Daily Digest: Millerton Lake to be tapped for San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors, Brown makes plea for Delta tunnels, and much more

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Millerton Lake to be tapped for northern San Joaquin Valley users, officials say; Amid drought, senior water rights holders get first dibs; Water boost for San Joaquin Valley excludes citrus belt; Brown makes urgent plea for delta tunnels; Water tunnel boondoggle; Expert panel gathers insight on water qualityDrought prompts early campfire restrictions in Northern California; Glenn County Supervisors call for a water bond; Governor’s water plan would negatively impact the Delta and Solano ag, county leaders told; During drought, Southern California relies on groundwater, but there are problems; Castaic Lake to be shorted instead of shrinking Lake Perris; Pulse flow through Colorado River Delta will reach the sea by Thursday; Ogallala Water Use Climbs as Drought Intensifies in the Southern Plains

In the news today …

  • Millerton Lake to be tapped for northern San Joaquin Valley users, officials say: For the first time ever, federal water managers will tap San Joaquin River water to meet contractual obligations to west side landowners, officials announced Tuesday.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will use water from Millerton Lake and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to provide 529,000 acre-feet of water to the landowners from Patterson to Mendota. Many of them are farmers.  For those landowners, that’s an improvement over the 350,000 acre-feet — 40% of their allotment — they were previously told they would get. Other Valley landowners without priority rights — including farmers on the east side — were told to expect no federal water this year. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Millerton Lake to be tapped for northern San Joaquin Valley users, officials say
  • Amid drought, senior water rights holders get first dibs:  To the old go the spoils.  Old water rights holders, that is. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation updated its water allocation numbers Tuesday for Central Valley Project water users south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the only good news for agriculture applied to the San Joaquin River exchange contractors — some of the most senior water rights users in the state who established their claim to San Joaquin River water long before the project was even a thought in somebody’s head.  The bureau announced that Millerton Lake — fed by the San Joaquin River — would be drained to satisfy the exchange contractors’ needs for the first time since 1939. With the extra water, the contractors will end up with about 65 percent of their historical allocation. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Amid drought, senior water rights holders get first dibs
  • Water boost for San Joaquin Valley excludes citrus belt:  “Federal officials boosted water allocations for farms and wildlife along the San Joaquin River, but little relief appears headed to the state’s beleaguered citrus belt.  U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials announced May 13 that exchange contractors along the river will get 529,000 acre-feet of water this year — about 65 percent of their normal allocation. They had been slated to receive 40 percent.  Some high-priority wildlife refuges in the region will see a similar boost. To accomplish the increases, Reclamation will begin releasing water from Friant Dam near Fresno as well as from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here:  Water boost for San Joaquin Valley excludes citrus belt
  • Brown makes urgent plea for delta tunnels:Gov. Jerry Brown delivered an impassioned defense of his ambitious plan to drill huge tunnels through the delta east of San Francisco to move more northern water south, saying California’s economic well-being depended on it.  Brown said during a state budget briefing that the huge public works project – easily, the largest in the nation’s history — “is an economic necessity that I’ve laid out, not because I want a legacy but because it appears absolutely imperative for the economic well-being of the people of California into the future.” ... ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here:  Brown makes urgent plea for delta tunnels
  • Water tunnel boondoggle:  “The small town of Byron is one of the last rural outposts of the East Bay. While its neighbors in east Contra Costa County — Brentwood, Oakley, and Antioch — have grown rapidly over the years, Byron has more or less stayed the same. “By Nebraska standards we’re not rural, but by California standards we’re very rural,” said Cathy Leighton, a local historian whose family has lived in the small town for seven generations. “Most people here have a horse in their backyard.”  Yet while Byron might be easy to miss, it is by no means insignificant. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Express:  The Water Tunnel Boondoggle
  • Expert panel gathers insight on water quality:”Following through on legislative requirements to address nitrates in groundwater, the State Water Resources Control Board has convened a panel of experts to provide findings and recommendations for protecting groundwater quality.  The panel has held several public meetings around the state to gather practical information from farmers, scientists, regulators and the public about groundwater quality, current water management practices, and approaches to tracking and reporting activities.  Charles Burt, professor emeritus and chairman of the Irrigation Training and Research Center at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, serves as panel chairman. Panel members include a soil scientist, a hydrogeologist, an agronomist, crop advisors and farmers. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Expert panel gathers insight on water quality
  • Drought prompts early campfire restrictions in Northern California:  Ongoing drought conditions have triggered early campfire restrictions on public lands throughout Northern California.  The Bureau of Land Management last week banned campfires and other potential fire triggers outside of developed campgrounds on its properties in Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Yolo, Colusa, Glenn and Solano counties.  “It is early,” said fire mitigation specialist Jeff Tunnell. In normal years, restrictions don’t go into effect until July, he said. But summer conditions already are here. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Drought prompts early campfire restrictions in Northern California
  • Glenn County Supervisors call for a water bond:  “The Glenn County Board of Supervisors has joined with other counties in calling for a balanced water bond on the November ballot that meets the needs of all of California.  Prompted by a letter from Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida, the board at its first night meeting May 6, joined a coalition of counties hoping to take part in crafting a comprehensive water bond that protects Northern California interests. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Supervisors call for a water bond
  • Governor’s water plan would negatively impact the Delta and Solano ag, county leaders told: It is uncertain just how much a proposed state water plan will impact Northern California, but what is known is that Solano County’s agricultural lands and the Suisun Marsh will be negatively effected.  During another review of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the Solano County Board of Supervisors received an update Tuesday on what is known to be impacted if the governor’s plan moves forward.  Director of Resource Management Bill Emlen and the county’s consulting team said the theme of uncertainty continues to be an issue when it comes to the multibillion dollar plan. ... ”  Read more from The Reporter here: Governor’s water plan would negatively impact the Delta and Solano ag, county leaders told
  • During drought, Southern California relies on groundwater, but there are problems:  “As the drought grinds on, water managers in Southern California are trying to make the region less dependent on water piped in from elsewhere: They’re focusing on local sources, especially those underground. But ongoing challenges make exploiting groundwater more difficult than just digging a well. Among the challenges: the intrusion of salt water into underground aquifers; pollution from industrial sources and underground gasoline tanks; and tapping aquifers that don’t naturally replenish themselves. … ”  Read more from KPCC here: Drought: SoCal relies more on groundwater, but there are problems
  • Castaic Lake to be shorted instead of shrinking Lake Perris:  “The magnitude of California’s drought hit home with water managers recently when they considered draining what’s left of Lake Perris just to get some Inland communities through a dry spring.  The unprecedented move was averted in the past few weeks after Metropolitan Water District, Southern California’s wholesaler, searched for another way to get 30,000 acre-feet of water to western Riverside County. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  DROUGHT: Water district will short Castaic instead of shrinking Lake Perris
  • Pulse flow through Colorado River Delta will reach the sea by Thursday:  “For the first time in many years, the Colorado River is apparently about to reach the sea.  Based on aerial photos taken of the Colorado River Delta, the world-renowned delta pulse flow that started nearly two months ago is likely to connect with the Gulf of California on Thursday, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official said this morning.  “Based on these more recent aerial images . . . with Thursday’s projected high tide event in the delta, the river should re-connect with the sea then,” said Jack Simes, the bureau’s area planning officer for Southern California and its spokesman for the delta pulse flow project. ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Colorado Delta pulse flow should connect with the sea by Thursday, feds say
  • Ogallala Water Use Climbs as Drought Intensifies in the Southern Plains:  “Drought is deepening in the southern Great Plains, a beleaguered region whose four-year dry cycle has been like a roller coaster ride through a high-velocity hair dryer. Soils are baked and blowing, farmers are nervous, and groundwater tables continue to fall.  Clawed by 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts and roasted by a warm, dry spring, the strip of land from southwest Kansas to the oil fields of the Permian Basin in Texas plunged swiftly in the last three months into the depths of drought. Every county in the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas is in the worst category of the weekly U.S. drought rankings. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue Water News here:  Ogallala Water Use Climbs as Drought Intensifies in the Southern Plains

In commentary today …

  • If our water system were a bank, we’d be under new management, says Jeff Fabbri: He writes: ” … Water deliveries have been unevenly distributed from year to year, creating centuries of wet and dry cycles in California. When in need, we are supposed to be able to go to the water bank where our stored water currency should have been placed in an account (storage), ready for us to draw upon in drought years.  We are in a severe drought, and it’s time to go to the bank. But since the bank was built, new management has redirected our investment. Apparently, management hasn’t stored our good-year water for this critical time. Rather, they have invested over 3 million acre-feet of fresh water (our money) to fulfill new California laws allowing the State Water Project bank to use water to “improve water quality in the Delta” and “enhance fish and wildlife.” That leaves Californians nearly 978 billion gallons short. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  If our water system were a bank, we’d be under new management

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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