Ag Today March 22, 2017

West side farmers to get a 65 percent water allocation from Central Valley Project

BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

With ample rainfall and an above-average snowpack, west side San Joaquin Valley growers were hoping the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would give them a 100 percent allocation of water this year from the Central Valley Project. They were wrong.

Bureau of Reclamation officials announced Wednesday that farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would received 65 percent from the federal water project.

Farmers were dismayed at the news. They received a 5 percent allocation last year, causing them to fallow at least 200,000 acres in the Westlands Water District.

“If you have a below normal or average wet year, I could understand,” said Dan Errotabere, a longtime west side grower. “But that hasn’t been the case. How much wetter does it have to get for us to get 100 percent.”

California Farm Bureau president Paul Wenger had this to say about the bureau’s announcement: “In the alternate universe of California water, we can have floods, full reservoirs and a huge snowpack and still not have full water supplies. It boggles the mind.”

During his presidential-campaign stop in Fresno last May, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged to fix the Valley’s water woes. He said at the time: “We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane, so ridiculous, where they are taking the water and shoving it out to sea.”

However, the federal bureau’s decision gave west side farmers the smallest allocation of any deliveries this year.

The California Department of Water Resources reports that as of March 20, the statewide average snow-water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada was 44 inches, compared to 25 inches last year. Precipitation is currently 199 percent of the seasonal average to date for the Sierra Nevada for this point in the water year that began Oct. 1, 2016.

But bureau officials said they must weight a multitude of factors, including reservoir storage levels, hydrological conditions, and requirements to protect endangered species.

FEDERAL WATER POLICY IS FAILING THIS REGION.

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau

Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said “regulatory strangleholds” continue to cut off water from the region, causing a decline in jobs economic prosperity.

“It is our hope that the contrast of this bountiful water year with the poor allocation received by growers catches the attention of President Donald Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and that of our two California senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris,” Jacbosen said in a statement. “Federal water policy is failing this region. It has failed to protect fish species, and, most importantly, it has failed to provide water to the communities and businesses.”

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, who has taken a lead in the House to try to craft a water solution for the Valley, also expressed disappointment at the bureau’s decision.

“Today’s announcement is no surprise,” he said in a statement. “Over the last several years, naturally occurring dry conditions in the State of California have been exacerbated by government bureaucracy and environmental regulations that prevent water deliveries through the Delta. But it is incredibly disappointing that even when we have high amounts of precipitation, water deliveries are still not at 100 percent.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327@FresnoBeeBob