Ag Today May 16, 2019

After AG sues, Westlands Water District says it’s studying whether to support Shasta Dam raise [Redding Record Searchlight]

Two days after being sued over its involvement in a proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district said it is merely studying whether it wants to support the project. Citing violations of the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the California attorney general and several environmental groups sued this week to stop the Fresno-based Westlands Water District from participating in plans to raise the height of the dam. The two lawsuits against the district were filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State officials have for years maintained that raising the height of the dam would violate the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, a protected river under state law….The Bureau of Reclamation for many years has been interested in raising the height of the dam 18½ feet to increase the amount of water in Lake Shasta by about 14 percent.


GOP senators raise alarm over trade war’s impact [Washington Post]

Senate Republicans expressed growing concern Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war with China is hurting their constituents in rural America, ratcheting up tension between the White House and Congress on a signature issue. Some Republican lawmakers, increasingly frustrated with Trump, took the unusual step of openly criticizing a president from their own party. “I’m not sure if you talk to him face to face, he hears everything you say,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has emerged as one of Trump’s chief critics on trade and who said he planned to write to the president to explain farmers’ concerns. But faced with the prospect that Trump will continue with his adversarial approach, Republican lawmakers are also looking for ways to provide a taxpayer bailout to farmers, perhaps adding billions of dollars to a disaster bill that has languished in Congress for weeks.


Cal Fire reaches quicker, divergent conclusion in Camp fire from 2017 Tubbs fire [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

Six months after the Camp fire killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise, residents from the Sierra Nevada communities east of Chico had confirmation of what was long suspected: one of PG&E’s aging transmission lines sparked the wildfire that ruined so many lives. It’s a swift conclusion compared to the 16 months that survivors of the 2017 Tubbs fire waited to receive Cal Fire’s far less decisive report in that blaze. After a lengthy process of elimination at an origin site mostly destroyed by fire, the agency announced earlier this year that electric equipment owned by an elderly Napa County property holder likely caused the 36,807-acre fire that burned west across the Mayacamas Mountains into Santa Rosa, killing 22 people and destroying more than 4,700 homes. The finding cleared PG&E of responsibility and left the Tubbs as the only major blaze in the 2017 October firestorm not caused by the utility’s equipment. Investigations into the Camp and Tubbs fires developed along separate paths, at different paces and arrived at disparate conclusions….Wednesday’s report on the Camp fire’s cause won’t change the course of bankruptcy proceedings for upwards of 10,000 households seeking compensation from PG&E for their losses in 2017 and 2018 wildfires under a newly tooled process overseen by the bankruptcy judge.


Trump to propose plan to make U.S. immigration more merit-based [New York Times]

U.S. President Donald Trump will outline on Thursday a plan to harden border security and overhaul the legal immigration system to favor applicants who speak English, are well-educated and have job offers, senior administration officials said. Trump’s immigration proposal, the product largely of senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller and economic aide Kevin Hassett, is an effort to rally Republicans on an issue that has often divided them. While its chances of approval by Congress seem distant, the plan will give Republicans an outline they can say they favor as Trump and lawmakers look toward the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections, where immigration will likely be a key issue. For decades, U.S. immigration laws have given priority to family-based immigration, and about two-thirds of all people granted green cards each year have family ties to people in the United States. Trump’s plan would keep legal immigration steady at 1.1 million people a year, but family-based immigration would account for only a third of that.


Perdue says farmer aid package still a work in progress [Associated Press]

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Wednesday his agency is still “in the throes of constructing” an aid package for farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs, but he is not prepared to say when it will be ready. Perdue said the Agriculture Department is reviewing feedback from producers about the strengths and weaknesses of last year’s relief package, valued at up to $12 billion. This year’s package could range between $15 billion and $20 billion, Perdue projected. He also predicted that the relief amount will be enough to offset losses that farmers are facing as a result of lower prices due in part to retaliatory tariffs. President Donald Trump tasked Perdue with putting together another aid package for farmers after talks with China deteriorated in recent weeks. The Trump administration responded by more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and spelled out plans to target the $300 billion worth that aren’t already facing 25% taxes.


Opinion: Legislature should support more water projects, not work to defeat them [Riverside Press-Enterprise]

All of us remember California’s recent five-year drought when residents were encouraged to cut back their water use, let their lawns go brown, and use barrels to collect precious rainwater. Now, well-funded, politically-connected interest groups are trying to block a new source of clean drinking water for Southern California. According to a recent report by the State Water Resources Control Board, more than one million Californians don’t have access to safe, reliable drinking water. It’s a travesty that the fifth-largest economy in the world can’t guarantee safe water for its residents. This not only poses a real health risk but it also affects California’s ability to deliver other needed services such as housing and mass transit. For more than a decade, the Cadiz Water Project has carefully followed California’s strict environmental review procedures – known as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – in an effort to increase the water supply for Southern California.