Ag Today Wednesday, April 15, 2015

State water regulator flexes new muscle in response to drought [Los Angeles Times]

…Long considered timid and politically weak, the board is flexing new muscle in response to a dry spell that threatens to be the worst in modern California history. It is delivering emergency water to parched communities, reviewing never-before-collected data on irrigation around the state and considering limits on farmers who are accustomed to taking their fill from the state’s rivers and streams. On Friday, the board is scheduled to issue unprecedented new regulations to require urban Californians to use 25% less water. Experts said the challenge of the drought appears to be a turning point for the board and for the way officials manage California’s water. “They are exercising authority that the state board has never exercised before,” said Lester Snow, executive director of the nonprofit California Water Foundation, which supports research and other projects.
Redistribute California’s water? Not without a fight [National Public Radio]
The state of California is asking a basic question right now that people often fight over: What’s a fair way to divide up something that’s scarce and valuable? That “something,” in this case, is water….Consider, for instance, the case of Cannon Michael. He grows tomatoes and melons in California’s Central Valley. And despite the drought, he’ll still grow them this year….These fields will receive water, and others in California will not, because of history….Leon Szeptycki, who is executive director of a program called Water in the West at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, says that this first-come, first-served system made sense in the 19th century….But Szeptycki says this system it is not so great when it comes to responding to drought….Despite those problems, though, Szeptycki says that government officials are not seriously proposing any fundamental change to the water rules, because for farmers, it would be as shocking and disruptive as reshuffling land, or bank accounts.
Drought unlikely to cause major damage to California economy, analysts say [Los Angeles Times]
California’s drought has threatened farmers, ski resorts and golf courses, but it’s unlikely to do much damage to the state’s overall economy or budget, according to a new report. “We currently do not expect the drought to have a significant effect,” said the report, released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which provides budget advice to state lawmakers. The minor impact is explained by the lopsided relationship between water use for farming and agriculture’s overall contribution to the state economy….None of that means the drought isn’t having a big effect on the state. Farmers have taken a $1.5-billion hit, fallowing 400,000 acres and laying off 17,000 people, according to state officials.
Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau, has warned about national and international economic effects if agriculture continues to suffer.
Ordinance to regulate groundwater exports is approved by supervisors [San Luis Obispo Tribune]
Anyone wanting to export groundwater out of a basin or across San Luis Obispo County lines will now have to obtain a permit, which would only be issued if moving the water would not harm local supplies. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an ordinance regulating groundwater exports, joining at least 20 other counties across California to do so….An export permit would only be approved if the public works director finds that moving the water would not have any adverse impacts to groundwater resources, such as causing aquifer levels to drop, disrupting the flow of neighboring wells or resulting in seawater intrusion.
Editorial: Gray’s water bill passes first crucial test [Modesto Bee]
Forgive the fractured cliché, but the state of California has put the people of Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties in between a rock and the river. Assemblyman Adam Gray is trying to give us a tiny bit of wiggle room. His Assembly Bill 1242 passed its first committee vote Tuesday, 8-4 – the barest of margins. Next, it goes to the Natural Resources Committee, where it faces another tough battle….What the state has failed to recognize is that for groundwater to be sustainable, it must be recharged. In this region, one of the most significant means of recharge is flood irrigation….Because the state’s original environmental documents have failed to take any of the irrigation benefits into consideration, Gray was compelled to act. He authored AB 1242 to force the state to consider the benefits of irrigation on recharge when considering how much water to require from the rivers.
Gerawan workers protest outside Court of Appeal in Fresno [Fresno Bee]
Several hundred Gerawan Farming workers protested outside the 5th District Court of Appeal in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, angry over nearly a two-year delay in resolving an election that could remove the United Farm Workers as their union….The protesters rallied outside the courthouse on Ventura Avenue where Gerawan’s attorneys were trying to convince three appellate judges that the process for settling disputed employee contracts is unconstitutional. If they succeed, they will effectively rid the union from the company, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s largest fruit growers. At issue is an attempt by the union to represent about 3,000 Gerawan workers nearly 20 years after winning the right to do so. Although both sides began negotiating a new contract in late 2012, the union called for mandatory mediation and conciliation, a state process where a third-party arbitrator decides the terms of the contract.
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