California has been the nation’s
leading agricultural and dairy state for the past 50 years. The
state’s 80,500 farms and ranches produce more than 400 different
agricultural products. These products generated a record $44.7
billion in sales value in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of
the US total.
Breaking down the state’s agricultural role in the country,
California produces 21 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 23
percent of its cheese and 92 percent of all grapes. The state
also produces half of all domestically-grown fruits, nuts and
vegetables, including some products, such as almonds, walnuts,
artichokes, persimmons and pomegranates, of which 99 percent are
grown in California.
Overall, about 3 percent of employment in the state is directly
or indirectly related to agriculture.
The Bureau of Reclamation once again revised its allocation for
westside farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, announcing Friday
it would provide 75 percent of its contracted amount of water.
The announcement is an increase of five percent from late May.
Water is a complex problem on Earth: Some places get far too
little of it and some get far too much. That’s why NASA and its
international partners are tracking the flow of freshwater
across the world in hopes of improving access to it for the
billions of us who depend on it.
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn’t
just strong—it’s imperative. And for the first time in more
than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from
California’s San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have
heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual
After years of defending its proposed water grab from our
region’s rivers, the state Water Board chose to ignore all
science and impose orders to take the water anyway. Likewise,
until recently when Gov. Newsom wisely said “no” to the twin
tunnels, the state insisted on devastating the Delta by
stubbornly refusing to consider alternatives. And five years
after passage of the historic 2014 water bond, no new water
storage facilities have even started construction.
Blythe is on the California side of the Colorado River where
Interstate 10 crosses, with a freeway fast food/motel strip and
the sort of beleaguered economy you see in desert ag towns of
the Lower Colorado. Average per capita annual income here is
$16,329, just 55 percent of the state average, according to the
U.S. Census Bureau. I have a few different stories about why my
life is so entwined with the Colorado River. This is one of
The Bureau of Reclamation Friday issued updated Central Valley
Project South-of-Delta allocations for the 2019 contract year.
“I am pleased to announce that South-of-Delta agricultural
water service contractors’ allocations have been increased to
75% of their contract total because of May’s snow and rain
totals,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant.
The Golden State is cursed with some of the finest weather and
richest soil on earth. Its luminous skies and airy loam have
been crucial to California’s transformation into our most
populous and agriculturally most bountiful state. But
capricious nature has withheld one essential resource needed to
sustain this dizzying growth—water. In his sprawling,
provocative book “The Dreamt Land,” journalist Mark Arax
examines California’s long-building water crisis with the keen,
loving, troubled eye of a native son.
Increasing Upper Colorado River Basin water use by just 11.5
percent would double the risk that the Upper Basin fails to
have enough water to meet its obligations under the Colorado
River Compact, according to a new modeling study to be rolled
out in a big meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, next week.
Driving along Interstate 5 south of Sacramento, you wouldn’t
notice anything unique about the land stretched out beyond your
car window. But hidden between Interstate 5 and Walnut Grove,
lies one of the most important environmental restoration sites
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
California water regulators received a federal rebuke this week
over an incomplete water quality plan submission. Feeling the
irony, Tri-Dam Project partners, the Oakdale (OID) and South
San Joaquin (SSJID) irrigation districts, which hold senior
water rights on the Stanislaus River and are among over two
dozen agencies suing the State Water Resources Control Board,
were quick to comment.
After seven years of drought in California that drained
aquifers and brought many farmers to the brink, legislators in
Sacramento crafted a bunch of rules governing water usage.
Those rules, many of which kick in next year, cap how much
water farmers and cities can use. The regulations have caused a
lot of anger and panic in the farming community. But also…a
lot of innovation.
Jason Mead at Wyoming’s Water Development Office says more dams
could help ranchers survive the coming droughts, but some
scientists say, building more dams might actually worsen
climate change. University of Wyoming soil scientist Jay Norton
says, dams that manage for flood control, for example, could
have a damaging effect.
The newly-adopted regulations create a new statewide wetland
definition that expands to features not previously covered
under federal law and creates a new permitting program for
activities that result in the discharge of dredge or fill
materials to any Waters of the State. … At the recent
Nossaman Land Use Seminar, attorney and partner Mary Lynn
Coffee gave an overview of the new regulations.
A welcome surge of melting snow is pouring out of the Rocky
Mountains and into the drought-stricken rivers of the
southwestern U.S., fending off a water shortage but threatening
to push rivers over their banks.
A new law signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is designed to
provide legal protections to those who drill wells into
underground streams they are not legally entitled to tap. The
measure repeals existing laws that make it a crime when a well
owner “uses water to which another is entitled.” … Now, that
criminal penalty will be available only when someone knew they
were breaking the law.
The effort, particularly in California, amounted to a wholesale
re-engineering of the existing hydrology to suit the needs of
ranchers and farmers. It was “California’s irrigated miracle,”
as Mark Arax calls it in his new book, “the greatest human
alteration of a physical environment in history.” “The Dreamt
Land” is Arax’s exhaustive, deeply reported account of this
The California Farm Water Coalition (CFWC) continues its effort
to better educate urban water users about the issues the
agricultural industry is working to overcome. The coalition has
been shifting its focus to deliver information to a more select
group of consumers in order to have the most beneficial impact.
The Coachella Valley Water District board of directors voted
4-0 on Tuesday to increase domestic water rates by an average
of $1.82 per month, effective July 1. The final rate was lower
than the average $5.62 rate hike recommended by staff, who had
outlined the need for important upgrades to infrastructure,
including replacing miles of water mains and scores of
reservoirs requiring inspections and rehabilitation.
This year, the planting season was repeatedly interrupted by
colder temperatures and exceptionally heavy rainfall. … The
reason for so much delay? Rice fields need enough time after
significantly wet storms to dry out for planting, and the types
of storms received this May came in waves close enough
together, with record amounts of water, to necessitate delayed
County supervisors want to know why petroleum gases were
detected in samples drawn in 2017 from agricultural water wells
on the Oxnard Plain. With no answers available yet, they voted
unanimously to extend the moratorium to protect groundwater
The DA’s lawsuit alleges that Monterey Mushrooms’ growing
facility on Hale Avenue violated multiple Fish and Game and
Business and Professions laws from 2012 to 2017. Specifically,
the DA’s office states the facility allowed its farm production
waste and other wastewater to flow into Fisher Creek and its
tributaries, which border the north Morgan Hill facility.
Following through on its threats, on May 21 the group Save the
El Dorado Canal filed suit against the El Dorado Irrigation
District over plans to pipe the El Dorado Canal (also called
the Upper Main Ditch) in Pollock Pines. … The canal is seen
as a historical, environmental and recreational asset in the
community as well as a conveyance that protects and enhances
California is sinking. Literally. Right before our eyes, even
as we struggle to see it. In parts of the state’s Central
Valley, the 50-mile-wide and 400-mile-long agricultural engine
of America immortalized by John Steinbeck and Joan Didion, the
earth is receding back into itself at a rate of more than a
foot per year. Why? The ceaseless drilling and pumping of water
to fuel a region that produces one quarter of the nation’s
Issues including agricultural trade, immigration reform and
water storage emerged as priorities as a delegation of Farm
Bureau leaders from California met with administration
officials and members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
On the ground, it’s hard to get a fix on the Central Valley; it
flashes by as dun-colored monotony — a sun-stunned void beyond
the freeway berms. … But in “The Dreamt Land,” former L.A.
Times reporter Mark Arax makes a riveting case that this
expanse … as much as the world cities on its coast, holds the
key to understanding California.
Of all the issues that have crossed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk
during his first 100 days in office, water might very well be
the most complex. … I am an almond grower from Merced County,
and we in the California almond community are all rooting for
the governor, his fellow policymakers and regulators to succeed
in finding viable solutions and common ground.
A plan to underground about 2.5 miles of the Escondido Canal
through and near the San Pasqual Indian reservation has moved
forward with an agreement reached recently for Escondido to pay
the tribe for an easement through its land. The 14-mile-long
Escondido Canal transports water from Lake Henshaw to Lake
Wohlford where it is stored for use by Escondido and Vista
Irrigation District consumers.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
CSUN students and faculty have long contributed to California’s
efforts to ensure access to clean drinking water, efforts that
have intensified during the recent multi-year drought. A group
of students in CSUN’s Department of Geography and Environmental
Studies is helping in these efforts.
On Tuesday, May 21, the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County
Water Agencyand the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved
a plan to offset a fee that is likely to be imposed on
groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain… Under the plan,
the County and Sonoma Water would contribute up to $240,000
annually for three years to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
Because of the pelting rains and accompanying windy conditions,
chardonnay and pinot noir grapes have the greatest chance to
suffer from shatter, the term used by vintners when a
grapevine’s delicate flowers don’t pollinate and develop into
Recently-appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has
rescinded a letter of support that Obama-era Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell wrote in 2016. … Matt Cox is with the Klamath
River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit formed to implement
the dam removal agreement. He says rescinding Jewell’s letter
has no legal effect.
Bruce Blodgett is executive director of the farm bureau in San
Joaquin County, California’s cherry bowl. The mid-May downpour
and his windshield wipers told him everything he needed to
know: His county’s record ready-to-pick yield of sweet cherries
– one of San Joaquin’s most lucrative crops even amid the
county’s winemaking renaissance – was in serious danger.
Mark Arax’s new book, “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust
Across California,” explores how the quest to find and move
water has always been essential to the California Dream. … He
sat down with California Report Magazine Host Sasha Khokha.
Aidee Guzman is focusing on these small farms to find out
whether, ecologically, this diversity has any positive effects
on soil health. Her work won’t be published for another two
years, but there is already a large body of research that
explains how large monocropping operations strip soils of their
nutrients and make them less capable of storing carbon… As
she works, she is documenting a potential alternative to the
industrial mega-farms of the valley and the West.
Halting plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River was the
theme of a well-attended fundraising event hosted May 4 by the
Siskiyou County Water Users Association. Guest speakers,
including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Siskiyou County Supervisor
Brandon Criss, former Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams
and Attorney James Buchal, author of “The Great Salmon Hoax”
discussed problems they foresee with dam removal which they
believe is far from a done deal.
A brackish water study conducted by consulting firm Aqualogic
has predicted three potential areas that can be tapped for
brackish water extraction in the Indian Wells Valley. … The
brackish water project has the potential to help expand local
supplies if the water is properly treated and brine removed.
Like everyone else in Santa Clara Valley who uses wells,
farmers will see their groundwater production charges go up 6.8
percent this year. But unlike the others, they’ll continue to
receive substantial subsidies. In approving the increased
charges for well users, the Santa Clara Valley Water District
board left intact for at least two years the current structure
that allows farmers to pay only 6 percent of the amount
residents and businesses pay.
A jury in Oakland, Calif., ordered Monsanto on Monday to pay a
couple more than $2 billion in damages after finding that its
Roundup weed killer caused their cancer — the third jury to
conclude that the company failed to warn consumers of its
flagship product’s dangers. Thousands of additional lawsuits
against Monsanto, which Bayer acquired last year, are queued up
in state and federal courts.
State water regulators gave local sanitation officials three
more years to carry out their plan to reduce the amount of
chloride that ends up in the Santa Clara River. … The
sanitation district … was mandated to reduce the amount of
chloride, or salt, that discharges from wastewater treatment
plants into the Santa Clara River, largely due to concerns by
downstream farmers that chloride was damaging salt-sensitive
crops such as strawberries and avocados.
The water that irrigates Santa Clara Valley’s last farms comes
dirt cheap for growers who pump it out of the ground. They pay
just a fraction — 6 percent — of the amount residents and
businesses in the valley must pony up for their well water. The
rest of the cost for farmers’ water is subsidized, mostly from
revenue the Santa Clara Valley Water District receives through
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
The Ukiah City Council recently approved contributing another
$50,000 to a local group’s effort to explore the possibility of
buying the Potter Valley Project. … Sean White, the city’s
director of water resources, described the dam facility as
“essentially a diversion of Eel River water through a tunnel
that provides major benefits to Lake Mendocino, which provides
a significant amount of our water supply.”
Only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain unimpeded
and free-flowing from their source to where they empty,
according to a study published today in Nature. Free-flowing
rivers are ecologically crucial — replenishing groundwater,
bolstering biodiversity, and reducing the impacts of droughts
The nation’s most productive agricultural state will ban a
widely used toxic pesticide blamed for harming brain
development in babies, California officials said Wednesday. The
move would outlaw chlorpyrifos after scientists deemed it a
toxic air contaminant and discovered it to be more dangerous
than previously thought.
The USDA report, released Tuesday, finds that between $47
billion and $65 billion could be added to the U.S. agricultural
economy annually if infrastructure for what the report calls
“precision agriculture” — a term for farming practices that
emphasize digitally-based data collection and e-connectivity
(often via broadband) — is deployed in rural agricultural
economies on a large scale.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
Born and raised in Northern California, Brad Gates has been
organically farming tomatoes in the region for 25 years,
working on small leased plots and introducing new varieties
with cult followings… For most of that time, he sold his
tomatoes to top restaurants, including Chez Panisse in
Berkeley. But a few years ago he completely rethought his work.
Galvanized by climate change, he joined a growing number of
farmers who are trying to find a future for their threatened
Several studies have linked prenatal exposure of chlorpyrifos
to lower birth weights, lower IQs, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder and other developmental issues in
children. But the EPA in 2017 ignored the conclusions of its
scientists and rejected a proposal made during the Obama
administration to ban its use in fields and orchards.
Instead of waiting for Yuima Valley’s precious groundwater
supplies to dry up, the Yuima Municipal Water District and
local farmers are working cooperatively to create a sustainable
long-term strategy for maintaining the region’s economy and
quality of life by proactively managing the valley’s aquifer.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the
Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The
$3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam
Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that
provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million
in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s
reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant
attention. (First of two parts.)
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.
Cannabis is the most highly regulated crop in California, and
the state just added another layer of regulation. This article
breaks down the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB)
recently updated Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and
Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation (“Policy”) into six key
Balancing fisheries restoration and water-supply reliability is
central to a water struggle playing out in Mendocino, Lake,
Sonoma and Humboldt counties after Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
withdrew its application to relicense the Potter Valley
Project, leaving the now “orphaned” project in the hands of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Agriculture appears to be slowly receding in California. Though
it still leads the nation in production, the Golden State lost
more than 1 million acres of farmland and some 7,000 farms from
2012-2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had
an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new
study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s
notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s
efforts to clear the skies.
Zig-zagging around us, among the trees, is a sprawling network
of irrigation ditches. It’s almost laid out like a farm.
Instead of the food crops grown all around this site,
Schlatter’s team grows trees and willows, prime habitat for
birds, coyotes, frogs and other wildlife. The whole site only
receives water a couple times a year.
The Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District, or ACID, Canal was
covered in tree debris after the snow and rain storms. The
workload was enough that Congressman Doug Lamalfa called in the
California Conservation Corps.
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
Casey Hashimoto, general manager of the Turlock Irrigation
District since 2010, announced Tuesday that he will retire at
the end of 2019. The leader of one of Stanislaus County’s
largest water and power providers disclosed his plans at the
morning board meeting. Hashimoto, an electrical engineer,
joined TID in 1985 and was an assistant GM for 10 years.
For the millions of Californians who live and work far from the
Delta, it can be easy to overlook the splendor of the largest
estuary in western North America. Whether you are one mile or
hundreds of miles from the Delta, however, all Californians
have a stake in the survival and preservation of this fragile,
dynamic ecosystem that is also the keystone of the state’s
water supply system.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid.
Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very
different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
… Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s
long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas
are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from
the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County.
Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its
water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That
stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President
Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water
Venture through California’s Central Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Despite its designation as a desert, the Coachella Valley is
blessed with water. The very names associated with the most
prominent places and businesses in the desert, such as the
Oasis Hotel, Mineral Springs Hotel, Deep Well, Indian Wells,
Palm Springs, Snow Creek, and Tahquitz River Estates, all
conjure up pretty images of water. But the early story of
desert water is more utilitarian than picturesque: it quite
literally can be seen as a history of ditches.
Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel testified Thursday
that lack of water has been killing crops and livestock – and,
essentially, the tribe’s economy – and things will only get
worse if federal funding is allowed to lapse. That’s why Manuel
joined officials from other tribes, utilities and advocacy
groups to urge passage of a bill by Rep. Raul Grijalva,
D-Tucson, that would make permanent a federal fund used to help
the government meet its obligations under legal settlements
over water-rights issues.
As farmers plant their 2019 crops, hopeful for an abundant
harvest, they are unknowingly battling history. Past wildfires
and other tree loss in California will likely interfere with
U.S. food crops, based on emerging results of our own and
colleagues’ research. … Deforestation could cause millions of
dollars in lost agricultural production throughout the U.S. But
policy and practice still fail to recognize the interdependence
of our wild and cultivated lands.
Brown and former first lady Anne Gust Brown, in their first
public appearance since he left office in January, spoke to
about 100 attendees about the daunting challenges they face
living on a self-sustaining farm: installing solar panels for
power, collecting water from a well, and tending to an olive
For the past year the state’s worked to eradicate the rodents
for a second time. The rodents were brought to California in
the 1900s for the fur trade and fur farming. “[The] challenge
is we keep looking and we keep finding more nutria,” said Peter
Tira with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“However, we do know there’s about 1.8 million acres of
suitable nutria habitat. This is the largest nutria eradication
ever attempted in the United States.”
One month after destructive flooding tore through Sonoma
County, residents are waiting for the state to decide if it
will ask the federal government for a disaster declaration — a
move that they say can bring them much-needed financial aid.
Growers in the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement will
soon be sanitizing “open-source” water used on their crops,
which has been the focus of at least two recent E. coli
outbreaks traced to leafy greens. Scott Horsfall, the group’s
CEO, said the new water treatment rules could be implemented as
early as late April, or as late as mid-July.
Researchers across the United States say the milder winters of
a changing climate are inducing earlier flowering of temperate
tree fruits, exposing the blooms and nascent fruit to
increasingly erratic frosts, hail and other adverse weather.
The problem is not obvious to consumers, in part because a
harvest collapse in one region can be masked by a bumper crop
in another. But unless breeders can produce more
climate-resilient varieties, fruit-growing regions of the
United States will be seriously disrupted by future warming
scenarios, scientists say.
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
Five years ago, the Sweetwater Authority paid one of its
engineers $175,000 to drop a lawsuit against the water district
if he agreed to never work there again. Now, the engineer,
Hector Martinez, is one of seven board members in charge of
running the district.
I introduced AB 854 because the board of directors of IID, one
of California’s most powerful municipal utilities, operates
without representation from Riverside County ratepayers who
make up 60 percent of their service territory. Moreover,
according to The Desert Sun, Riverside County ratepayers
provide IID with the majority of its revenue yet have no voice
on how their municipal utility is managed.
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some
high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the
federal government needs to build a controversial dam
project… And they can use state water quality standards to
limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for
Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
As the Sacramento River rose in late February and early March
due to a series of storms, it spilled over and flooded several
hundred acres of recently planted fields south of Hamilton
City. Just the way it was planned. The river poured through a
gap that had been opened in the old J Levee and flooded a
habitat restoration project between the riverbank and a new
levee that had been built, set back from the river a mile or
Some community members are demanding the county do more to
safeguard reservoir water quality and save carbon-sequestering
trees to combat climate change. Others say no proof exists that
drastic steps are needed and that the results could hurt
agriculture and vineyard development.
More than 400 nutria have been captured in the first year of an
effort to eradicate the invasive South American rodent from
California. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said
Monday the semi-aquatic rodents were trapped in five counties
in the San Joaquin Valley. Nutria are an agricultural pest,
destroy wetlands critical to native wildlife and threaten water
delivery and flood control infrastructure through destructive
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been battling the
destructive Nutria for two years. State biologists believe it
will be another three years before they win the war against the
pesky rodent. The nutria is considered a triple threat to
Valley wetlands, agriculture and water delivery systems.
Addressing concerns that include floods, droughts, wildfires
and state regulations on river flow, two state officials
advised farmers and ranchers to remain engaged in those and
other natural-resources issues. At the California Farm Bureau
Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento last week,
California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot
said his top priorities include water and wildfire protection.
They are a semiaquatic South American rodent a bit smaller than
a beaver. Females can give birth three times a year and have up
to 12 babies each litter. They are really good at tearing up
crops, burrowing tunnels into levees, and other destructive
behavior that is tough on farmers. And they’ve been discovered
in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a major food-producing
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the
background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges
in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for
growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water
District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow
packs and filling reservoirs.
A “major problem” in southeast Tulare County forced hundreds of
people out of their homes and endangered thousands of animals.
… Tulare County Sheriff’s Department was sent scrambling to
notify residents in the area of Strathmore that Frazier Creek
Canal spilled over and water levels were rising. Frazier Creek
is directly linked to the Friant-Kern Canal. … Friant-Kern
Water Authority officials later determined the flooding wasn’t
caused by “overtopping” of the Friant-Kern Canal’s banks. The
issue was drainage from Frazier Creek.
For a region so crucial to the growth of California as we know
it today, you might think there would be libraries full of
books about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And yet, as UC
Merced scholar Gregg Camfield wrote several years ago, the most
obvious thing about the literature of the Delta “is how little
there is.” Advocates of the largest estuary on the west coast
of the Americas are trying to collect those scattered bits and
pieces in a new anthology of the Delta.
The Napa County Planning Commission is sending the
controversial, draft Water Quality and Tree Protection
Ordinance back to the Board of Supervisors with a few
recommended changes, but no sea change in direction.
Commissioners heard from about 50 speakers on Wednesday. Some
warned that too many additional environmental restrictions will
hurt farming. Some said that bold action is needed to protect
drinking water and combat climate change.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in
Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the
state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as
well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon
a common frustration among many valley Republicans that
billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed
rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama
Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central
Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife.
Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and
featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing
wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the
land has been taken over by large commercial farms and
vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that
have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely
investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the
University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Swollen rivers and creeks fed by atmospheric-river storms
caused flooding with both short-term and long-term impacts for
California farmers. Mary Ann Renner, a dairy farmer in the
Humboldt County town of Ferndale, said the flood from the Eel
River was not the worst she’s seen—but was close.
For California’s salmon fishermen, the downstream effects of
political decisions in Washington are too obvious to ignore.
It’s not merely a question of profit for us. We are the
stewards of the public fisheries resources who rely on their
long-term health for our existence. The viability of our future
can be challenged by who is in power in Washington, no matter
who they are.
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the
West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created
with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers
and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper.
After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing
that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of
electricity, they must fix the problems.
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an
estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is
protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of
legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily
populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks
out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s
major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by
overturning those two laws.
Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the
interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful
Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center
filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by
partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying
work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to
Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain
endangered fish populations.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in 2012 filed a
14-page lawsuit demanding the Fish and Wildlife Service
protect the American eel as a threatened species under the ESA.
Bernhardt filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of a
California-based organization called the Center for
Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, also known as
CESAR. CESAR was, in fact, a group spun together by
conservatives with roots in Western farming and the Bush
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on
behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered
Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta
smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official
since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been
finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the
farmers had hired him to oppose.
Congressmen John Garamendi and Doug LaMalfa have reintroduced
legislation to provide farmers access to discounted rates under
the National Flood Insurance Program. The
bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of
2019 (H.R.830) would also lift the de
facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of
agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
New data released measure changes in land subsidence in the
Sacramento Valley over the past nine years, finding the
greatest land surface declines in Arbuckle. According to the
Sacramento Valley GPS Subsidence Netwook Report and
accompanying fact sheet … land in the Arbuckle area has sunk
2.14 feet compared with baseline measurements recorded in the
same location in 2008, according to a press release from the
Department of Water Resources.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
The proposed tunnel path stretches 35 miles from west of Elk
Grove to just below Discovery Bay. The tunnels would take water
from three intakes along the Sacramento River to existing
aqueducts south of Discovery Bay, and then the water will be
sent to Southern California. Along the proposed path, there are
at least 22 levees that would sit above the tunnels….
The concern is not so much the levees themselves, but the kind
of soil that is below the levees.
It took more than a decade to create, but a revised state
definition of wetlands and procedures to protect them from
dredge-and-fill activities requires still more work to make the
plan more clear and to reduce its impact on farmers, ranchers
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
The nutria invasion of California continues. Greg Gerstenberg,
a biologist and nutria operations chief with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 372 nutria had been
trapped in the state as of Jan. 10. Bruce Blodgett, executive
director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, wants
farmers and others who maintain levees to be aware.
Angelenos bearing gifts have elicited skepticism in Owens
Valley since the early 1900s, when city agents posed as
ranchers and farmers to buy land and water rights and then
built dams and diversions that turned much of the region into
an acrid dust bowl. Now, the Los Angeles Department of
Water and Power is extending an olive branch. The department
has proposed selling some of the commercial property it leases
… to dozens of lessees in the financially struggling towns
along a rustic, 112-mile stretch of Highway 395 between the
eastern Sierra Nevada range and the White-Inyo Mountains.
Even in the depths of winter it’s easy to bite into a plump
blackberry or a delicate red raspberry, thanks to Driscoll’s,
the world’s largest berry company. In late 2018, I traveled to
the Pajaro Valley, west of Santa Cruz, for a tour of a
Driscoll’s research facility, which provided an eye-opening
view into how this family-owned company has become an
agriculture leader selling berries every month of the year, and
why they are so committed to water conservation.
Water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world.
Water tables have been falling in many regions for decades,
particularly in areas with intensive agriculture. Wells are
going dry and there are few long-term solutions available — a
common stopgap has been to drill deeper wells. This is exactly
what happened in California’s Central Valley. The recent
drought there prompted drilling of deeper and deeper water
wells to support irrigated agriculture.
Coachella Valley Water District board members on Tuesday
debated issuing a $40 million bond to pay for an extension of
the Oasis pipeline to bring imported water to about 40 farmers
and others in the irrigation district, who would pay the costs
back over 30 years. A small rate increase could be imposed as
well. The 17-mile pipeline and three pump stations would
provide Colorado River water to mostly longtime farmers in the
valley who already obtain much of their water from the river
via the All-American Canal, but get some from wells.
California’s new governor looked at the rainfall and saw
millions of dollars in uncollected water taxes going right down
the drain. In one of his first moves as chief executive, Newsom
declared that he wants to tax the state’s drinking water, in
order to give poor people access to safe and affordable water.
I guess this is his idea of trickle-down economics.
A day after proposing a tax on drinking water, Gov. Gavin
Newsom took a “surprise” road trip to meet with Stanislaus
County residents in a community known for having unsafe wells.
Newsom and his cabinet made their first stop at the Monterey
Park Tract in Ceres, where he held a roundtable discussion with
people who for years had to use bottled water for drinking and
cooking because their community’s two wells were
long-contaminated with nitrates and arsenic.
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
At the end of the last century, the Sierra Nevada captured an
average of 8.76 million acre-feet of water critical to the
nation’s largest food-producing region. By mid-century, a new
study projects, the average will fall to 4 million acre-feet;
and by century’s end, 1.81 million acre-feet.
The Merced Irrigation District board gave direction Wednesday
to take legal action challenging the state’s Bay-Delta water
quality control plan, which is strongly opposed by communities
in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The Wonderful Co., a major producer of packaged goods known for
its pistachios and POM beverages, announced Wednesday that it
will increase its minimum pay to $15 an hour for all of its
California workers starting Jan. 1. … The company has a
controversial presence in California. Multiple national
outlets, including Forbes, Mother Jones and the California
Sunday, have published stories in recent years chronicling
Wonderful’s massive water usage in otherwise bone-dry Central
Southern Californians could lose billions of gallons of water a
year to Central Valley farmers under a deal Gov. Jerry Brown’s
administration has struck with water officials working for
President Donald Trump. There’s no guarantee the agreement with
Trump will accomplish what Brown’s team is seeking: a lasting
compromise on environmental regulations that could stave off
significant water shortfalls for farms and cities across
Officials said a water reservoir at Adam Bros. Farms in Santa
Barbara County tested positive for the bacterial strain and the
owners are cooperating with U.S. officials. Officials from the
FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not
determined how the water reservoir — which is used to irrigate
lettuce — became contaminated.
California agriculture interests will find the farm bill
Congress passed this week largely means more of the same. …
The farm bill helps agricultural producers — whose business
interests can often run contrary to environmental well-being —
protect the environment, providing money so they don’t have to
pay more out of pocket in order to be environmentally
As all eyes turn to the State Water Resources Control Board on
Wednesday, the board won’t have complete settlement agreements
with Modesto-area irrigation districts to consider at a crucial
meeting. At most, the districts and negotiators with the state
Natural Resources Agency will have the basic framework of an
agreement that’s an alternative to a state plan for river flows
that is fiercely opposed by water users and local agencies in
The Trump administration laid out plans Tuesday to roll back
Obama-era rules protecting isolated streams and wetlands from
industrial pollution, a move that conservation groups said
could harm creeks and impact drinking water in the Bay Area and
throughout California. The move by the Environmental Protection
Agency to roll back the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule, known as
WOTUS, was hailed by farmers and industry, which have long
sought to rewrite the rules.
This 2-day, 1-night tour offers participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies.
Palm Desert resident Randy Roberts filed a class-action
lawsuit against the Coachella Valley Water District on Dec. 3,
claiming the cash-rich agency is illegally taxing
non-agricultural homeowners and businesses and has diverted
more than $60 million to fund projects that often benefit large
farmers. … Roberts, a longtime critic of the water
district, charges it has violated state voter-approved laws,
including Prop. 13 and Prop. 218, and the constitution.
Merced County sweet potato farmer Stan Silva hadn’t even heard
the word “nutria” until a few months ago. He’s still never seen
one, but he’s worried about the damage these 20-pound rodents
with big orange buck teeth could do in California if they’re
not eradicated. “It would be devastating,” Silva says. “They
can basically ruin the ag industry here — they get in your
fields, burrow into your canal ways, your waterways.” They can
also tear up crops and levees, making the state’s water
infrastructure more vulnerable.
A fierce local battle over water rights unfolding in a small
Southern California courtroom Wednesday could threaten federal
plans to replenish rapidly dwindling Colorado River water
supplies. A third-generation farmer is seeking an injunction to
block the Imperial Irrigation District from signing on to the
seven-state compact. The hearing comes a day-and-a-half after
the longtime general manager for the district, Kevin Kelley,
announced he will retire at year’s end, though he could stay on
as a consultant.
After touring the devastation of the Camp Fire in Paradise,
Calif. on Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that the
federal government would provide an additional $500 million in
funding to the 2018 farm bill for forest management to help
mitigate future fires.
This tour ventured through California’s Central
Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an
imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering
about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state,
the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40
percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout
Those who depend on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers
for agriculture and drinking water may have received a reprieve
Tuesday night. The State Water Resources Control Board was set
to adopt a proposal to double the amount of water allowed to
flow unimpeded down the rivers and out to the Sacramento-San
Joaquin delta on Wednesday.
When county officials from California flew across the country
last month to hear President Trump speak at the White House,
they got an earful from the commander in chief. Trump slammed
the Golden State, which has suffered through more than five
years of severe drought that ended only last year, for sending
its water out to sea rather than using it to nourish crops.
… The latest water struggle involves the California
State Water Resources Control Board, which is set to decide
whether to allow more water to flow through the San Joaquin
River and its tributaries.
Most signs point to the State Water Board approving a
much-disputed river flow plan next week that will mean less
water for farms and cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The board, also known as the State Water Resources Control
Board, is set to vote Wednesday to require irrigation districts
to leave more water in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced
rivers in an effort to restore salmon.
Jake Wenger grows walnuts on land where early settlers arrived
in search of gold and instead found rich soil. His orchards
just west of Modesto stretch 700 acres and supply a nut company
that has remained in his family for four generations. Like
other farmers in this congressional district at the northern
end of the San Joaquin Valley, Wenger, 34, said he fears his
livelihood is under siege by a state plan to reduce the waters
diverted from Northern California rivers for irrigation.
It didn’t take long for the press releases to fly after
President Donald Trump signed his recent memo — surrounded by
GOP members of Congress — “promoting the reliable supply and
delivery of water in the West.” Except for a few minor changes,
most of the press releases issued by those congressmen said the
same thing – that “environmental extremists and overzealous
bureaucrats” have created a water crisis in California that has
wreaked havoc in Central Valley farming communities.
The last several years, about 20 tule elk have taken up
residence on Nunes’ historic “A Ranch,” one of a handful of
private dairy farms and cattle ranches that sit inside the
federally-owned Point Reyes National Seashore.
It is the fall harvest here in this fertile stretch of oaks and
hills that produces some of the country’s best wine. This
season, though, workers also are plucking the sticky, fragrant
flowers of a new crop. Marijuana is emerging among the
vineyards, not as a rival to the valley’s grapes but as a
high-value commodity that could help reinvigorate a fading
agricultural tradition along the state’s Central Coast.
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic
landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key
source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
The Oakdale Irrigation District has completed a $15 million
tunnel that bypasses a section of canal at risk of rock slides.
The 5,949-foot tunnel a few miles east of Knights Ferry is the
10th that OID has built since it formed in 1909 to tap the
Stanislaus River. One machine bored from the east and one from
the west after the project launched in September 2017, with a
break for the 2018 irrigation season.
He is among more than 80 farmers now engaged in a state-funded
program aimed at increasing carbon concentrations in
California’s soil. Part of the state’s overarching goal of
curbing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change,
the California Healthy Soils Initiative took effect a year ago,
when the state’s cap-and-trade program made $7.5 million
available in small grants to farmers like Poncia. This year,
the Healthy Soils Program, one component of the initiative, is
receiving about $15 million.
Runoff from farms and feedlots has badly polluted Iowa’s
waterways, more than half of which do not meet federal quality
standards. Now, an unlikely coalition is calling for stricter
controls to clean up the drinking water sources for millions of
the state’s residents.
Stanislaus County will ask the state Supreme Court for a ruling
on whether environmental review is a necessary step for a new
water well. In August, a state appeals court overturned the
Stanislaus Superior Court’s decision in the Protecting Our
Water lawsuit, which sought an injunction against county well
For years, state boats have sprayed thousands of pounds of
herbicides into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to kill
invasive aquatic weeds. And, for years, California officials
have insisted they closely monitor their chemical use to
protect the ecologically fragile estuary and the drinking and
irrigation water the Delta supplies to millions of
Californians. A pending court case casts fresh doubt on those
The lush plains east of Yosemite National Park offer a window
into a bygone California — a place where sage grouse welcome
the arrival of spring with theatrical mating rituals and cattle
graze on verdant pastures. For nearly a century, these lands
have been made green thanks to annual flooding by the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power, helping maintain cattle
forage and keeping alive a culture of ranching in southern Mono
California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They
must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches.
The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20
years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could
force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much
sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious
world of California water.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a farming company has
agreed to pay $5.3 million in civil penalties and costs to
perform work to repair disturbed streams and wetlands on
property near the Sacramento River. … “Like the Duarte
settlement last year, today’s agreement serves the public
interest in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and deterrence
of future violations,” said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant
attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environmental and
Natural Resources Division.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s
plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river
systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But
north of Sacramento, River Garden Farms is taking part in some
extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge
from predators and enough food to eat. And while there is no
direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is
what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
Central Valley farmers and their elected leaders converged on
Sacramento on Tuesday to accuse the state of engineering a
water grab that puts the fate of fish above their fields and
jeopardizes a thriving agricultural economy. The allegations
came at a meeting of the powerful State Water Resources Control
Board, which recently unveiled a far-reaching plan to shore up
the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the West
Coast’s largest estuary and a source of water for much of
The Trump administration is accelerating efforts to pump more
of Northern California’s water to farmers in the San Joaquin
Valley, setting up a bruising conflict with state officials and
A lawsuit in California’s Imperial Valley could
determine who controls the single largest share of
Colorado River water in the West — a few hundred
landowning farmers, or the elected five-member board of the
Imperial Irrigation District.
Florida and Mexico are having a food fight over tomatoes and
other fresh produce. Will farmers in California and Washington
get caught in the crossfire? That’s one question that swirls
around the final negotiations between the Trump administration
and Mexico on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement.
Land subsidence caused by
groundwater pumping has been observed in the San Joaquin Valley
for decades. Increased reliance on aquifers during the last
decade resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year
in some parts of the region.
While subsidence was minimal in 2017 due to one of the wettest
years on record, any return to dry conditions would likely set
the stage for subsidence to resume as the region relies more
heavily on groundwater than surface water.
Alice Peters Auditorium
Fresno, CA 93740
A new program in California aimed at tracking agricultural
water consumption is off to a bumpy start, highlighting the
challenges of monitoring an industry that has historically
enjoyed limited oversight.
More than two decades after Los Angeles was forced to cut water
diversions to protect California’s natural resources, the state
is poised to impose similar restrictions on San Francisco and
some of the Central Valley’s oldest irrigation districts. The
proposal represents a dramatic new front in one of California’s
most enduring water fights: the battle over the pastoral delta
that is part of the West Coast’s largest estuary and also an
important source of water for much of the state.
When Roberta Jaffe and her husband planted their small
vineyard, one factor trumped all others: groundwater. Knowing
that this isolated valley in south-central California relies on
a depleted aquifer, the couple “dry farmed” their Condor’s Hope
Ranch, using 5 percent or less of the water required by a
conventional vineyard. … So Jaffe was alarmed when
Harvard University’s endowment fund installed an 850-acre
conventional vineyard just down the road in 2014 — and drilled
For decades, farmworkers have stooped down to pick ripe
cantaloupes off vines along the ground. Now, in an agricultural
community near the California-Arizona border, a harvesting
machine affectionately known as ‘The Melonator’ is
beginning to do this work. … This is the second season that
melon farmer Bart Fisher has used the machine.
The bottom is falling out of America’s most productive
farmland. Literally. Swaths of the San Joaquin Valley have sunk
28 feet — nearly three stories — since the 1920s, and some
areas have dropped almost 3 feet in the past two years. Blame
it on farmers’ relentless groundwater pumping.
Imposing new regulations on an existing industry comes with
challenges, and in Humboldt, environmental concerns are among
them. Earlier this month, the environmental nonprofit Friends
of the Eel River, which works to protect fisheries and
watersheds in the region, filed a lawsuit against Humboldt
County’s Board of Supervisors.
David Phippen’s almond orchards in Manteca are a few months
away from harvest, the nuts still green on the trees. That
gives him some breathing room before China’s tariffs on almonds
— California’s largest agricultural export — and other crops
In California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley,
excessive pumping of groundwater has resulted in subsidence,
damaging crucial infrastructure, including roads, bridges and
The [Klamath] water users association on Wednesday filed a
motion in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of San
Francisco, asking that the Klamath Tribes’ case be dismissed in
San Francisco’s court, and that the case be heard in federal
court located closer to Upper Klamath Lake, where the case
As more than a million Americans face losing food stamps under
President Trump’s vision for reauthorizing the farm bill, his
vow to wean families off dependence doesn’t apply to thousands
of others who have been relying much of their adult lives on
payments from the government’s sprawling agriculture program.
Water orders have been trickling in to the [Klamath Irrigation]
district since irrigation water delivery officially began
Friday, and calls are anticipated to ramp up as the water does,
with ditch-riders like [Mitchell] Brown there to deliver the
Amid neat rows of orchards, on cattle ranches and dairy farms
across the southern territory of California’s San Joaquin
Valley, the churn of daily life offers few hints of an imminent
political spectacle. This is another California, where
conservative values are often taken for granted, and where the
tide of liberal “resistance” runs as dry as its unirrigated
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office announced
late Wednesday afternoon that up to 3,500 acre feet is
available for delivery to Klamath Project irrigators starting
today and running through May 31 before deliveries start on
The boat ramps at Copco and Iron Gate reservoirs are
temporarily closed through June, and possibly later, due to a
draw-down of water requested for use by Bureau of Reclamation
for Klamath Project irrigators. … Reclamation will use
the water to keep elevations up to standard at Upper Klamath
Lake and to support water deliveries to Klamath Project
irrigators to cover a shortfall until water deliveries to the
Klamath Project take place in June.
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the
state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and
ecological resource. The tour made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
Amid all the excitement around marijuana legalization in
America, another newly legal crop has received comparatively
little attention: hemp. And yet hemp may prove to be even more
transformative, especially in the West’s arid landscapes. Hemp
is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that is not
This spring in California several orchards around Solano and
nearby counties sported a new look: lush carpets of mixed
grasses growing as tall as 3ft beneath the trees’ bare
branches. By summer the scene will change as farmers grow and
harvest their nut crops, but the work of the grasses will
continue unseen. Cover cropping, an agricultural technique as
old as dirt, is taking root in California.
The final stretch of the McCloud River before it empties into
the state’s largest reservoir is a place of raw beauty. …
This part of the McCloud is off limits to almost everyone
except a few Native Americans and some well-heeled fly
fishermen. Its gatekeeper is an unlikely one, an organization
that also happens to be a hugely controversial player in
California water politics.
Local tribes and environmental groups declared victory Tuesday
after a federal judge shot down a bid by Klamath Basin farmers
and water districts to block dam releases meant to prevent fish
disease outbreaks. Basin irrigators argued the rain and snow
fall in 2017 reduced the chance of fish disease outbreaks this
year, but said drought conditions in the basin this year could
cause significant economic impacts to their region if water
deliveries are delayed by the dam releases.
Many Americans know the name Kesterson as the California site
where thousands of birds and fish were discovered with gruesome
deformities in 1983, a result of exposure to selenium-poisoned
farm runoff. Thirty-five years later, it is one of the oldest
unresolved water problems in the state.
According to a new report in the journal PLOS One, we Americans
wasted just over 25% of our food between 2007 and 2014. …
Each year, just short of 4.2 trillion gallons of water were
used to produce all this uneaten food. That includes nearly 1.3
trillion gallons of water to grow uneaten fruits and 1 trillion
gallons of water to grow uneaten vegetables.
In 2007, at Jeff Creque’s behest, John Wick got in touch with
Whendee Silver, an ecologist at the University of California,
Berkeley. Letting cows graze on his property had certainly made
the land look healthier, he told Silver. But he and Creque
wanted to know: Had it put carbon in the ground? And if so, was
it possible to measure how much?
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Every five years, a bipartisan farm bill is passed by
Congress that impacts people nationwide and right
here at home. On Thursday, a draft of the legislation was
released by the House Agriculture Committee. While
the bill is welcomed by many, some called it a betrayal to
A federal judge heard arguments from attorneys representing
Klamath Basin tribes, irrigators and government agencies on
Wednesday in a case that is challenging the need for dam water
releases meant to protect threatened fish species on the
Klamath River from deadly parasitic outbreaks like those that
occurred in 2014 and 2015.
The 2 p.m. court hearing on Wednesday at the U.S. District
Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco
will be overseen by William Orrick. Orrick’s ruling will
potentially decide factors leading to a start date — or not —
for [Klamath] Basin irrigators, in a lawsuit between Bureau of
Reclamation vs. Yurok and Hoopa Tribes.
In an attempt to meet the needs of Klamath Basin irrigators and
endangered fish species in the basin in a time of drought, a
federal agency is proposing to reduce the amount of dam water
releases to the Klamath River that are meant to protect
threatened Coho salmon from deadly parasite outbreaks like
those that occurred in 2014 and 2015.
Last year, farmers who lead the irrigation district in Blythe
sued the biggest urban water district in the country to
challenge what they called a “water grab.” Now the Palo Verde
Irrigation District has dropped that lawsuit, looking to smooth
the way toward a possible settlement with the Los Angeles-based
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
Local tribes’ say critically important dam water releases meant
to protect threatened salmon on the Klamath River from deadly
parasitic disease outbreaks are being contested by irrigators
and water districts in the Klamath Basin as they face drought
Look out, cowboy. Climate change campaigners are coming for
your burger business. So are mushroom growers, Silicon Valley
investors and the billionaire Bill Gates. … But the
cattle industry is not going down without a fight.
A group of Klamath Basin water users Wednesday filed a motion
in federal court in San Francisco pushing for at least a delay
in the court-ordered injunction to keep 50,000 acre feet held
in reserve in Upper Klamath Lake. The water is to be used to
flush out the Klamath River in the spring to mitigate the
impact of disease on coho salmon.
Over the past decade, California farmers have been seeing
symptoms of climate change in their fields and orchards: less
winter chill, crops blooming earlier, more heat waves and years
of drought when the state baked in record temperatures.
Scientists say California agriculture will face much bigger and
more severe impacts due to climate change in the coming
Thousands of water-right holders who were told to cease
diversions during the last drought were deprived of due
process, a judge found Wednesday, raising questions about how
the state will handle future shortages. … At the center
of the legal dispute was the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District
The mood was calm but somber Tuesday afternoon as Klamath
Project irrigators gathered to learn more about the impact of
drought conditions in the Klamath Basin from Oregon Water
Resources Department and Klamath Water Users Association staff
at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.
With the threat of another drought looming, west San Joaquin
Valley farmers received some dismal news Tuesday about this
year’s water allocation. The initial allocation from the
Central Valley Project is 20 percent, the U.S Bureau of
Reclamation announced on Tuesday.
“You might already know this …,” Central Valley farmer Sarah
Woolf offered politely, before launching on a primer on
California’s convoluted water system. … It was the second day
of [U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny] Perdue’s recent
whistle-stop educational tour of California’s $45-billion
agriculture industry, and Perdue, a veterinarian and former
two-term governor of Georgia, got an earful.