San Luis Reservoir

The high water mark for San Luis Reservoir is many yards up the hill. The reservoir is a key facility in the Central Valley Project that provides water for thousands of acres of Central California farmland.

Bipartisan effort urges quick capture of water for ag

With some late-season rain and snow forecast in the coming week for California a bipartisan call by key federal lawmakers is welcome and appreciated.

A letter signed Thursday by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Jim Costa, Kevin McCarthy, David Valadao, Ken Calvert, Jeff Denham and Devin Nunes urges Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to immediately evaluate operating criteria on the Central Valley Project and State Water Project to capture as much water as falls on California over the next week.

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The action is particularly noteworthy since the political divide in this matter has been wide. Nunes, McCarthy and House Speaker John Boehner made a trip to Bakersfield to look at dry conditions without a Democrat to be seen, and about a week later President Obama, without a Republican lawmaker in sight, toured the heart of the Central Valley’s growing region. The media attention these trips drew apparently helped.

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Now both sides of the aisle are on the same letter calling for immediate attention. That’s what we’ve wanted all along: a joint effort regardless of party stripe to do the right thing.

One “right thing” would be to attempt to fill San Luis Reservoir with these increased flows through the Delta as they come available. There’s a tight balancing act to keep salt water away from Delta pumps, and agriculture completely understands that concern and challenge.

Some relief

Fortunately there has been some improvement in Shasta Lake over the past couple months. Nearly a half-million acre feet of storage was added by storms since Feb. 1.

The increased storage at Shasta could help Northern California rice growers and somewhat ease concerns of river flows later in the season.

The moderately good news for Shasta Lake does little to assuage the concerns for the Central Valley Project’s east side water users. Their zero-percent allocation still doesn’t account for water that must magically appear to make exchange and settlement contractors whole as they are first in line for at least 75 percent of their full CVP allocation.

It would take dozens of feet of snow or an awful lot of rain in a short matter of time in the San Joaquin River watershed to help the east side growers. Time is running out.

Friant Water Authority General Manager Ron Jacobsma emphasized several times at the Tulare Water rally earlier this week what the letter spells out: there has been minimal to no take of endangered species at Delta pumps, suggesting that those concerns should not hold back operators from turning them up to move water south of the Delta.

These are the times for which water storage is made. Generations ago saw the need for reservoirs to control massive floods and for banked storage in times of drought. While the issues and management can oftentimes be complex, the fact remains that current law allows for flexibility in managing the system to help the human users of this water.

Meanwhile, let’s continue to work together to get through this critical period and continue to aggressively push for the additional storage and infrastructure it will take to meet agricultural, environmental and urban water needs in the decades to come.


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