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California’s inner-struggle for common sense on water

As you have probably heard, initial 2020 water allocations have been announced by the Bureau of Reclamation for Central Valley Project contractors.

For agriculture, north-of-Delta is currently allocated 50 percent of their contract while south-of-Delta ag users will receive is 15 percent.

Friant Class 1 users initial allocation is 20 percent while Class 2 is zero. Wildlife refuges will receive 100% while the San Joaquin Restoration Program will receive just under 71,000 acre-feet of water.

Other allocations cover senior water right holders and municipal and industrial uses.

It’s critical to note that reservoir levels and snowpack are not great but are also nowhere near the terrible levels of 2014 and 2015.

Historical data tells us not to discount the months of March and April in regards to additional rain and snow. Spikes and drops are great for headlines and are nothing new – but the averages hold for a reason.

While this February could be the driest February on record, one year ago most farmers didn’t know when it would be dry enough to work their fields. This sums up the argument for additional water infrastructure for surface supplies:

Store it when you get it, use it when you need it.

Simple concept, right?

If you wonder how farmers feel about receiving 15 percent of their allotted water, ask yourself how you would feel about being paid for 15 percent of the hours you worked. Or, perhaps, driving off of a car lot in 15 percent of your brand new car.

The difference is that farmers are used to it and – given the weather as of late – probably aren’t surprised. If farmers are surprised, it is likely because they expected less.

Yet, there’s a reason farmers are singing a different tune.

In the past, with similar hydrology, their initial allocations would come far short of the 15 percent or arrive months later than last week’s announcement.

But there is a reason this year is different. That reason? New biological opinions, the same put into play in Bakersfield by President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt two weeks ago.

They are also the same biological opinions being litigated against by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Governor Newsom.

Critically, the adoption of new BiOps means farmers are not the only water users to benefit. The amount of knowledge gained from over a decade of work will benefit fish, their habitat, wildlife, and millions of people south of the Delta including Los Angeles and San Diego.

What won’t help anyone is years of litigation that halts progress on everything related to water.

Bear in mind: if the newly adopted BiOps had been in effect one year ago, more than one million additional acre-feet of water would have been conserved for people and the environment rather than pushed out under the Golden Gate Bridge, sullied into salt water.

Man-made salt water and man-made droughts are commonplace in California because our leading majority neigher appreciates nor recognizes the significance of major infrastructure in the vein of our fathers.

The rest of the state should join with farmers and be hopeful for a snow-centric March and April.

More snow means more, cheaper, and cleaner water.

Yet, a bounty of snow won’t do us much good if all we can do is watch it unnecessarily pass by on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

This is what the latest lawsuit against the Feds will do and what the new Biological Opinions will stop by inserting common sense and blocking insanity.

The voices driving our Governor are radical enough that it could jeopardize his political future. What may sell in California doesn’t necessarily sell on the national level.

If his political aspirations include a future bid for the presidency, Newsom’s adherence to both radical agendas and outdated and failed science won’t work for America.

The most radical people in his political party reside and lead in California.

They have the Governor’s ear now but on a national level, every American will have questions – the very people who are accustomed to and value greatly the vast variety of safe and affordable food at their fingertips.

He would likely tout his state is responsible for growing over 400 different crops including one-third of the nations vegetables and over two-thirds of the nations fruits and nuts, on over 75,000 farms, 95% family owned. A campaign strategy most would consider hypocritical given it was coupled with a history of extracting water supplies from producers and repeated attempts to halt economically imperative water infrastructure projects through lawsuits against his own people.

Questions will be raised about loyalty to a rogue and suit-happy state Attorney General who openly brags of filing well over 60 lawsuits and radical Bay Area environmental groups who only appear in courtrooms and activist marches to promote their own business while killing others.

Governor Newsom is in a position to help himself and millions of people in California if he is able to put the radical voices in check on current water issues. Continuing to ask for more water and money from an industry who has already given up millions of acre-feet of water annually and billions of dollars over a few decades while filing lawsuits to eradicate their livelihoods is nonsensical.

Coastal Californians may be able to afford a guns blazing approach against the Federal government, but California is not just its coast.

A failed run for a presidency will be directly tied to a broken olive branch once extended to the Central Valley of California.

And yet, amid glimmers of hope and shadows of doubt, there is perhaps nothing more disappointing than reactions from the peanut gallery after those critical water allocations were released from the Bureau of Reclamation.

In the wake of those figures being released, some media publications discussed allocations in celebratory fashion, as if they don’t rely on water themselves.

Only the most ignorant among a population would cut off their nose to spite their face.

Can we find a politician, environmentalist, or media outlet to lead the parade that celebrates less food and water? Throw a water pail on your head and come on out!

Wayne Western, Jr.
Wayne Western, Jr. the The Sun’s Agriculture Pulse contributor, writing on the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural community and water issues.