Statement by Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen
“Water is the lifeblood of Central Valley agriculture. Our region’s jobs, economic activity and overall health is directly related to the annual allocation announcements made by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. With the bountiful precipitation season Mother Nature has provided thus far, the expectation was we should see a very strong upcoming water year. However, as Valley farmers and communities have unfortunately come to expect from the government the past decade, that is not the case.
“Today’s announcement of a 35 percent water allocation for Fresno County’s West side federal water contractors once again shows the brokenness of California’s water systems. As I have stated many times before, federal water policy has failed everyone…it has failed to protect fish species and it’s failed to provide water to the communities, businesses and farms who need it most. The current biological opinions in which the systems operate under are dysfunctional. They continue to cost this region a reliable water supply with no positive benefit to the species it is meant to protect in the Delta.
“While there is frustration with this year’s announcement, we do have hope for better future allocations. Recently, the Bureau of Reclamation released a new biological assessment, which will serve as the basis for new biological opinions expected to be released in the next few months. These updated, modernized biological opinions will provide better guidance to the agencies operating the system as well as look at the whole system from a scientific perspective versus focusing on single elements.
“On the Friant system, while news of a 100 percent Class I allocation is welcomed, we are once again reminded of the need for additional storage. Water will need to be evacuated from Millerton Lake to make room for spring melt flows. With additional storage, these flows could be preserved for times when it’s needed most during the summer months.
“Over the long-term, California does receive ample precipitation, but it’s weather patterns are cyclical. Without investments in our water infrastructure as well as changes to the way the system is operated, it will be economically devastating to the Valley to make it through the dry times, particularly with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
“Food is a necessity of life, and the Central Valley is growing a significant part of the nation’s plate. As a community, region, state and country, we need to work collaboratively to fix California’s water system for the long-term, ensuring a reliable and adequate supply for Valley agriculture.”
Background: The Central Valley Project (CVP) is a federal water management project under the supervision of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Locally, it affects Fresno County-based districts such as Westlands, Panoche and San Luis water districts and Tranquillity and James irrigation districts, as well as other districts along the Valley’s west side and the Friant Unit on the east side.
Statement from Westlands Water District
The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) announced a 35% initial water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water service contractors.
Westlands appreciates that this initial allocation is higher than it otherwise would have been but for the diligent work by Reclamation staff to make the initial allocation as high as practicable. However, given the current hydrologic conditions, including above average precipitation and snowpack in the northern and central Sierra Nevada Mountains, a 35% allocation is further evidence that the 2009 biological opinion controlling temperature management of Shasta Reservoir is placing unreasonable restrictions on CVP operations. Moreover, the 35% initial allocation demonstrates the need to update the existing biological opinions to reflect the science that has emerged over the last decade.
This year total runoff into the Shasta, Trinity, and Folsom reservoirs during the months of April-July is projected to be 1.0 million-acre-feet (MAF), more than was projected at this time in 2012 when the District received a final allocation of 40%. Similarly, the same comparison shows the San Joaquin basin is expected to have 1.1 MAF more runoff into the New Melones, Don Pedro, and McClure reservoirs, and storage at the San Luis Reservoir is on track to be 140-thousand-acre feet more than at this time in 2012.
For Westlands farmers, low initial allocations create uncertainty about how much of their land can be farmed and how much productive farmland will need to be fallowed and contribute to over pumping groundwater. Westlands looks forward to working with Reclamation and other federal and state agencies to reexamine regulatory restrictions that are imposing unreasonable restriction on operations of the CVP.
Farm Leader says Water Forecast Demonstrates System’s Limitations
With the Sierra Nevada snowpack rising to nearly 150 percent of average, the California Farm Bureau Federation said it’s understandable why some agricultural customers of the federal Central Valley Project would be disappointed by the initial CVP water outlook. The project, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has told agricultural service contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to expect 35 percent of contract supplies, and those north of the delta to expect 70 percent.
“California has been blessed with an abundant Sierra snowpack and that should be recognized in making an initial water allocation, so farmers can make their planting decisions,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “We hope the CVP will be able to increase its allocations as the spring continues. In above-average years such as this, we need to provide as much certainty about available supplies as early as possible to farmers and all other water users.”
Johansson said the CVP likely needed to be conservative in its projections because of biological opinions for protected fish that require water to be reserved for fishery uses.
“We’re hopeful that revised biological opinions can provide more flexibility in managing the system and encourage creative projects for improving fish populations,” Johansson said.
“From our offices along the banks of the Sacramento River, I can look out and see a river swollen with runoff heading toward the ocean,” he said. “In wet winters such as this, we need to be able to capture more of that runoff, both above and below ground, to shield people and the environment from future droughts and replenish our groundwater basins.”
Johansson said Farm Bureau “will continue to advocate for balanced water policies that benefit our state’s farms, cities and environment alike.”