In this California House race, water is ‘lifeblood.’ Will an edge on the issue give Republican Rep. Denham a boost? [Los Angeles Times]
Jake Wenger grows walnuts on land where early settlers arrived in search of gold and instead found rich soil. His orchards just west of Modesto stretch 700 acres and supply a nut company that has remained in his family for four generations. Like other farmers in this congressional district at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Wenger, 34, said he fears his livelihood is under siege by a state plan to reduce the waters diverted from Northern California rivers for irrigation. He and other farmers agree that water is the region’s lifeblood and that there isn’t enough of it. But as the race between Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock and Democrat Josh Harder near its conclusion, the farmers are mixed on who will do a better job of fighting for greater access to the scarce resource. Polls show the candidates in a virtual tie in one of the most heated races in California. “There are a lot of key issues here,” Wenger said as he hulled walnuts on a brisk October day, his hands stained with the black ink of crushed husks. “But without water, what else do we have?” The issue could serve as a boost for Denham, who has the firm support of local farm bureaus and, like other Republican members of Congress in the Central Valley, has long made farmers’ calls for water a political rallying cry.
Tense water year comes to a close [Klamath Falls Herald and News]
The 2018 water year in the Klamath Basin was as wild as a rollercoaster ride by some accounts, with a collective sigh of relief coming at the end of the season by many in the Ag community. While water orders continue through November for Tulelake Irrigation District, water in the Klamath Project was turned off on Oct. 15, bringing possibly the most disruptive water year since 2001 to a close. (In 2001 water was shut off to the Basin, prompting protests and federal action to restore it). Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said his group began worrying about the 2018 season in October 2017. That’s when farmers started talking to the Bureau of Reclamation about planning for the impact of court-ordered river flows or river-flushing surges that would help fish downstream, but lower the pool of available irrigation water….The water allocations allow farmers to plan how much to plant and when. White said the determining factor for getting through the season was the “good faith” of producers who pumped groundwater and/or idled ground, without knowing what the future held.
How next week’s expected State Water Board vote could trigger a flood of lawsuits [Modesto Bee]
Most signs point to the State Water Board approving a much-disputed river flow plan next week that will mean less water for farms and cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The board, also known as the State Water Resources Control Board, is set to vote Wednesday to require irrigation districts to leave more water in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers in an effort to restore salmon. Local irrigation districts and county and city leaders have promised a prolonged battle over the water board’s final plan released in July, saying it will devastate the region’s economy and won’t help the fish. The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, including Modesto, Turlock and Oakdale irrigation districts, has drafted a lawsuit that will be filed within days of next week’s decision.
Need for H-2A farmworkers highlighted by agriculture industry representatives at community meeting in Santa Maria [Santa Maria Times]
Local grower and farm representatives addressed why H-2A farmworkers were necessary for the Santa Maria Valley agriculture industry Thursday during the fourth of five planned community meetings on the H-2A program. Held at the Minami Community Center, the meeting — which drew around 45 people — included officials from the California Strawberry Commission and representatives from the agriculture industry companies that rely on H-2A workers. Under the H-2A program — which is used by several large farming operations in the Santa Maria Valley — employers may apply to bring foreign workers to the United States to work temporary agricultural jobs. Under the program, employers must provide housing at no cost to workers, provide daily transportation to and from the work site and provide each worker with daily meals or provide facilities for workers to prepare meals for themselves. There were 1,700 H-2A workers in Santa Maria during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Around 900 of them in lived in residential dwellings and the remainder were housed in hotels or motels.
White House concerned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated federal rules [Washington Post]
The White House is growing increasingly concerned about allegations of misconduct against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, according to two senior administration officials, and President Trump has asked aides for more information about a Montana land deal under scrutiny by the Justice Department. Trump told his aides that he is afraid Zinke has broken rules while serving as the interior secretary and is concerned about the Justice Department referral, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. But the president has not indicated whether he will fire the former Navy SEAL and congressman and has asked for more information, the officials said. This week, Interior’s Office of Inspector General referred the inquiry — one of several probes into the secretary’s conduct — to the Justice Department to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted. That referral concerns Zinke’s involvement in a Whitefish, Mont., land development deal backed by David J. Lesar, chairman of the oil services firm Halliburton. The business and retail park, known as 95 Karrow, would be near parcels of land owned by Zinke and his wife, Lola. The inspector general is looking at discussions Zinke had with Lesar and others about the development that could indicate he was using his office to enrich himself.
State’s water grab includes stunning groundwater restrictions [Merced Sun-Star]
The State Water Resources Control Board will vote Wednesday on a proposal to send more of our river water out to the Delta – a move that would decimate the Central Valley’s economy, water quality and quality of life. The water board claims this is to save some fish. But many believe there are ulterior motives. In October 2016, water board staff spoke to the Merced board of supervisors for the first time about the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update and its impacts on our disadvantaged communities. This plan will send significant amounts of surface water – up to 50 percent of unimpaired flows – out into the ocean from the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. It took only seven years from the first inklings of an update for the water board to actually talk to the leaders of impacted counties about the flawed proposal. When the chairman of the Merced board of supervisors asked the water board’s executive director about the connection between the plan and the WaterFix’s proposal to build two tunnels in the Delta, the executive director insisted “there is no conspiracy” to take Merced’s water for the WaterFix.