Monday, September 25, 2017

Cattlemen take aim at state water regulations

The California Cattlemen's Association claims that it has made some headway in terms of easing the regulatory burden on ranchers who access water. First, the legislation. From a CCA legislative bulletin:
CCA-sponsored AB 589 by Assemblymember Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals) was enrolled for the Governor's signature yesterday (9-14-2017) after passing both houses of the legislature. If signed by Governor Brown, AB 589 will provide significant cost savings for ranchers who divert more than 100 acre-feet of water per year. Current State Water Resources Control Board regulations require those diverters to hire a licensed engineer to install a water-measurement device or implement an alternative measurement method, often at exorbitant costs.

AB 589 will allow diverters to instead install their own devices or implement their own measurement method upon completion of a course offered and taught by the University of California Cooperative Extension. The Governor will have until October 15, 2017 to sign or veto legislation, and CCA is strongly urging the Governor to promptly sign the bill into law. If the Governor signs the bill, it will be enacted January 1, 2018.
Meanwhile:
On Tuesday, CCA succeeded in defeating a proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board which would have increased fees for small domestic use registrations and livestock stock pond registrations (which are both capped at 10 acre-feet per year) by 400% and would have increased fees for small irrigation use registrations (which are capped at 20 acre-feet per year) by 650%.

Under the current fee structure, registration holders submit an initial $250 fee and a renewal fee of $100 every five years. Under the proposed fee increase, the initial fee for small domestic use and livestock stock pond registrations would have doubled to $500 with an annual fee of $100. For small irrigation use registrations, the initial fee would have been raised to $750, with an annual fee of $150.

CCA was particularly concerned with the impacts that a fee increase would have upon diverters with numerous stock ponds registered on their ranch or ranches, and the cumulative annual fees could prove overwhelming. Additionally, for especially small ponds, CCA was concerned that the annual fee could exceed the value of water impounded in the stock ponds.

Based on CCA's written comments and concerns raised at Tuesday's Board meeting, the Water Board rejected the proposed fee increase for the three classes of registrations, and directed Water Board staff to work with CCA and other agricultural stakeholders to develop a more reasonable fee proposal for registrations, which the Board will likely consider in 2018.
I have calls into the organization to discuss these items further. Watch for my continuing coverage of these issues at CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Resources chief: Westlands vote didn't doom WaterFix

From a news release:
California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird issued the following statement regarding [Tuesday's] decision by the Westlands Water District to decline participation in the California WaterFix project.
“There is one thing on which everyone agrees: Our aging water infrastructure needs to be modernized. Failing to act puts future water supply reliability at risk. This vote, while disappointing, in no way signals the end of WaterFix.”

Oroville crews still focused on meeting Nov. 1 deadline

From a news release:
Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) provided an update on construction work on the Lake Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery Project.

Continued Construction on the Main Spillway
· DWR remains focused on meeting its primary objective of repairing and reconstructing the main spillway by November 1 to handle flows of 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).
· Work will continue well past November on both the main spillway and emergency spillway. The state’s contract with Kiewit Infrastructure West is currently until January 2019.
· This year, 730 feet of main spillway leading to the radial gates will be patched, reinforced and left in place. It will be removed and reconstructed with structural concrete in 2018.
· There are 42 days left until November 1:
o Placement of reinforced, structural concrete is 30 percent complete. By November 1 there will be 1,220 feet of spillway chute with structural concrete – 870 feet on the upper chute of the spillway and 350 on the lower chute of the spillway.
o The 1,050-foot middle section of the spillway chute, including filling in the two scour holes, is now 50 percent complete, with approximately 170,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete placed. This year, there will be an estimated 350,000 cubic yards of RCC placed. In 2018, this middle section will be completed to final design with structural concrete.
o On September 17, crews placed 3,143 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete on the middle section of the spillway chute, a record amount for a single 12-hour shift.
o Crews have installed 1,725 slab anchors to date in the structural concrete sections – nearly 60 percent of what is needed for 2017.

Construction at the Emergency Spillway
· DWR continues to make progress at the emergency spillway, and is on schedule to complete construction of the secant pile wall, or cut-off wall, in December 2017 or January 2018.
· Crews have completed 22 percent of the secant pile wall.

Other Updates
· The independent Board of Consultants will meet for the twelfth time with DWR on September 21 and 22. DWR has posted the BOC’s eleventh memo to its website, which contains the BOC’s statement that it agrees with DWR’s findings that the cause of the vegetation area on the face of the Oroville Dam does not pose a threat to the integrity of the dam.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Prune producers wrapping up harvest of big crop

From the California Dried Plum Board:
The 2017 California prune harvest is projected to reach 105,000 tons (95,254 metric tonnes), according to forecasts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The projected harvest will yield a 99-percent increase over the unusually light 2016 harvest of 52,851 tons (47,946 metric tonnes). USDA and NASS estimates are based on surveys among California prune growers.

“California prunes consistently represent the world’s finest quality fruit,” said Donn Zea, Executive Director, California Dried Plum Board. “This year, the industry is returning to a normal size harvest that will help meet consumer and trade demand.” The 2017 harvest started slightly later than usual and will likely conclude by mid-September. Zea adds that growers are reporting healthy trees that have rebounded from the weather-related challenges of recent years.

“We are on track for a good year for California prunes,” said John Taylor,
Vice President/Owner, Taylor Brothers Farms. “We are seeing strong, highly productive orchards and delicious, premium caliber fruit that sets the global gold standard for prunes.”

California is the world’s largest producer of prunes providing approximately 40 percent of the world’s supply and almost all of the U.S. supply. The French prune variety accounts for virtually all of the dried plum acreage grown in California.
Here is my recent article on the prune harvest. Watch for continuing coverage of prunes and other commodities at CapitalPress.com.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nielsen laments no Oroville money in state parks bond

From the north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen:
Sacramento legislators passed Senate Bill 5, the so-called “California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018,” which will issue a $4 billion bond for parks and water. Oroville’s State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) issued the following statement:

“There is not a dime for Oroville Dam or the connecting levees in this bond measure.

“The Feather and the Sacramento Rivers, which bring water to Southern California from Oroville Dam, are in terrible condition as a result of the Oroville Dam Spillway failure. Without improvements made to this critical water infrastructure, we will face more catastrophic failures.

“Let’s prioritize and add funding to fix the levees that bring water to Central Valley farms and millions of Californians.”
The proposed parks bond may be one of two new water-related bond proposals heading for future California ballots as proponents try to augment money from Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond that passed overwhelmingly in 2014. For more on this, look for my story at CapitalPress.com soon.

Comment period extended for Sites Reservoir reviews

From a news release:
The Sites Project Authority (Authority) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) – lead agencies for the Sites Project – have extended the public review and comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIR/EIS) by an additional 64 days. The comment period on the draft environmental documents will close on January 15, 2018.

The comment period extension will provide the public and agencies additional time to review and submit comments on the environmental analysis for the proposed Sites Project. In extending the comment period, the Authority is also announcing the rescheduling of two public meetings previously planned for September 26 and 28, 2017.

The new meeting dates are:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Embassy Suites: 100 Capitol Mall, Old Sacramento Ballroom, Sacramento, CA 95814

Thursday, December 7, 2017
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sites Project Authority Office: 122 Old Highway 99 West, Maxwell, CA 95955


The public meetings will provide information and an opportunity to learn more about the Sites Project and submit comments on the draft environmental documents.

The Draft EIR/EIS evaluates and describes the environmental effects and proposed mitigation measures associated with construction and operation of the Sites Reservoir and associated facilities. Reclamation anticipates publishing their Notice of Availability for the Draft EIR/EIS comment period extension in the Federal Register by the end of this week.

The Sites Project is the culmination of decades of planning to optimize water supplies and deliveries throughout California and provide direct and real benefits to instream flows and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) ecosystem. The 1.3 to 1.8 million acre-foot offstream surface water storage project is being advanced to greatly increase the reliability of statewide water supplies for environmental, agricultural and urban uses.

The Authority is comprised of several Northern California public agencies who are motivated to build local water sustainability in a way that helps the state meet its overall water system needs.

The 154-day Draft EIR/EIS public review period provides an opportunity for regulatory agencies and the public to comment on the adequacy and completeness of the environmental analyses and proposed mitigation measures, helping inform project development.

The Draft EIR/EIS and more information about the environmental review process can be found online at: https://www.sitesproject.org/environmental-review/. Public comments can be emailed to: EIR-EIS-Comments@SitesProject.org.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weather service: 'Major pattern shift begins next week'

From the National Weather Service:
Dry weather with seasonal temperatures are expected through the weekend. A major pattern shift begins next week, with cooler weather likely across the region. The forecast has trended drier for Monday - Tuesday, but the potential still exists for light, high elevation snow Wednesday - Friday. The primary impact with this cooler pattern would be to high elevation travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, who may not be prepared for an early season pattern change.

Impacts
Impacts to high elevation travelers and outdoor enthusiasts due to cooler weather, possible light snow

Forecast Confidence
High confidence in cooler temperatures next week
Low confidence in snow forecast

Timing and Strength
Seasonal temperatures through the weekend
Cooler temperatures next week
Best chance of high elevation light snow: Wednesday - Friday