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Some Help For Eastside & Westside Farmers

July 20,2016-

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 7.57.07 AMLocal farmers are not happy campers when it comes to federal water policy. Despite a wet year in Northern California westside farmers have been promised only a 5% allocation.However they would be plenty more unhappy if the Bureau had not taken action this week to shore up San Luis Reservoir, where these farmers store surface water from Northern California.
In a coordinated water exchange the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced an increase in allocation to the Friant districts from 65% to 75% of Class 1 water on Monday, a total of 100,000 acre-feet. In a key trade, Friant contractors also helped backfill San Luis reservoir, the main water supply for some Kings County farms. Some Fresno,Kings,Tulare and Kern districts also benefit from the boost in Friant’s water supply.
The agreement means another 50,000 acre-feet for a dwindling San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos where the lake level has been plunging due to less water making its way though the delta. “Westside growers were days away from losing their 5% allocation since the Bureau found itself short on water it could tap for operations ” says Dan Vink, a Friant contractor from Porterville.
The Bureau’s chief made this announcement.
“I am pleased to be able to increase the Friant Class 1 allocation in conjunction with an agreement that helps shore up South-of-Delta operation. We understand the frustration many of our contractors on the west side San Joaquin Valley continue to experience,” said a relieved Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo. “I appreciate our contractors’ willingness to continue to work together to develop creative solutions to the many challenges we collectively face in this difficult year.”
“The Bureau was projecting that it would move 200,000 acre-ft of water through the delta and into San Luis in June but they moved only 60,000 af.”

Jason Phillips CEO of Friant Water Authority explains just how difficult. “The Bureau was projecting that it would move 200,000 acre-ft of water through the delta and into San Luis in June but they moved only 60,000 af.” He says Friant helped by agreeing to allow the Kern County Water Agency to take water off the Friant Kern Canal in exchange for water that water district had stored in San Luis. Phillips notes that farmers have been counting on the 5% having already planted crops that will depend on it.Because of the pecking order Friant’s supply had to be finalized before any westside districts. Friant had been trying to convince the Bureau there was more water available for the Friant districts on the upper San Joaquin River, at least another 100,000 af that had not been allocated. This week the Bureau acknowledged the supply was there. This made other trades possible.
Vink believes the Bureau is caught up in competing interests of two federal fish agencies who have a major say on water supply coming down the Sacramento River.”One wants Shasta Lake water held back this summer to help provide cold water for winter-run salmon.The other wants water released to help the delta smelt. It’s clearly a broken system.”
Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 1.12.21 PMThis year’s northern California supply is better than it has been in years with Shasta supply at 131% of average while San Luis Reservoir is down to just 13% of capacity – far below where it has been this time in recent years.
Because of the reduced flows coming south the Delta Mendota WD in recent weeks has sued the Bureau.They argue that in spite of the pumping restrictions, fish populations continue to decline sharply.The farm group wants a new look at the issue. Meanwhile, the Bureau’s Mr Murillo appears to be in the middle vowing to locals to keep that 5% allocation if possible. Murillo visited Kings County farmers in May  as a guest of Kings supervisors Richard Valle and Craig Pedersen.(see picture).

Mr Valle is on left next to Mr Murillo. Pedersen is on right.

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