Daily Digest, weekend edition: Governor signs $687 drought legislation, GOP members push Senate to pass drought bill, Solano County says state should pay half for new North Delta intake and more news & commentary …

Daily DigestIn California water news this weekend, Governor Brown signs $687 million drought package, California GOP members push Senate to pass drought bill, snowfall doesn’t lift drought but some farmers find the wet February encouraging while others find it worrisome;  Santa Rosa drills for alternative water source, does California need a water market makeover?, Solano County says state should pay for half of new North Delta intake, new Stanislaus County orchards gulp as much as a small city,  farmers don’t like ‘tattletale’ water quality rule, and in commentary today, a Delta farmer says both pieces of federal legislation violate water right principles

In the news today …

  • Governor Brown signs $687 million drought package:  “Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a $687 million plan to provide immediate relief to drought-stricken communities, a package that includes emergency money for communities running low on drinking water and farming communities where fallowed fields are leading to sky-high unemployment.  Amid one of California’s driest years on record, the Assembly and Senate voted Thursday to approve Senate Bill 103 and SB 104 and send the legislation to Brown. The legislative package moved quickly after it was announced by the governor and Democratic legislative leaders. It takes effect immediately.  “Legislators across the aisle have now voted to help hard-pressed communities that face water shortages,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation marks a crucial step – but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water.” ... ”  Read more from the Reno Gazette Journal here:  $687 million Calif. drought plan signed by Brown
  • California GOP members push Senate to pass drought bill:  “House Republicans from California’s farm country are pressuring the Senate to pass Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill. But one House Democrat says there’s a reason the Senate bill appears to be stalled.  Earlier this month, the GOP-led House passed a 70-page drought relief bill; a week later, Feinstein introduced a Senate bill that doesn’t include the House language, which puts habitat restoration projects on hold and upends existing water agreements. But there is no word on what happens next. There has been no commitment from Senate leadership for a vote or even to assign it to a committee, something that has House Republicans frustrated. … ”  Read more from Southern California Public Radio here:  California House GOP members push Senate to pass drought bill
  • Snowfall doesn’t lift drought:It’s better than it was last month, but snowpack water content is still way below the season average, according to a snow survey conducted Thursday by the California Department of Water Resources.  That means the region’s drought will remain, and it isn’t likely to lift any time soon, surveyor Frank Gehrke said.  “Again, it’s just the reflection of the fact that what storms do come through are fairly modest,” he said, “and then the blocking high pressure ridge sets back in almost as soon as they’ve left the state.“ … ”  Read more from the Nevada Appeal here:  Snowfall boost won’t lift drought, survey says  See also: Storm Not Expected to Help Long-Term Drought Problems, from NBC LA, Storm lashes state but not a drought buster, from the AP via the Gridley Herald
  • Farmers find wet February encouraging:  “February brought much-needed rain to California’s parched farms and ranches, and March may do the same.  Rainfall for the month was actually above normal in some northern areas, prompting the grass to grow and relieving ranchers of some of the need for supplemental feeding.  “I heard this morning that some of the streams are beginning to run, so the need for hauling water is decreasing,” said Kari Dodd, manager of the Tehama County Farm Bureau. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: California’s wet February encourages farmers
  • Rain concerns farmers:  “Farmers and others in the Ag community are certainly keeping a close eye on the weather. They want the rain, but the time period in which it’s falling is crucial. It’s been an odd year. What looks and feels like an early spring has confused our agriculture and forced an early bloom, which means harsh weather has the potential of ruining almond blossoms.  “If they don’t get pollinated within three days, those blossoms are lost,” said Paul Betancourt, a farmer. ... ”  Read more from ABC 30 here:  Rain concerns some Valley farmers
  • Some farmers turning to dowsers: With California in the grips of drought, farmers throughout the state are using a mysterious and some say foolhardy tool for locating underground water: dowsers, or water witches. … ”  Read more here:  Witching hour: Growers turn to mysterious practice, hire dowsers, to locate underground water
  • Produce, fruit and nut prices likely to rise across the country as a result of the drought:  “The worsening drought in California likely means Alabama consumers will be paying more for everything from almonds to zucchini.  And when you throw in other California-produced commodities such as milk and guacamole, grocery receipts likely will grow.  California produces nearly half the produce, fruits and nuts consumed in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2012, the most current numbers available, the 80,500 farms and ranches in the state produced an economic impact of $44.7 billion. California is the nation’s top agriculture-producing state, according to the USDA. … ”  Read more from the Montgomery Advertiser here:  What’s the drought in California have to do with your groceries? A lot.
  • Santa Rosa drills for alternative water source:  “Santa Rosa is accelerating efforts to find suitable locations for wells that could supply residents with drinking water in an emergency, a move that comes amid an ongoing contract dispute with its longtime consultant on the project.  The city has spent nearly $10 million over more than a decade investigating potential sites for emergency groundwater wells should the supply from the Russian River be interrupted, such as in an earthquake or toxic spill.  But results of the program have been mixed. Of the nine test wells drilled to date, a few have shown promise, but others have come up empty. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Santa Rosa moves ahead on alternate water supply
  • Drought one more setback for San Joaquin River Restoration:Despite concerns about mudslides in Southern California, this weekend’s rain is welcome relief from the drought. Among other things, the state’s tight water supplies have put environmental restoration projects in the spotlight, especially the effort to bring salmon back to the state’s second longest river, the San Joaquin. Republican House Speaker John Boehner is pushing a bill to kill that project. KQED Science reporter Lauren Sommer looks at how this lack of rain is affecting one of the most ambitious restoration efforts in the state.” More from the California Report here:  California Drought One More Setback for River That Runs Dry
  • Does California need a water market makeover?  “Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics, discusses the economic impact of the California drought and how the water market intensifies the situation on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.” Watch the video:  Does California Need a Water Market Makeover?
  • Solano County says state should pay half for a new North Bay Aqueduct Intake:  “The Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) is in a peculiar position.  As part of the State Water Project, the SCWA receives water from the project that supplies water up and down the state via the California Aqueduct. In SCWA’s case, Solano cities like Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield and Vacaville get their water from the North Bay Aqueduct (NBA), which draws its water from Barker Slough on the west side of the Cache Slough Complex via the Barker Sough Pumping Plant.  In that respect, SCWA does not support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and the twin peripherals tunnels conveyance, but the organization doesn’t oppose it either. Last month SCWA General Manager David Okita discussed the organization’s position and the future of the agency.  “We are part of the group trying to do the project,” said Okita. “We’re opting out and won’t provide any funding. We’re not going to benefit from the project (BDCP).” ... ”  Read more from the River News Herald here:  Solano County Water Agency says state  should pay for half of North Bay Aqueduct Alternative; yet does not oppose it
  • Sierra Club water forum pokes fun at the tunnels: As most would probably expect, the Sierra Club is against the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The club, along with the League of Women Voters held a public forum on the tunnels at the Castro Valley Library on February 20.  In support of the tunnels were Paul Helliker, DWR Deputy Director, Delta and Statewide Water Management and Jill Duerig, General Manager, Livermore/Amador Valley Zone 7 Water Agency. Speaking against the tunnels were Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla and Nick Di Croce, Co-Facilitator, Environmental Water Caucus.  Each gave presentations about why the project is good or bad, but Restore the Delta’s overwhelming evidence that the tunnels project would ultimately destroy the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas was a resounding statement. … ”  Read more from the River News Herald here:  Sierra Club water forum pokes holes in tunnels
  • New Stanislaus County orchards gulp as much water as 480,000 people, expert says:  “The cumulative impact of rapidly expanding almond orchards in eastern Stanislaus County soon may create a massive drain on the region’s groundwater supply. An estimated 4 million newly planted trees are expected to start consuming as much water as 480,000 people. That’s roughly the population of Sacramento, and more than twice the population of Modesto. This city of thirsty trees has taken root virtually unregulated on what had been dry grazing land along the county’s far eastern and northeastern edge. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Experts: New Stanislaus County orchards to gulp as much groundwater as 480,000 people
  • Farmers no fans of ‘tattletale’ rule for water quality violations:  “New rules to protect water quality would force farmers to “tattle” on other farmers.  At least, that’s how they see it.  A local growers coalition would be required to send membership lists to state water cops – identifying not only the farmers who follow the rules, but also the bad apples who don’t. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Farmers no fans of ‘tattletale rule’

In commentary today …

  • Both pieces of federal legislation violate basic water principles, says Delta farmer: In Sacramento Bee’s Sunday forum, farmer Al Medvitz looks at the federal legislation proposed by the House Republicans and the California senators, and writes:  ” … The proposals differ greatly but also have commonalities.  The House bill would modify water transfer contracts and water rights legislation and overturn years of environmental protection to facilitate water transfers from water sources in the north to the two great water projects for the use of southern farmers and municipalities. It also supports constructing more storage to relieve future drought.  The Senate bill would protect the environmental provisions of past legislation and court action, as well as provide funding for water storage, conservation and other means of collecting and storing water. It, however, in more subtle ways, also provides for facilitating the transfer of water from our region to the two water projects for the use of southern farmers and municipalities.  To our way of thinking, both pieces of legislation violate the basic principles on which our water system is based. … ”  Read the complete commentary at the Sacramento Bee here: Farms threatened, basic water principles violated
  • Sacramento should focus on commercial users to save water, says the Sacramento Bee:  Sacramento is taking steps to address the drought, acknoweledges the editorial, steps such as cash for grass, reducing irrigation, and expanding its water main leak detection program, but there’s more that can be done:  ” … Significant water savings could also be wrung out by focusing more on the largest commercial users – for instance, with tiered rates that increase with higher usage, as done in Los Angeles and some other cities.  Councilman Kevin McCarty is among those who argue that it makes no sense that a homeowner scrounging to make ends meet pays the exact same rate as a bottling plant that uses city water to make a profit. (All metered customers pay 90.6 cents per 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons.)  He’s got a point. … ”  Read the full editorial here: Editorial: Sacramento can save more water by focusing on big commercial users
  • California’s a desert, stupid, says Michael Reagan:  “Someone better send John Kerry a high school geography textbook.  Our brilliant Secretary of State doesn’t seem to know that California is about two-thirds desert.  Based on his recent statements about the cause of my home state’s 13-month drought, Kerry doesn’t know anything about California’s history or climate, either.  He thinks the state’s current drought — which is draining reservoirs, raising fears of severe water shortages in small towns and already causing the usual idiots to demand the death penalty for lawn watering — is the result of man-made climate change. …. ”  Continue reading Michael Reagan’s commentary at the Baxter Tribune here:  California’s a desert, stupid

Precipitation watch …

  • weatherFrom the National Weather Service in Sacramento:  “The Pacific storm track will continue to bring Pacific storms to Northern California through much of the coming week. Unfortunately, a weak high pressure ridge parked over the western U.S will either weaken each system or send it northward limiting the amount of precipitation that Northern California receives. As a result, Northern California will see mostly cloudy days through much of this week but most areas outside of the coastal region will see relatively small amounts of much needed precipitation.”

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

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