The article in the Sacramento Bee today titled “State water system is stretched to limit” BY DALE KASLER email@example.com misses the main point. The bi-line is “Officials referee fight between farmers and environmentalists.”
True, the lawsuits and politicing is between Central Valley corporate farmers and those seeking to protect Northern California’s salmon and other fish species. I am sorry if the farmers are going to lose their crops. But if we lose the salmon runs, they are gone forever. Agriculture “will still be here in five to 10 years,” Gary Bobker of the Bay Institute points out.
However, that’s only part of the story. Saying that misses the point that the conflict expands beyond just fish.
The main point is that it is a battle between the expanding Central Valley orchards versus much of Northern California.
It’s the morale of “The Fable of the Farmer and the Fish,” (available on Amazon. All proceeds go to STCDA).
Yes, maybe it seems to reporters, because of who is backing the sides, to say it’s Central Valley farmers against the fish. But it’s not even “just” the fish. Fish, water fowl, and all species dependent on them. Even the orcas – everything that needs salmon to survive. It’s the web of life. It’s a big deal!
But it’s even more. In the North, it includes Delta farmers, communities, recreation. Even bigger if you include the Commercial Fishermen off the coast of Oregon and California.
It includes protecting, even more strongly, saving the Delta, the largest estuary west of the Mississippi and worth protecting. And for the people and communities, saving a lifestyle centered around the largest estuary west of the Mississippi.
Yet it expands beyond just the Delta. It also includes protecting the entire San Francisco Bay.
So it’s really the Central Valley farmers (who have the money and political pull to keep the pumps pumping) versus Northern California wide-spread interests.
The SacBee article states:
“With the drought in its fourth year, officials said the next few weeks could prove crucial – not only for endangered fish, but also for farmers throughout California who have planted crops based on earlier expectations of more generous water supplies.”
“They were told they were going to get a certain amount of water,” said state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, one of several legislators pleading with the board to release more water to their constituents. “There’s got to be a way to balance the uses.”
That’s the problem though: Farmers who have planted crops based on “expectations.” Where did they get these expectations? I haven’t heard any weather reports for the past four years saying there was a huge amount of rainfall projected, enough to get us out of the multi-year drought. Yet they continue to plant trees in the desert – plant, plant, plant.
An article in the Chico press today is more on-point: Going nuts for almonds. It reports:
“Despite a raging drought that has yellowed lawns and fallowed crops, orchards of almonds, one of California’s thirstiest crops, are expanding rapidly… a crop forecast released last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that the almond market is doing remarkably well given the dry circumstances. From 2014 to 2015, the area planted with bearing almond trees increased from 860,000 acres to 890,000. That’s more mature almond trees than ever before in California.”
What? Are those farmers crazy?
Our friend, Larry, flew over Central Valley yesterday and reported amazement at the lush green he saw everywhere.
News reports keep saying the state “has to” let water out of Folsom (threatening Northern California cities and farms) for the Central Valley Project. Why? They say, “To delivers millions of gallons of water from Northern California to farms and cities throughout the state.”
Cities? Are they referring to L.A.? Because L.A. still has plenty of water from the Delta. Last year they had enough to last through 2016. The state topped off Pyramid and Castaic Lakes (the two lakes in L.A. fed by Delta water) during the middle of the drought. Both of those L.A. lakes are over 100 percent average!
Remember how San Luis Reservoir was just 17 percent capacity, below 350,000 acre feet in August 2013? Actually it never got more than 75 percent capacity but still, it was very low. This month it’s over 1 million acre-feet. 66 percent of average capacity.
They also topped of the Kern Water Bank – the privately-held underground water bank which doesn’t need to report how much water is there. Hidden. Private. In 2013, the Kern Water Bank was 88 percent full. The Kern Water Bank can hold four times the amount of Hetch-Hetchy. We don’t know how full it is today. They do not report anywhere I can find.
Moving all that water from the North to the South in 2013 was what caused the havoc with Folsom Lake two years ago, from which it hasn’t recovered. The state officials said, “Oops – we thought the drought was over,” or something like that.
Yet they never stopped pumping – during four years of drought. They are still pumping. From the reservoir statuses, it looks like there is a drought in Northern California, not Southern.
To save the salmon, they have to hold back water in Shasta now, to keep it cooler and have enough flow for the salmon run. To me, that should mean cutting back (or stopping) pumping through the summer. The erroneous Sacramento Bee article states, “Restricting flows from Shasta means there’s less fresh water available to flow through the Delta and keep salt water out. The Delta must be kept salt-free because it’s the hub from which Northern California surface water is pumped to San Joaquin Valley farmers and millions of Southern Californians.”
That’s only if they keep over-pumping. That’s why that False River Dam was installed – so they can keep over-pumping. But if Pyramid & Castaic are full in L.A., the Kern Water bank has tons of water for farmers, and San Luis is over half-full with over 1 million acre feet, why keep pumping out of Shasta and Folsom, killing the fish and threatening the drinking water of Northern Californians who rely on Folsom, etc.? The water board agreed to reduce the flows out of Shasta in order to keep more cool water in the system for the summer and fall, when spawning season is at its height.
Let’s hope the pressure from the rich corporate farmers doesn’t persuade the state into doing the wrong thing and further threatening the Delta and Northern Californians.
Gary Bobker of the nonprofit Bay Institute urged the water board not to divert more water to agriculture and said hurting farmers is preferable to making a species of fish go extinct. Once a species is extinct, you can’t get it back. Agriculture “will still be here in five to 10 years,” he said.