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Some Drought Relief?

So, what does the 'big' announcement mean? Maybe you'll get some water, maybe not.

Mar 26, 2014

The Governor announced on the day of the Fresno Congressional Field Hearing that the Dept. of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation are changing the outflow requirements for the Delta so that some of the water can be sent to farmers. According to the Sacramento Bee, they're "asking the water board to relax a standard for Delta freshwater outflow that increases at the end of March, which will allow them to continue holding back water stored in reservoirs. The standard normally requires outflow of 11,000 cfs, but will be reduced to 7,100 cfs." Translation: less water sent out to the ocean and more water for farmers, "potentially offering at least temporary drought relief."

We always like the word 'potentially' in there somewhere. We kind of look for it. It offers some wiggle room for bureaucrats. So, the big drought relief announcement means nothing, so far. As the Bee goes on to say, "Officials cautioned that the announcement does not change the forecast for “zero” water allocations for farms made by DWR and Reclamation last month. Those allocations are a forecast of future deliveries during the dry summer months. An update to that forecast is expected about April 1, but it’s not expected to change significantly because snowpack throughout the state remains unusually low. That means farmers still have to plan for a dry summer."

So, what does the 'big' announcement mean? Maybe you'll get some water, maybe not.

Mark Cowin, Director DWR: "The projects would still be expected to meet those essential public health and safety needs, and by that we mean those needs limited to human consumption, sanitation, and safety needs, but once those needs are met, then the DWR and USBR would use any remaining water in storage or exported into storage for other critical purposes as determined by the projects." Interpretation: a big maybe.

Pablo Arroyave, Deputy Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation: "As Mark stated, the requested modification will request that if we are meeting minimum health and safety, that the projects, Reclamation and DWR, will exercise the discretion on what the best use of that water within authorized project purposes." Translation: after everyone else gets their water, if there's any left, farmers might get some.

Mark Cowin, DWR: "We will be refining out estimates of those essential human health and safety needs this year, trying to estimate what we need to go into 2015 in upstream storage in order to again, retain salinity control within the Delta, have enough water to push salt back into the bay and meet 2015 basic human health and safety needs so we need to sharpen our pencil and make sure that we have completed that work to support these decisions. We expect to do that over the next couple of weeks and update our allocations for all of our water users around April 1." Translation: don't call us, we'll call you.

So, after reading the experts, do you understand how much more water farmers will be getting? Us neither. If you are a farmer do you plant this month and hope they can deliver the water over the entire summer that you will need to produce a crop? Or, do you just throw in the towel and not plant? Another good question is what do you do if you're the farmer's banker? Do you make the loan?


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/18/6248393/california-farms-to-get-some-drought.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/18/6248393/california-farms-to-get-some-drought.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/18/6248393/california-farms-to-get-some-drought.html#storylink=cpy



California farms to get some drought relief


By Matt Weiser
mweiser@sacbee.com


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/18/6248393/california-farms-to-get-some-drought.html#storylink=cpy



California and federal water officials say there is enough runoff in the Delta from recent storms to begin delivering some water to farms, potentially offering at least temporary drought relief.


On Feb. 1, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a temporary order exempting the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from some water quality standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help retain water stored in upstream reservoirs. The exemption was approved on the condition that the agencies jointly divert no more than 1,500 cubic feet per second, and only for public health and safety purposes, which generally means urban uses.


Now, thanks to relatively abundant February rains, DWR and Reclamation have asked for a change to that order so they can send some of this diverted water to farms. They’re also asking the water board to relax a standard for Delta freshwater outflow that increases at the end of March, which will allow them to continue holding back water stored in reservoirs. The standard normally requires outflow of 11,000 cfs, but will be reduced to 7,100 cfs.


“We’re growing more comfortable that ... we’ll be able to meet all essential public health and safety needs,” said DWR director Mark Cowin.


Tom Howard, executive director of the water board, said he expected to approve the request by the end of the day Tuesday.


Officials cautioned that the announcement does not change the forecast for “zero” water allocations for farms made by DWR and Reclamation last month. Those allocations are a forecast of future deliveries during the dry summer months. An update to that forecast is expected about April 1, but it’s not expected to change significantly because snowpack throughout the state remains unusually low. That means farmers still have to plan for a dry summer.


“The hydrology is such that there’s an awful long way to go to meet the demands we have,” said Pablo Arroyave, Reclamation deputy regional director.


The rule amendments also allow DWR and Reclamation to divert more than 1,500 cfs during storm runoff events as long as they satisfy other Delta water quality standards. As a result, they’ve been pumping water out of the Delta at well above 4,000 cfs during most of March.


Wildlife advocates fear such high diversion rates during the drought, along with loosening of Delta outflow requirements, will harm endangered fish species. As of Sunday, the two diversion systems had killed an estimated 246 endangered winter- and spring-run salmon during March.


“We get population changes in times like this that ripple forward for decades,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “This is going to be a horrible year.”


Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.

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