water could have been stored for use this year, delivering more water and offering better species protection, based on what we’ve learned over the past 10 years studying the Delta and its tributaries.
“That kind of operational flexibility is essential for California to remain the nation’s leading farm state and to continue to produce more than half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the U.S. as well as vast amounts of dairy, beef and nursery products.”
Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade on the Adoption of the New Biological Opinions
“For the first time in more than a decade, the federal rules known as Biological Opinions are being updated. These rules exist to protect threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of farms, businesses and people.
“The new Biological Opinions, based on more than 10 years of scientific study, will allow California to manage water in real-time using the latest science rather than relying on an arbitrary calendar approach that takes years to recognize updated research. The decade-old rules are based on outdated science and have failed to help Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other threatened species. And to keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.
“Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million-acre feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians. We applaud the Trump Administration as well as California leadership including Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes for their part in making this a reality.
“To be clear, this is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle that we hope includes new Voluntary Agreements on water. We support the Newsom Administration’s efforts to make water policy work better for all Californians.”
Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade on the Release of the New Biological Opinions
The release of the new Biological Opinions on salmon, Delta smelt and other species is good news for water users and the environment. Moving from an approach that used a calendar to make ecosystem decisions to one that uses the latest science is the smart way to provide better protection for California’s resources. New, more efficient protections for threatened and endangered fish are essential to being able to manage our water supply system in a way that optimizes it for farmers, urban water users, and dedicated environmental purposes.
The new Biological Opinions will play a critical role in helping implement Governor Gavin Newsom’s Voluntary Agreements, a process underway in California that will provide more water for environmental purposes, funds to pay for habitat improvement projects, and flexibility for water users who depend on reliable water supplies to grow our food.
This announcement is the culmination of more than 10 years of work to research better ways to understand and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The biological opinions being replaced were based on an arbitrary, calendar-based approach, and have not delivered the successful recovery of salmon and Delta smelt populations. The new biological opinions also address threats to certain steelhead, green sturgeon, and killer whales, species cited as casualties in the outdated form of ecosystem management.
The new Biological Opinions mean that for farms, fish, and people, this is the dawn of a new science-based approach to water and ecosystem management. We are anxious to put these new policies into practice and expect to see a positive response for water users and the environment in the years to come.