Ag Today January 11, 2019

Fight over water heads to court: Irrigation districts sue state board [Modesto Bee]

As expected, a state plan to require higher flows for salmon in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers has spawned a flurry of lawsuits from irrigation districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, charging that the plan won’t help the fish but will cause extensive economic harm. Thursday, the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority filed a detailed suit in Tuolumne County on behalf of its members, including the Turlock, Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission….The Modesto Irrigation District filed a separate suit Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court….MID and TID have worked with state officials on a voluntary agreement for improving Tuolumne River conditions for salmon, but faced a Friday deadline for court challenges against the Dec. 12 water board decision.


Editorial: State ignored us; it’s time to go to court [Modesto Bee]

…These lawsuits will be years winding through the courts. Meanwhile, the irrigation districts will have little incentive to negotiate or begin new efforts to improve salmon habitat. But stopping those efforts would be a mistake. We should live up to the agreement, offering further proof that the state water board’s decision was capricious, unnecessary and wrong. That we are the better stewards of our rivers, caring more about the survival of salmon and the well-being of those who live alongside them.


Gavin Newsom budget calls for drinking water tax to help poor communities [Sacramento Bee]

Tackling what promises to be a controversial issue, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a tax on drinking water Thursday to help disadvantaged communities clean up contaminated water systems. Newsom’s plan for a “safe and affordable drinking water fund,” included in the new governor’s first budget proposal, attempts to revive an idea that died in the Legislature last year….Last year’s proposal would have taxed residential customers 95 cents a month, to raise about $110 million a year….Dairy producers and feedlot operators would have contributed about $30 million in fees, for a total annual fund of $140 million.


In this water-starved California town, one citrus farmer is trying to hold on [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

…The aquifer beneath Borrego Springs has been declining for decades due to overpumping. Under California’s law regulating groundwater, the community needs to reduce pumping by an estimated 75 percent over the next 20 years. That reduction will drastically shrink, if not eliminate, the farms in the Borrego Valley, which use much of the water that’s pumped from wells. The mandatory restrictions could eventually put many farmers out of business, drying up their potato fields, tangerine groves and palm-tree farms.


California water projects could be tapped to pay for Trump’s border wall [Los Angeles Times]

Officials have given President Trump a plan to divert funds designated for Army Corps of Engineers projects in California and Puerto Rico to help pay for a wall along the southern border, a leading member of Congress said Thursday….Several of the projects Garamendi said were identified have been in the works for years if not decades, and some are in their final stages. The projects include raising the height of Folsom Dam on the American River in Northern California, protecting Lake Isabella in Kern County from leaking as a result of earthquakes, enlarging the Tule River and Lake Success in the Central Valley and building shoreline protections in south San Francisco.


Farm country stood by Trump. But the shutdown is pushing it to breaking point. [New York Times]

…Farm country has stood by President Trump, even as farmers have strained under two years of slumping incomes and billions in losses from his trade wars. But as the government shutdown now drags into a third week, some farmers say the loss of crucial loans, payments and other services has pushed them — and their support — to a breaking point….Mr. Trump is expected to address a largely friendly audience on Monday at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention.