News Worth Noting: House Committee on Natural Resources: California water supply under threat by conflicting federal agencies; Fitch removes Westlands Water District’s negative bond rating

California Water Supply Under Threat by Conflicting Federal Agencies

From the House Committee on Natural Resources:

house nat res comm[Yesterday], the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing on conflicting ideas between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that could threaten portions of California’s water supply.

NMFS proposed holding back water behind Shasta Dam through the summer and fall to preserve cold water for the Winter-run Chinook salmon. Conversely, FWS seeks to release water, increasing Bay-Delta outflow for the Delta smelt.

The conflicting proposals are causing great uncertainty for local communities and water users in California. Witness Jeffrey Sutton, General Manager of Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, described several problems limited water releases—as NMFS proposed—have already caused and will continue to create.

“Reduced releases caused havoc on Sacramento River operations, resulting in some senior water contractors being shorted water supply, harm to irrigation pumping facilities due to low river elevations, water users having to alternatively pump groundwater wells at increased cost and from overly exercised aquifers due to the recent drought,” Sutton said.

“The fish agencies have based their latest demands on the premise that more water equals more fish. That notion has failed to work, as more water has been dedicated to the fish, but their populations continue to dwindle mainly due to ocean conditions, predatory fish and other natural factors,” Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) stated. “Defending the way the agencies have done business in this latest California saga is similar to a doctor ignoring the causes of sickness that could be cured.”

Ara Azhderian, Water Policy Administrator of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, claimed fish are not recovering and farmers are suffering because the costs and benefits of such water uses are not accurately examined.

“Unlike agricultural and municipal usage which must account for the use and ensure the benefit of each drop, environmental usage undergoes no such scrutiny. On the contrary, its benefit is simply assumed,” Azhderian said.

Witnesses discussed a number of solutions, including a single FWS-NMFS plan to cover both salmon and Delta smelt needs as opposed to the current conflicting proposals and two separate plans. Rep. Gosar also proposed merging FWS’ and NMFS’ responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, similar to President Obama’s proposal mentioned during a statement in his 2011 State of the Union address.

Click here to view full witness testimony.

Fitch removes Westlands Water District’s negative bond rating

From the Westlands Water District:

Westlands-Water-DistrictWe are pleased with Fitch’s decision to affirm the rating of AA- and remove the negative watch rating based on the actions the District has taken to insure proper reporting in the future. The revised rating follows similar action by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services which also removed its CreditWatch rating and affirmed its ‘A+’ long-term rating for Westlands Water District.

As a result of its analysis, Fitch also issued a negative outlook rating over additional drainage responsibility that Westlands will be required to manage under the drainage settlement reached between Westlands Water District and the United States Government. Westlands Water District looks forward to the enactment of the drainage legislation pending in Congress and to working with farmers and the Department of Interior to implement a program that fulfills the obligations contained within the agreement.

FitchRatings document is below and available here:
https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pressrelease?id=1008779

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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