NEW: Joint letter to SWRCB on Bay-Delta Plan amendments and SED

Joint letter recommends the adoption of “Functional Flows” and comprehensive management over continued single-practice management

SLDMWA and Westlands Water District recently sent a comment letter to the State Water Resources Control Board on proposed amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan. The letter, available here, notes that flow regimes, often called “Functional Flow” approaches, are superior to the one being advanced by the SWRCB in current documents.

The letter notes that “under the existing flow-centric approach, which relies upon flow as the master variable and master solution, few beneficial uses of the water involved have been adequately protected. The diagnostic inertia of the current flow-centric regulatory regime has had real, adverse social and economic impacts.”

Fish populations haven’t recovered under existing flow-centric management approaches, but impacts and costs continue to rise

The letter notes the failure of Fish populations and water supplies for urban and agricultural communities and waterfowl have all declined. The painful lessons of the past twenty years have demonstrated that adding flow will not redress most of the physical, chemical and biological changes that have occurred within the watersheds for the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.

After many decades of managing the ecosystem primarily by regulating the storage, release and diversion of water – the flow of water – a new approach is necessary.


NEW: Statement: CVP cities and farms finally learn allocation

Many farmers and cities learned just yesterday how much water they could expect from the Federal Government’s Central Valley Project, (one of the state’s big infrastructure projects that delivers water to communities, farms, and wetlands in the Central Valley; and San Benito and Santa Clara Counties). The number they finally heard is most disappointing.

This year is the wettest on record for California- with a 200% of normal precipitation and reservoirs that are so full they are dumping water. And it’s been this way for months. While the drought remains fresh in everyone’s minds, one would think a record breaking 2017 should result in abundant supplies for Californians to grow food, recharge groundwater, and take regular showers again.

That’s why yesterday’s delayed announcement by the Federal government of a mere 65% supply has so many people stunned and concerned about the ability of California’s water system to provide for the future.

For farmers, the news is even more disappointing. The first few months of the year are critical. February and March are the ultimate crunch time for people that produce our food. The decisions being made today to plant crops and hire workers translate to the price and types of locally grown produce available in your grocery store. But none of that can happen when farmers, and the people that rely upon them, don’t know how much water is available.

“Without a timely water allocation, crucial decisions can’t be made on the farm – our water supply drives our ability to grow crops, provide employment, and satisfy the food supply chain that stretches from our farms to the kitchen table,” says Cannon Michael, of Bowles Farms.

“That water flowing into the ocean could be used to meet so many greater needs: recharge and improve groundwater, grow fresh vegetables and fruit, put people back to work, and get communities back on their feet,” Michael continued.

Nonetheless, we must stay focused on addressing the many challenges ahead. California has an abundance of water this year, so what’s keeping us from finally solving the water management challenges we all faced throughout the drought?

“The reality is a quarter century of decisions intended to protect certain endangered species has broken California’s water supply system. The cumulative effect of the policy choices made to implement the ESA has stranded thousands of acre-feet of water carefully conserved by San Joaquin Valley farmers. The federal government used this water to help protect temperature for salmon and to meet other obligations. To turn around and claim that the farmers who made this water available are now at fault for creating their own water supply shortage is just so sad. All Californians should be concerned with the costs our society is bearing for a failed regulatory system that has done nothing tangible to protect endangered fish,” notes Jason Peltier, Executive Director of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

The policies in place aren’t just hurting people, they’re bad for all water uses, including managing native species.

“The policies they’ve implemented are not good for farms, they’re not good for cities, and they’re not good for the environment. If government cannot ensure a 100% supply in the wettest year on record, what does it mean for an average year? What does it mean for those disadvantaged communities throughout the Central Valley dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood and future? What does it mean for those that value food safety, worker safety, and local access to food grown by some of the most technologically advanced and conscientious farmers in the world?” Peltier asks.

Government can do more to improve our broken policies and modernize the infrastructure that makes California what it is. Improving storage in smart ways is one step we can take now to restore reliability and stability for future generations managing California’s wet and dry cycles. Fixing our broken system is the only thing that will provide true drought relief and long-term water security for all Californians.

“The Authority and our member agencies are fully engaged in the multiple regulatory and planning efforts aimed at meeting the statutory goals of a more reliable water system and improved ecosystems in our state. We do our best to be constructively engaged and continue to commit significant resources to achieve the goals of our customers and the people of California,” concluded Peltier.

NEW: SLDMWA Elects New Board Chairman

Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer is Cannonthe newly elected chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority). Michael is president of Bowles Farming Company, a family owned and operated farming company headquartered in Los Banos. 

Bowles Farming Company is an 11,000 acre organic and conventional farm growing fresh market and processing tomatoes, field crops including corn, melons, carrots and onions, alfalfa for local dairies and other commodities such as durum wheat for bread, pima cotton, pistachios and almonds. Other activities include managing wetlands and habitat restoration on the family farm.

In accepting the new position, Michael said, “It is an enormous responsibility to lead the Authority. I look forward to working with the board and the 100 dedicated employees who make up the Authority family, working to make sure it’s members have access to reliable water supplies that serve communities, wetlands and are used to grow the food and fiber crops for much of the nation.”

Cannon Michael replaces Mike Stearns who has served as the Authority chairman for the past two decades. 

Stearns said, “It has been a great honor to serve our diverse member agencies that are bound together by the facilities that the Authority operates. We have faced many challenges and changing dynamics over the past two decades to deliver water to 1.2 million acres of farmland, 300,000 acres of wildlife refuges and wetlands and 2 million people.

“Cannon is an outstanding farmer and leader. He is the right person to take the Authority into the next generation. Future water management challenges will require a balanced approach to meet the needs of California’s farms, its people and the environment,” he said.

NEW: SLDMWA votes to Support AB 313- Modernizing CA Water Governance

On March 9, 2017 the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Board of Directors voted to express their support for Assemblymember Adam Gray’s efforts to modernize California’s water governance system.  The Authority looks forward to working with the Assemblymember, his colleagues, and other stakeholders and interests as AB313 evolves. To read the language proposed in AB 313, please click here

Read the Authority letter of support for AB313 here.

Statement: San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Praises Bipartisan Passage of WRDA

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Praises Bipartisan Passage of WRDA

The recent passage of the Water Resources Development Act by a broad, bi-partisan coalition of elected representatives is an encouraging sign for California’s 40 million residents who count on reliable water supplies. We encourage President Obama to sign it as soon as possible.

This bill creates new opportunities for all water users to work together on new and innovative programs that will enhance California’s water supply and is a first step in a long process of restoring reliable water deliveries to the state.

The Water Resources Development Act provides broad water supply benefits including sensible storage projects, new conservation initiatives and innovative recycling programs that will benefit farms, urban areas and wildlife refuges. It also maintains existing regulation intended to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable fish and wildlife resources by preserving provisions under biological opinions prepared pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

We look forward to working with the various federal agencies to put this plan into action by increasing water deliveries to the maximum extent possible under existing environmental protections.

We appreciate all of the hard work by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Kevin McCarthy for their leadership in this critical moment in the state’s history. They, along with many of their colleagues, recognized the need for a new path forward on California water issues and we look forward to working with them to make their vision for the state a reality.

We also appreciate the tremendous vision and support of our water supplier partners Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and others for their efforts to help pass this legislation. The unity among diverse regions of the state is a demonstration of how important this piece of legislation is for California’s future.

Statement by Jim Costa: Costa Urges Senate and President to Support House Passed California Water Bill

Costa Urges Senate and President to Support House Passed California Water Bill

Today, Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act with language to assist in reducing the impacts of California’s drought crisis and to build additional long-term drought resiliency:

“Today’s House passage of California water legislation is a win for the San Joaquin Valley. The bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act earned broad support from Democrats and Republicans in the California delegation, and I hope my Senate colleagues will join Senator Feinstein in voting for this important legislation. I strongly urge the Senate and the President to act quickly, so the short-term provisions, like authorizing increased pumping during storms in the winter months, can be implemented immediately. More water will be captured and delivered to Valley communities and farms as a result of the enactment of this legislation.

“Additionally, this legislation authorizes a feasibility study for the Merced Streams Group, and will provide flood protection for the residents of Merced. There is also modifying language in the bill that would provide for Merced Irrigation District to advance funds so it could complete a study to evaluate raising the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam.

“The status quo in California is a result of flawed policies and five years in a row of record breaking drought, and current conditions will get exponentially worse if we do nothing. This bill will change the status quo and is good for all Californians, farmers, farm workers as well as the environment.”

Rep. Costa spoke on the House floor during debate in support of the water infrastructure legislation. His remarks can be viewed here.

Yesterday, Rep. Costa spoke on the House floor to bring attention to the human impacts of drought conditions in California’s San Joaquin Valley. His remarks can be viewed here.

The California drought language includes short- and long-term provisions:

Short-term provisions:

  • Delta Cross Channel Gates - Federal agencies must open the Delta Cross Channel Gates for as long as possible consistent with the State Water Board’s orders. This may allow the agencies to open the Gates during the daytime when salmon are often not migrating in significant numbers, which could allow additional water to be pumped without harming fish or water quality.
  • Turbidity measures - By taking measures to manage turbidity and protect Delta smelt during the first storm-induced flush of sediment out of the Delta each winter, the agencies can both protect the fish and allow for more steady pumping the remainder of the year.
  • 1:1 inflow-to-export ratio, solely for water transfers - Solely for voluntary transfers, sales and exchanges, allows agencies to use a 1:1 “inflow-to-export ratio” for San Joaquin River flows in April and May for the duration of the drought. By stretching water supplies through water transfers, agricultural districts that are short on water can use transfers to make up for reduced deliveries, while that same “block” of water moving through the Delta can help fish and potentially assist in the restoration of the Delta. The agencies can only use the 1:1 ratio for transfers if environmental protections, including the following, are satisfied:
    • There are no adverse effects on endangered species beyond those anticipated by the biological opinions.
    • The transfer water getting the benefit of the 1:1 ratio must be additional flow on top of the regular flow of the river.
    • The environmental effects of the proposed transfer, sale, or exchange are consistent with environmental effects permissible under applicable law.
  • Expediting reviews of transfers and temporary barriers - Expedites review of transfers and temporary barriers in the Delta, which could help move limited water to where it is needed, manage salinity and improve water quality.
  • Extended window for water transfers - Extends the window for transfers by five months, from April 1 to November 30 (currently July 1 to September 30), if the extended transfers can be done consistent with the biological opinions.
  • Scientifically Supported Implementation of OMR (Old and Middle River) Flow Requirements - Science based on real-time monitoring governs the level of pumping within the ranges allowed by the biological opinions. The bill requires the agencies to explain why pumping at the high end of the smelt biological opinion would cause adverse effects to fish that violate the environmental protection mandate (described below), if they decide to pump at a lower levels.
  • Temporary Operational Flexibility for Storm Events - authorizes the agencies to increase pumping during winter storms, so that excess flows from storms may be captured.
  • Consultation on Coordinated Operations – Provides for increased transparency during consultation on the biological opinions by soliciting input from water districts and those environmental groups that already participate in implementation of the biological opinions.
  • Environmental Protection Mandate – The bill prohibits agencies from taking any action that would cause adverse effects to fish beyond those effects allowable under the biological opinion.

Long-term provisions:

  • $558 million for storage, water recycling and desalination projects.
    • $335 million for water storage projects. – Funding can go to either state-led groundwater or surface storage projects, or to federally owned surface storage projects.
    • $30 million for desalination projects over 5 years.
    • $50 million for competitive grant funding for water recycling, wastewater reuse and reclamation of naturally impaired ground and surface water.
    • Increases WaterSMART funding authorization by $100 million.

The legislation authorizes the following California water projects:

Merced County Impacts

  • The bill authorizes a feasibility study for the Merced Streams Group project that was originally authorized in 1944 and has not yet been completed. Since 1997, 8 floods in the region have caused significant damage to communities in Merced County. This study, when complete, will evaluate and provide recommendations to move beyond the substandard 50-year flood planning to a much higher standard of flood protection.
  • Expedited completion of the Lower San Joaquin River flood risk management report.

California funding, reports and projects

  • $1.5 billion in Flood Risk Management funds for the American River and West Sacramento projects
  • $20 million in Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk reduction funds to San Diego County
  • $70.5 million in Flood Risk Management, Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation funds for the South San Francisco Bay shoreline
  • $375 million in Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation funds for the LA River Expedited completion of the report for the Sacramento River Flood Control System
  • Authorization of the feasibility studies for the Cache Creek Settling Basin, the Coyote Valley Dam, the Del Rosa Channel, the Mission-Zanja Channel, and the Soboba Indian Reservation

California Legislators write White House supporting WINN Act

“Many California legislators expressing support for drought relief and the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WINN).”

Download (PDF, 1.33MB)

SLDMWA response to statement by Kevin McCarthy

SLDMWA Response to Statement

“The House of Representatives took an essential step toward providing a modicum of relief for rural, disadvantaged communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This balanced, measured, bipartisan bill does nothing to tamper with the Endangered Species Act while providing significant funding to advance comprehensive water management. We applaud their efforts and now look toward the Senate to address the pervasive and avoidable human suffering.”

Original Statement by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy:

“California continues to face the burdensome fallout from bad water policy at the state and federal level. Though each winter we hope significant rain or snow eases our ongoing drought, only real reforms to water policy can ensure Californians have the water we need for years to come. Today, the House passed some of the most significant Federal reforms to California water policy in almost a generation. This legislation will help increase the delivery of water to the Central Valley and southern California in the immediate term and streamline water infrastructure projects for water supply security in the future. Senator Dianne Feinstein, my fellow California House colleagues, and I have worked for years on water policy, and I hope for swift consideration and approval of this bill as it now moves to the U.S. Senate. Our work on California water is not complete, but this legislation represents commonsense solutions that will help get water flowing again in our state.”

NEW: Statement: The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Praises Senate and House Efforts to Pass Drought Relief

“The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority commends Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Jim Costa and David Valadeo for their efforts to move forward legislation critical to California’s water supply.

This balanced solution protects the environment by preventing changes to the Endangered Species Act. It is a bipartisan effort that helps California meet its water supply needs by helping to fund long overdue water supply, conservation and recycling projects while enhancing the protection and recovery of endangered salmon and Delta smelt.

No one in our state can thrive without a healthy environment. Unfortunately, much of our current water policy not only fails to show any measurable environmental benefit, in many cases it actually ends up causing harm. This legislation helps solve both water supply and ecosystem needs.

Sadly, Senator Barbara Boxer’s last-minute attempt to block this legislation reflects the unwillingness by many in the environmental community to seek solutions that help both people and the environment. Years of damaging water supply cuts claiming to protect the environment have instead devastated rural communities with no measurable environmental benefits. This legislation can help change that.

Leaders in both the House and Senate have been working for more than three years on dozens of drafts to find a solution to California’s complex water and environmental challenges. That hard work is paying off, giving California’s 40 million people the environment they want and the water supply they need.”

End of Water Year Statement: The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Calls for Congressional Action to Avoid Devastating Repeat of 2016 Water Allocations

(The following is a statement by Executive Director Jason Peltier of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority on the end of the 2016 water year and a call for Congressional action to avoid a devastating repeat of 2016 Water Allocations)

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) diversion of water supplies
Link to Blog from San Joaquin Valley farms to other uses has led to an unprecedented water supply imbalance and necessitates immediate state and federal government action to avoid a repeat of the problem in 2017, according to the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

“Reclamation will end this water year with over 4 million acre-feet of water in Northern California reservoirs and an IOU for over 300,000 acre-feet of water borrowed from individual farmers south of the Delta,” said Jason Peltier, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

In 2016, federal fishery agencies mandated Reclamation severely cut water delivery to more than 2 million acres of farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Water quantities beyond reasonable estimates required for fishery protection have been held in Lake Shasta. About $340 million worth of water conserved or purchased by individual farmers was taken by Reclamation to help fulfill its contractual and statutory obligations to deliver water, leaving an estimated 340,000 acre-foot deficit in San Luis Reservoir that would normally be delivered to irrigate crops. This water has yet to be returned and, as a result, more than 50 water agencies are unlikely to receive a sufficient 2017 allocation irrespective of winter weather.

“The problem of chronic, regulatory water supply shortages used to be isolated to the Westside but in recent years has grown to affect more and more farms across the Valley, including now the CVP’s Friant Division,” Peltier added.

While federal fishery agencies have mismanaged much of California’s water supply in their attempt to protect threatened and endangered fish, populations of the protected species have continued to decline. State and federal agencies must change course to fulfill their responsibility to protect the environment and provide water supplies for the people who depend on them. Continuing the past quarter century of failed fish protection policy is unacceptable.

“Over the last nine years, we’ve been forced to make do with inadequate water supplies based on the multi-year drought and environmental restrictions. But having this year’s miniscule 5 percent allocation diverted to other entities as a result of poor planning and management underscores the need for immediate Congressional action to help guide the federal fishery agencies toward a more balanced outcome. It’s clear at this point that the people and communities served by the Central Valley Project are not a priority to the federal government and that the continuing regulatory drought is intolerable,” Peltier said.

Historically, constraints on Central Valley water allocations have been directly related to two factors: the need to hold water in Lake Shasta to ensure sufficient cold water is available to support salmon reproduction and the pumping restrictions imposed by the 2008 Delta smelt and 2009 salmon Biological Opinions. Since December of 2015, these restrictions have caused over 1 million acre-feet of water to flow to the ocean that was otherwise available for water users throughout most of California.

Federal water allocations are announced every year in the spring, based on snowpack and rainfall totals. Despite above average runoff into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and near average snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada this year, many farmers on the Westside were slated to receive only 5 percent of their normal allocation. While minimal, the allocation was an improvement on the zero percent allocation from 2014 and 2015. Based upon recent federal decisions, forecasts suggest that the 2017 water supply will be no better, irrespective of winter rainfall.

“Our assumption that Reclamation would proceed as promised, that water supply would return with rainfall, was wrong, and unless Congress acts, our cities, rural communities, and wetlands will continue to pay the price. Today we call upon our elected officials in the U.S. Senate and House, with the support of our California elected officials, to take action to guide the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service toward better outcomes and provide farmers, cities, rural communities and wetlands with normal water allocations once again,” Peltier said.