Food Grows Where Water Flows

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CFWC Blog

Moving Forward With Modern Science and Smart Management- Biological Opinions in 2020

March 11, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Water Supply

Moving Forward With Modern Science and Smart Management- Biological Opinions in 2020

New Federal Biological Opinions Utilize the Latest Science to Benefit Fish and Other Water Users

One thing all Californians know for certain is that our current system of managing water isn’t working for anyone.

Over the past decade, struggling fish populations have continued to decline, farms have been forced to fallow land, and cities and towns face ever-tightening restrictions.

Meanwhile, endless lawsuits tie up progress in court, further locking our failing system into place.

In an effort to break the policy logjam, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently updated federal biological opinions (BiOps) which are rules that exist to protect endangered, and threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of Californian’s farms, businesses and our people.

Let’s be clear – because the old rules are based on science that is now over a decade old, these failed rules badly needed updating. We must act now to adopt smart solutions, and modern science to prepare for our changing world.

It’s past time to update our policies and take actions that can produce a more secure water future for all Californians.

Here are a just a few reasons we should all welcome this policy update:

Embraces modern science and provides the ability to continuously update the science and use it to adapt rules as necessary

Science has been steadily progressing while the old rules were in effect. However, the process to incorporate new findings into existing rules simply didn’t exist. The new BiOps not only incorporate 10 years of study, they put in place adaptive management to help keep the rules up to date as we go. To keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.

Adopts smart, data-based tools to help struggling species, using real-time monitoring rather than an arbitrary calendar date

Would you rather have a doctor treat you for symptoms they see or provide medication simply because the calendar says it’s flu season? Exactly.

Under the old rules, a calendar dictated when water was moved through the system or withheld. This rigid, arbitrary approach that often ignored what was actually happening in California’s delta. Under the new BiOps, scientists will monitor conditions, and officials must account for fish needs in real-time and base pumping decisions on the actual conditions witnessed. Plus, there is a commitment to reduce pumping when sensitive species are present. We believe this new approach will provide better protection for fish and is part of a broader strategy to improve their chance of a full recovery.

Pays for new tools to help fish thrive

One of the things science has taught us over the last decade is that water is just one of many factors impacting the health of fish populations. Improving habitat, increasing food supply, and enhancing predator control also play significant roles.

Under the new biological opinions, $1.5 billion will be spent on fishery improvements that scientists have shown can benefit our native species. That includes investments in habitat, restored spawning grounds and side channels in rivers and streams that are important to the salmon life cycle. Other measures will be put in place specifically for Delta smelt.

Not only did the old rules provide none of this assistance, they were not even allowed to consider these critical factors.

In terms of water, the new rules will increase the amount of cold water stored behind Shasta Dam in order to maintain healthy temperatures for spawning salmon in times of drought.

Provides more supply to California’s water users AND better protects struggling fish

Opponents claim that the new rules are bad simply because they provide more water for farms, businesses, cities and towns. But as with the existing BiOps, that is an outdated way of viewing the situation. Water supply in California does not have to be a zero-sum game. Thanks to improved science we have found better ways to protect fish while also providing additional supply to other water users.

Why all Californians should care about these rules

Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million acre-feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and part of the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians.

Having the new rules in place will provide greater flexibility within the entire system, producing greater reliability of supply for all.

Where do we go from here?

As exciting and forward-looking as the new BiOps are, they are one piece of a very complicated water puzzle. Federal, state and local governments must continue to work with all water users to bring our entire water management system up-to-date.

Statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation

February 25, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Releases, Water Allocations, Water Supply

Statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation

February 25, 2020

“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of a 15 percent initial allocation for water supplies south of the Delta is clearly the result of the dry hydrology California is experiencing. February is shaping up to be possibly the first time in recorded history without any measurable precipitation. That alone is evidence that California may be on the leading edge of another drought.

“These dry conditions are similar to what we saw in 2009. For months farmers were not given an allocation amount and told they may get zero water. In April of that year, well past the time to make effective planting decisions, the allocation was set at 10 percent.

“The new biological opinions implemented last week are already making a difference by allocating 15 percent in February. We’re obviously hopeful that allocations will rise, but we’re pleased to be off to a better start than we were under the old operating rules.

“Had the new biological opinions been in place last year we believe an additional 1 million acre-feet of water could have been stored for use this year, delivering more water and offering better species protection, based on what we’ve learned over the past 10 years studying the Delta and its tributaries.

“That kind of operational flexibility is essential for California to remain the nation’s leading farm state and to continue to produce more than half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the U.S. as well as vast amounts of dairy, beef and nursery products.”

Statement on the Adoption of the New Biological Opinions

February 19, 2020 in Endangered Species, Releases

Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade on the Adoption of the New Biological Opinions

“For the first time in more than a decade, the federal rules known as Biological Opinions are being updated. These rules exist to protect threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of farms, businesses and people.

“The new Biological Opinions, based on more than 10 years of scientific study, will allow California to manage water in real-time using the latest science rather than relying on an arbitrary calendar approach that takes years to recognize updated research. The decade-old rules are based on outdated science and have failed to help Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other threatened species. And to keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.

“Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million-acre feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians. We applaud the Trump Administration as well as California leadership including Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes for their part in making this a reality.

“To be clear, this is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle that we hope includes new Voluntary Agreements on water. We support the Newsom Administration’s efforts to make water policy work better for all Californians.”

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Newsom on California Water Future & Voluntary Agreements

February 4, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Voluntary Agreements

Newsom on California Water Future

On January 29, 2020 Governor Newsom spoke on the topics of energy, wildfires and climate change to an audience with PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California.) He was asked about his strategy for California water.

 

Check out these quotes, or watch the full video below.

"These are real human beings whose lives are being torn asunder because of the scarcity of water.

...That's why I think we can do more with flexibility, working together."

"You're not bringing that back by getting in seven years of lawsuits where nothing gets done. That's why I'm pursuing voluntary agreements..."

"When we talk about fallowing land, that is real people, real lives, and I have to look them in the eyes.

It may be an intellectual thing for some who are sitting on the coast, with all due respect, reading the newspaper and talking about the aggregate and saying "well our economy is doing fine"- but what about that poor damn mother that literally can't take care of that kid because they can't get that work anymore?"

"You don't do that to someone. You don't destroy that community... ...We have got to be held accountable."

"I want everyone to calm down. ...Just give us a chance."

"I have one of the best EPA directors we have ever had. He's one of the great champions of the environment. I have one of the best water folk... Wade Crowfoot and the team he's assembled- These are real, great human beings that care deeply about the environment, and they think it's right to reach out to ag and work with these guys."

"The world is changing - We have to change with it - flexibility. Putting the old binaries aside; getting off our high horse; recognizing that we need each other.

There's no leak on your side of our boat, we need each other."

Watch the full video of Governor Newsom at PPIC on YouTube: LINK

Skip to his comments on water: LINK

New Biological Opinion Fact Sheet

January 17, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Fact Sheets, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Water Management

In October of 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released new biological opinions (BiOps) analyzing the operation of the Federal Central Valley project (CVP) and the California State Water Project (SWP). Following the release of the BiOps, there were numerous inaccurate characterizations of the opinions. To address this misinformation, CFWC published the linked informational piece, “Myths vs. Facts: 2019 Biological Opinions for Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project”.

The new fact sheet helps clarify four areas where incorrect information has been circulated in public: the use of best available science, protections for species under the Endangered Species Act, how the new BiOps go farther to protect imperiled species, and the process by which the BiOps underwent peer review and approval.

Developing rules that are designed to protect California’s natural resources requires an open and transparent process. The Biological Opinion fact sheet includes a list of FWS and NMFS independent experts that reviewed them prior to their approval, ensuring that the final product will provide the species protections expected under the ESA.

View or download the fact sheet at: https://bit.ly/2QFxkOp

A California Farm will Likely Contribute to Your Family Thanksgiving

November 25, 2019 in CFWC Blog

A California Farm will Likely Contribute to Your Family Thanksgiving

One of the many things Californians have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving is that we live in a state that produces
an abundance of fresh food that not only feeds but nourishes, our families. At a recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) seminar Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture talked about California farmers “sense of purpose to help feed people, and not just feed them calories, but to nourish them. . . the kinds of crops California grows are so foundational to the best nutrition. . . that’s what we do here and we do it better than anyone else.”

California’s food diversity

We’re also fortunate that the variety of foods grown throughout California reflects the diversity of the state itself. With more than 71,000 farms producing 400 different commodities, pretty much every region of the state hosts farming, making year-round access to the foods we love something we tend to take for granted. Let your imagination be your guide.

Most of us are aware that, in addition to turkeys, the Central Valley produces an abundance of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and dairy products. But California farming is much bigger than that and keeps healthy food within easy reach. From the Central Coast Californians can count on strawberries, artichokes, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower; you can head south for avocados for your salad as well as flowers for your holiday table; or head north for milk, cheese and other dairy products; stop in the Bay Area for garlic; and if you’re a sushi lover, the rice may well have come from the Sacramento Valley. Looking for bok choy or other Asian vegetables to have on your table? They are grown abundantly from Salinas to Santa Maria. A variety of mushrooms sprout in Santa Clara and Monterey. Apples are grown north of Los Angeles, east of San Diego, in the Central Valley and the North Coast.  And if you have wine with dinner, it now comes from many regions, including Napa and Sonoma, the San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast, and Sierra foothills.

California is the nation’s No. 1 farm state

As the nation’s largest agricultural producer, there aren’t many parts of the state that don’t host farms or farm-related businesses. Again, from Secretary Ross, California farms, “produce an astonishing array of products and achieve the highest standards in quality, food safety, and environmental stewardship.”

And California farming itself is a diverse business. It not only employs people growing and harvesting the food, but it also provides jobs throughout the state to people who transport, process and distribute the food in addition to companies that support farming by providing advanced irrigation, new technology, updated equipment, management services and more. According to a recent study put out by the University of California, agriculture employed more than 1 million people in 2018, paying them $68 billion in wages.

Safe and nutritious food for your family

So, when you survey your Thanksgiving table remember that a large part of the food your family will enjoy is likely California-grown, which is not only part of who we are, it’s healthy and safe, good for the economy and better for the environment because it doesn’t have to be shipped or trucked from another country. And that’s truly something to be grateful for.