News Line – November 20, 2014

News Line – November 20, 2014

Read the latest news about issues affecting agriculture and farm water in California.

No Coalition Responses Today

   Other News

Water Supply

From: Staff, Los Angeles Times

California made extraordinary progress on water policy in this severe drought year, largely under the guiding hand of Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor’s master stroke was to initiate the conversation and then back away, allowing various interests – agribusiness, urban areas, environmentalists, people who favored building tunnels to move water from north to south, people who vigorously opposed them – to fight it out.

From: Staff, Sacramento BeeSen. Dianne Feinstein and House Republicans have been secretly negotiating drought relief legislation that could severely alter California water policy. She should know better.Any legislation on the topic of water would have far-reaching implications, and ought to receive a full public airing before a congressional vote.

From: Tom Philpott, MotherJones.comSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is negotiating a behind-closed-doors deal with Republican lawmakers to pass a bill that would ostensibly address California’s drought-an effort that has uncorked a flood of criticism from environmental circles.Feinstein’s quiet push for a compromise drought bill that’s palatable to Big Ag-aligned House Republicans has been in the works for six months, Kate Poole, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. And it has accelerated recently, as the Senator hopes to pass it by year end, during the “lame duck” period of the outgoing Democratic-controlled Senate.

Water Storage

From: J. Lund, A. Taghavi, M. Hall, A. Saracino, & L. Winternitz, UC Davis Watershed Sciences & Bechtel FoundationCalifornia’s approval of a $7.5 billion water bond has bolstered prospects for expanding reservoirs and groundwater storage, but the drought-prone state can effectively use no more than a 15 percent increase in surface water storage capacity because of lack of water to fill it, according to a new analysis released Nov. 20.The report by water engineers and scientists with the University of California, Davis, The Nature Conservancy and three prominent water consultants, said California could potentially use up to 6 million acre-feet in combined additional surface and groundwater storage – about a third more capacity than Shasta Reservoir. Exceeding this expansion runs into limits of available precipitation and the ability to transport water.

Water Transfers

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

A briefing of the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee on the state’s proposals to reduce river diversions for agriculture quickly turned into a pointed discussion about Oakdale Irrigation District’s determination to pump groundwater for its farmers while selling surface water to agencies outside the region.

Food News

From: H. Miller & R. Cornett, Forbes“Sustainable” has become a buzzword that is applicable not only to agriculture and energy production but to sectors as far afield as the building and textile industries. Some universities offer courses or even degrees in “sustainability.” Many large companies tout the concept and boast a sustainability department, and the United Nations has hundreds of projects concerned with sustainability throughout its many agencies and programs.But as with many vague, feel-good concepts-“natural” and “locavorism” come to mind-it contains more than a little sophistry. For example, sustainability in agriculture is often linked to organic food production, whose advocates tout it as a “sustainable” way to feed the planet’s expanding population.

News Line – November 19, 2014

No Coalition Responses Today

   Other News

Water Supply

From: M. Doyle & M. Grossi, Fresno Bee

California’s water future is boiling below the surface this week.Only the chosen few have a clue about details. Bill documents, currently about 50 pages, are stamped “confidential draft language, do not distribute.” Capitol Hill doors are shut, congressional timetables are opaque and negotiators are strictly mum.

From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star

In September, when the Sun-Star’s editorial board asked Jeff Denham about the secret drought-relief negotiations going on in Congress, he objected, saying they weren’t secret at all. Not secret? Then they must be “top secret.”The only people who know the details around negotiations going on this week are those in the room – including people no one has elected. Westlands Water District general manager Tom Birmingham is said to be at the table, as are representatives of the vast Metropolitan Water District.

Water Transfers

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee 

The Oakdale Irrigation District plans to sell $3.9 million worth of water to out-of-area buyers in 2015, has begun negotiating potential sales, and is considering offering local farmers financial incentives to fallow their land so additional irrigation water can be marketed to others.


“These water transfers are necessary to the district meetings its goals,” OID General Manager Steve Knell told his district’s board of directors Tuesday. “Funding for our capital (infrastructure) projects comes from water transfers.”

Salton Sea

From: Chris Nichols, San Diego Union-TribuneImperial Valley water officials on Tuesday urged the state to help “avert an emerging environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea,” or otherwise consider restricting a massive water transfer deal that benefits San Diego.

In a formal petition to the California Water Resources Control Board, the Imperial Irrigation District said the state has not lived up to its obligations to restore the inland lake, which straddles Imperial and Riverside counties.

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

The Imperial Irrigation District is calling on the state of California to live up to its commitment to restore the ailing Salton Sea as, IID officials say, a public health threat looms on the horizon.

“Today, the Imperial Irrigation District submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board to enforce the Quantification Settlement Agreement in its entirety by holding the state to what the IID board believes is its statutory obligation to select, fund and implement a restoration plan for the Salton Sea,” said IID Board President Jim Hanks, addressing the public at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Clean Water Act

From: Chris Adams, McClatchy DC 

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

From: Staff, EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with Edward Lynn Brown, a canned food and nut wholesaler in Modesto, Calif. for destroying nearly 33 acres of wetlands, known as vernal pools, north of Merced, Calif. The settlement requires Brown to pay a $160,000 penalty and purchase and endow a conservation easement valued at $1 million.”California’s vernal pools are key to the survival of native plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “In a time of drought and climate change, it is more important than ever to protect these endangered habitats from irreversible destruction.”


From: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail

When California Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide emergency in January, there was hope water conservation and increased pumping from aquifers could blunt the impact of a withering drought.Now, as the driest year in the state’s history is coming to a close, the aquifers are so overdrawn there are concerns about long-term damage – and the National Weather Service is predicting a fourth year of drought.