Daily Digest: Reclamation hit over cuts to settlement contractors, spending on irrigation efficiency projects may not mean more water for everyone else, plus more drought and other water news, and Dan Walters says “show me the money”

Daily DigestIn California water news today, the Bureau of Reclamation hit over cuts to Sacramento River settlement contractors, spending money for irrigation efficiency doesn’t mean necessarily mean more water for everyone else, Buena Vista WSD to make $14M on water auction, rains disrupt ag but don’t end drought, Vallejo looks to enlarge pipeline in a hurry, Assemblyman wants legislature to have last say on tunnels, Steinberg says loss of supermajority won’t affect water bond, and Dan Walters says “show me the money” for the tunnels & HSR

On webcast today …

  • The State Water Board will meet, beginning at 9AM.  Agenda items include an update from the Governor’s Drinking Water Stakeholder Group and a workshop on projects funded by the State Water Board through Prop 50 IRWM grants.  Note that the update on the transfer of the drinking water program has been pulled.  Click here for the agendaClick here for the webcast.

In the news today …

  • Bureau of Reclamation hit over cuts to Sacramento River settlement contractors:  “Until the federal government fulfills water obligations in the north, don’t send it south.  That was the message from Sacramento River settlement contractors, through an attorney, to the Bureau of Reclamation, which recently forecast the water deliveries to the districts and water companies along the river would be cut by 60 percent.  The contractors, however, claim their water right only allows the bureau to reduce deliveries by a maximum of 25 percent.  “If there is simply not enough water available because of the ‘drought,’ we understand that Reclamation cannot provide what it does not have. But Reclamation has made no such showing,” the letter, signed by four attorneys representing 23 settlement contractors, read. “We are advised that Reclamation is making discretionary decisions that, among other things, deliver Sacramento River Water for use south of the Delta.” ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Drought Watch: Bureau of Reclamation hit over cuts
  • Spending money for irrigation efficiency may not necessarily mean more water for everyone else:  “A $US 687-million state drought-relief package approved yesterday in California, and a related federal aid program that President Barack Obama announced earlier this month, provide $US 35 million for California farmers to seal leaky pipes, line earthen canals with concrete, and invest in irrigation systems that deliver water more precisely to crops during the deepest drought in the Golden State’s history.  The $US 35 million in emergency spending is designed to improve what technical specialists call “irrigation efficiency,” which has the effect of delivering water with much less waste to achieve the same purpose — in this case for growing food. It’s akin to updating a 20th-century high-volume shower with a 21st-century low-flow showerhead.  But water managers also note that even as the state moves to make better use of shrinking water supplies for California’s thirsty farms, increasing irrigation efficiency is not likely to do anything to make more water available to other users, including industries, cities, and rivers. ... ”  Continue reading from Circle of Blue here:  Spending to Conserve Water on California Farms Will Not Increase Supply
  • Buena Vista Water Storage District will make $14 million for selling 12,000 acre-feet of water:  “A local water district will make close to $14 million from selling 12,000 acre feet of its water to other Kern County growers left dry by California’s drought.  The water will go to four Kern County agricultural operations per requirements set out by Buena Vista Water Storage District. Paramount Farming will get the bulk of the water, 7,142 acre feet, for which it will pay nearly $8 million. … ” Read more from Lois Henry at the Bakersfield Californian here:  District rakes in $14 million from water auction
  • California rains disrupt strawberry, vegetable harvests, but don’t end drought:The worst drought in a century in California was eased somewhat by several inches of rain across the state and considerable snow in some mountain areas from Wednesday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, March 2, but it was a mixed blessing in some growing areas, particularly for strawberries and vegetables along the central and southern coast.  “Rain is needed, but we don’t want to see damage,” Charlie Staka, director of sales for CBS Farms LLC in Watsonville, CA, told The Produce News March 3. “We got over three inches of rain in Oxnard Friday and Saturday. It has ended. We did sustain damage. We are culling 30 to 40 percent today, and we should be back to normal a here within three days.” ... ”  Read more from the Produce News here:  California rains disrupt strawberry, vegetable harvests, but don’t end drought
  • Vallejo looks to enlarge water pipeline in a hurry: Faced with the loss of access to Sacramento River water, comprising 53% of the city’s water supply, the Council is springing into action: ” … At a special 5 p.m. Vallejo City Council meeting Tuesday, Public Works Director David Kleinschmidt will seek approval to divert up to $5.2 million from other city water projects to dramatically enlarge the pipeline supplying the city with Lake Berryessa water. The spending request also would allow the city to circumvent its standard competitive bidding process for contractors, if council members declare a state of emergency.  “We’ve got to do this before we get shut off, and the peak water demands in June,” City Manager Dan Keen said in an interview Friday. “It’s kind of a high-stakes problem.” … ”  Read more from the Times-Herald here:  Water emergency on Vallejo’s horizon without needed piping upgrades
  • Assemblyman wants legislature to have the last say:  “The elected lawmakers of California’s Legislature must have the final say – not an appointed board – on whether massive twin water tunnels are to be built under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, says Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley.  He’s author of a bill, AB 1671, which would require the approval of the twin, 36-mile-long tunnels by the Legislature before it could move forward. Currently, approval rests with the Delta Stewardship Council, a seven-member group, the majority of whom owe their positions to the governor. The governor is the leading proponent for the $67 billion tunnel idea. … ”  Read more from the Central Valley Business Times here: Who’s in charge here? Lawmaker challenges Delta tunnels process
  • Democrat’s supermajority ends, but Steinberg says it won’t hinder water bond:  ” … Democrats’ two-thirds majority in the Senate ended when Sen. Ron Calderon took an indefinite leave of absence this week after being indicted on federal corruption charges. Last week, Sen. Roderick Wright took a leave after he was convicted of voter fraud and perjury.  Their departures drop Democrats’ majority to 26 in the 40-seat chamber, one less than they need to raise taxes, pass emergency legislation and put constitutional amendments before voters without Republican support.  “In general, I don’t think there will be a large effect. We haven’t used the two-thirds that much,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told reporters outside the Senate chamber. ... ”  Read more from The Republic here: Leader says Democrats’ loss of Senate supermajority will not hinder water bond, rainy day fund

In commentary today …

  • Jerry Brown needs to “show the money” on twin tunnels and high speed rail, says Dan Walters: Once in a while, a line of movie dialogue becomes a cultural icon, and it happened in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” when actor Cuba Gooding Jr., playing a talented athlete, told his agent (Tom Cruise) to “show me the money.”  It neatly captures the financial squeeze facing two big public works projects that Gov. Jerry Brown wants – drilling twin water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and building a bullet train, together likely well over $100 billion.  Brown needs enforceable pledges from big water agencies to pay for tunnel construction, plus federal funds and a multibillion-dollar state bond for habitat restoration and other aspects. … ”  Read more from Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee here:  Dan Walters: Brown must show the money for two big projects
  • California will learn what Texas did:by the time politicians and residents wake up to their wasteful ways, it’s too late, says Kate Galbraith: ” … Having moved from Texas to California last summer, I’ve watched up close as the nation’s two most populous states have struggled with drought. It’s not pretty. Both are major agricultural states that do remarkably little to regulate groundwater. Both have published lists of towns that could run out of water, sending shockwaves through those communities. Both experienced massive wildfires during their driest-ever year. Most worrying of all, Texas’s water supply still hasn’t recovered from the beating it took in 2011. California, similarly, will take a long time to emerge from this terrible dry spell. Even now, after every rain, the headlines scream “not enough.” … ”  Read more here at U.S. News:  America’s Axis of Drought

WeatherPrecipitation watch …

  • More storms on the way:  From the National Weather Service in Sacramento:  “Impressive precipitation totals of 2 to 3 inches were observed over the past 24 hours across northern Shasta and eastern Butte counties. The region will see a relative break today, then more rain is on the way for Wednesday into Thursday. “
  • Have the storms helped the drought?  From the Accu-Weather Western Weather Blog: “The drought in California did not just develop this year, or in the last 12 months, but over the last 3 years. It is unrealistic to think one series of storms is going to have a huge impact on the long-term drought. But how did last weeks two storms help the current drought situation.  Many times it is said a picture is better than a thousand words. In this case a set of graphics will do most of the speaking. … ”  Continue reading here:  Have the Storms Helped the Drought?
  • Dry pattern to return, says Accu-Weather:A dry weather pattern has returned to much of California after the recent spell of rainy weather, leaving residents wondering when they will see rain again.  Although no major storms are on the horizon, moisture streaming over the Pacific Northwest will occasionally dip southward, bringing a few opportunities for rain in northern and central California through next week. ... ”  Read more here:  Dry Pattern to Continue for Drought-Stricken California

Today on the Notebook blog …

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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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