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House members blast Brown’s Delta water plan

Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, all believe the plan would devastate the Delta and ignores concerns repeatedly raised by local stakeholders. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, concurs but wasn’t at today’s news conference.

The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.

The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”

From Thompson:

Mike Thompson“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”

From Miller:

George Miller“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, George Miller, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, water | 3 Comments »

Boxer’s water resources bill gets bipartisan push

The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly voted to pass a water resources bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer had recently described as vital to the economic health of the Bay Area and all of California.

S.601, The Water Resources Development Act, reauthorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deal with water issues ranging from harbor restoration to flood prevention. It cleared the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – of which Boxer, D-Calif., is chairwoman – in March with bipartisan support.

Boxer early this month had told the Bay Planning Coalition’s annual Decision Makers Conference in Oakland that she hopes the Senate will pass it by a big enough margin that the House will feel compelled to act as well. The Senate vote today was 83-14.

“I am gratified by the overwhelming vote on final passage of our WRDA bill,” Boxer said in a news release issued today. “Getting 83 votes in favor when bipartisanship is missing in the Senate is very important. Now is the time for the House to act so we can ensure that the benefits of the bill are realized.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate, water | No Comments »

Study: California can kiss its vineyards goodbye

Awful as some of the climate-change predictions are, this one might hit a lot of Northern California residents where it hurts (assuming their homes aren’t gobbled up by the sea first): Global warming will dramatically impact many of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions, according to a new study.

The first-ever worldwide analysis of climate change’s impact on wine production and conservation, appearing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests wine production will shift to new areas as climate change makes the existing ones less hospitable.

Researchers found the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe – about 70 percent in Californa – with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.

“Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map,” Lee Hannah, the study’s lead author and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics, said in a news release.

“These global changes put the squeeze on wildlife and nature’s capacity to sustain human life in some surprising places,” Hannah said. “Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people. This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops.”

The researchers looked at nine major wine producing areas: California, Western North America, Chile, Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, Cape Floristic region of South Africa, parts of Australia with Mediterranean climate, parts of Australia with non-Mediterranean climate and New Zealand.

“Chile and California are areas with traditions of irrigation and high Freshwater Impact Index values, indicating that their freshwater habitats may be most at risk as a result of climate change impacts on vineyard water use,” the study found. “Adaptation strategies involving viticulture, vinification, marketing, land use planning, and water management can all help avoid conflicts with conservation objectives in areas of declining as well as expanding suitability.”

Another key finding from the study is that new areas will become more productive, including parts of Western North America and Northern Europe. These places at higher latitudes and higher elevations will become increasingly suitable for wine making and sought after by vineyards as they search for the climatic conditions that are ideal for wine grape growing.

According to the study, the greatest area of increasing wine production suitability is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-U.S. border, putting at risk species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf and pronghorn.

“Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife – wine grapes are but one example,” said Rebecca Shaw, the study’s co-author and associate vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Land, Water and Wildlife program. “This could have disastrous results for wildlife. Fortunately, there are pro-active solutions. We are creating incentive-based programs with private landowners to provide wildlife habitat as we expand our capacity to feed a growing planet in the future under a changing climate.”

Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013
Under: economy, Global warming, water | 10 Comments »

Ricky Gill wins Farm Bureau endorsement

Ricky Gill, the Lodi Republican challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, announced today that he’s been endorsed by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Ricky Gill“Ricky Gill has grown up in the Central Valley and has firsthand experience in small business, dealing with regulations and encouraging the expansion of trade to grow our economy and create local jobs,” California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said in Gill’s release. “His family’s roots in agriculture have guided his life’s path, and he will make the needs of farmers and ranchers a priority as he represents his district in Washington.”

Wenger said Gill will be “an energetic advocate for his constituents and will support policies to help turn our economy around, to provide jobs and business opportunities for the next generation.”

Gill, 25, is the son of immigrants who are physicians but also own a 1,000-acre cherry farm and vineyard, an RV park and other business interests; he finished his Cal law degree earlier this year. He said he’s honored by the Farm Bureau’s endorsement: “I look forward to standing up for our farmers and ranchers so they can create jobs right here in the 9th District, where my family has been farming for 30 years.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation protects agricultural interests for more than 74,000 members statewide.

Would McNerney liked to have had this endorsement? Certainly.

Was he likely to get it? Some Democrats have won the California Farm Bureau Federation’s nod, including Dianne Feinstein, Mike Thompson and Jim Costa, but McNerney’s votes haven’t been so popular.

Is he lost without it? No. The Farm Bureau can be a powerful Central Valley force, but the 9th District isn’t its very strongest province: Stockton, entirely within the district, is urban and firmly Democratic. In the 2001 bipartisan gerrymander of the Central Valley, as Democrats sought to make then-Rep. Gary Condit’s seat safe for any Democrat except the ag-popular but scandal-ridden Condit, it was accomplished by redrawing the district to include Stockton. Farming interests are powerful in the district, but not all-powerful.

Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Agriculture, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, water | 2 Comments »

San Joaquin Delta water war documentary to debut with Ed Begley Jr.

It may not be an Oscar contender but folks who like to drink water may want to catch the Aug. 8 premiere of “Over Troubled Waters,” a documentary about efforts to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into the Central Valley and Southern California.

Veteran water warriors and congressional reps. George Miller and John Garamendi are scheduled to host a news conference an hour before the 7 p.m.  show.

Both Miller and Garamendi go back decades in California’s perennial fight over how to share water across the vast state between the fish, the farmers and the residents.

The congressmen and the Delta counties are gearing up for another battle after state and federal officials announced plans last month to pursue the construction of a large underground pipeline — the latest iteration of the Peripheral Canal — and divert Delta water into the Central Valley and the Los Angeles area. Delta counties say the diversion will degrade the environment and lower the quality of their drinking water supplies.

Restore the Delta, an environmental organization, produced the documentary, which is narrated by actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr.

“It is our chance to tell the real Delta story,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “This film reveals how powerful forces are using fear of flooding and earthquakes to make a case for transforming a unique, beautiful, productive region into a permanent way station for water going somewhere else. They are trying to shore up an outdated water system with a massive, multi-billion dollar water transfer project that Californians will be paying for decades.”

The film premieres at 7 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Sacramento at the Crest Theater. For all the who-what-where details, read the news release below.

“Over Troubled Waters”:

Sustainable Water Advocates, Congressman George Miller to Premiere Film on Water Wars

“Over Troubled Waters, a documentary about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, will premiere on August 8th at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. U.S. Reps. George Miller and John Garamendi will join hundreds of sustainable water policy advocates at a news conference prior to the film premier, which will be the centerpiece of a public education effort to stop the building of peripheral tunnels.

In this visually rich documentary, Ed Begley Jr. narrates the story of how the people of the Delta are fighting to protect the region they love and to encourage saner, sustainable water policies for all the people of California.

“This is our chance to tell the real Delta story,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, which produced the documentary. “This film reveals how powerful forces are using fear of flooding and earthquakes to make a case for transforming a unique, beautiful, productive region into a permanent way station for water going somewhere else. They are trying to shore up an outdated water system with a massive, multi-billion dollar water transfer project that Californians will be paying for decades.”

Tickets are available on-line for a $10 donation at restorethedelta.org. Some tickets will also be available at the door.

What: Over Troubled Waters, Media availability: 6:00 p.m.,

Film screening: 7:00 p.m.

Where: Crest Theater, 1013 K St., Sacramento, CA

When: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who: U.S. Representative George Miller, Sen. Lois Wolk, Assem. Bill Berryhill, Russ Fisher, Media Creations; Jason Sturgis, Open Oceans Productions, hundreds of Delta residents, including farmers and fishermen

Restore the Delta is a 7000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. www.restorethedelta.org

 

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012
Under: water | 6 Comments »

Westlands farmers bank on Delta House aspirants

Two Republican House candidates from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area took campaign cash from downstate farmers whom would benefit from a new water plan at the Delta’s expense, the area’s current lawmakers say.

Kim Vann, a Colusa County Supervisor challenging Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District received $5,000 from the California Westside Farmers PAC in late April. Ricky Gill, a Lodi law graduate challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, received $5,000 from the PAC in late June.

The PAC acts on behalf of farmers in the Westlands Water District, an agricultural powerhouse in the otherwise arid west reaches of the San Joaquin Valley. McNerney’s campaign noted today that Sarah Woolf, a member of the Westlands board of directors, is the PAC’s treasurer.

A new Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposal announced last week by Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar includes a $14 billion tunnel system beneath the Delta to ship water southward, largely for agricultural purposes. Garamendi and McNerney are among lawmakers who say this plan would benefit Westlands farmers while economically and environmentally devastating the Delta.

“This development is a huge breach of the public trust,” McNerney had said last week. “The families, farmers, and small business owners in northern California stand to have their livelihoods destroyed. This will have ruinous consequences for our local economy at a time when we already struggle with record unemployment.”

McNerney campaign spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Tuesday that Gill has claimed to side with Delta area residents, “but his willingness to cozy up to the people intent on robbing us of our water, ultimately causing economic ruin for our area farmers and small business owners, is deeply disturbing. Once again, Ricky Gill has shown that he just doesn’t get it. It’s clear that peripheral canal supporters believe they have an ally and advocate in Ricky Gill and a staunch and vocal opponent in Jerry McNerney.”

Not so, replied Gill spokesman Colin Hunter.

Ricky Gill“Ricky has been and remains opposed to any plan to divert water around the Delta because of the devastating effect it could have on farmers in this region including his family, which has been farming here for 30 years,” he said. “Unlike Jerry McNerney, who carries an ‘F’ rating from the American Farm Bureau, Ricky intends to be an advocate for farmers when he’s elected to Congress.”

(Taking a quick glance around the interwebs, I see the American Farm Bureau rated McNerney at 41 percent in 2011; also, here’s a more specific rundown of how he voted on issues of importance to the bureau.)

Hunter called the new Delta plan “the culmination of Jerry McNerney’s failed tenure in Congress. He’s been sitting on the sidelines for five years and effectively allowed this to happen.”

As for the PAC money, Hunter said, “Ricky doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Westlands on several issues, but they are farmers like Ricky and they know that Ricky is going to stand up for farmers up and down the valley when he’s in Congress” on issues from free trade to regulatory reform. “McNerney is on the wrong side of all of them.”

Gill’s campaign also Tuesday was touting new poll results Tuesday showing Gill and McNerney in a dead heat. (UPDATE @ 8:07 p.m.: McNerney’s camp just produced its own new poll showing he has a commanding lead.)

In the 3rd District, Garamendi last week had said the tunnel proposal “could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk.”

“It is possible for California to solve its water problems, but the Delta and Northern California counties must be at the table, and it will take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach, not just a piece of plumbing in the Delta,” he said. “We must address the needs of all Californians by prioritizing storage, conservation, recycling, levee improvements, and habitat restoration.”

Kim VannVann campaign manager Alee Lockman emailed today that Vann “believes that any conveyance plans must also include authorizing language for increasing water storage. The proposed plan is by no means a perfect solution and there are a number of local issues at stake, but the dialogue of the past week underscores the need for all of us to come together and work toward a solution that will best serve the entire state’s water needs.”

Asked specifically about the PAC money, Lockman replied there’s “nothing to add that hasn’t already been included. We need an open dialogue and we need to find a solution that works best for the entire state of California.”

The PAC also has given $10,000 to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as well as $5,000 each to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Clovis; and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. Among other House challengers, the PAC has given $5,000 each to Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and to Democrat Denise Ducheny in the 51st District.

Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, economy, Environment, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House, water | 4 Comments »

Contra Costa reacts swiftly to revised Delta peripheral canal plan

Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho

Contra Costa County, whose leaders have been fending off a peripheral canal for more than three decades, reacted swiftly and negatively to a joint federal-state announcement today of a new Delta water diversion proposal.

“We need science before size,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, who also sits on the Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy and helped found the Delta County Coalition. “Science should drive the capacity of any project, not the other way around. It is completely unacceptable.”

See my colleague Steve Harmon’s full story here.

(ADDED 5:29 P.M. East Bay congressional representatives also blast plan. See full statements below.)

Smaller options must be evaluated, and science and the economic impacts of any pipeline must be more than “considered, as the announcement today said,” Piepho added.

“It’s easy to ‘consider’ something for 3 seconds, then shove it off the table and go back to your primary objective, which is to pipe massive amounts of Delta water into Southern California,” she said.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff echoed her colleague’s dismay via  a text message from Sacramento, where she watched the announcement.

“If people believe what (Gov. Jerry Brown) and (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar said today, I think there’s still a bridge available for sale,” Mitchoff said. “The plan will sacrifice the interest of one part of the state for the interests of others.”

The county, the Contra Costa Water District and others say the diversion will degrade both the environment and drinking water quality for tens of thousands of East Bay residents. The county board of supervisors formally opposed the plan in early July.

In contrast, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wholeheartedly endorsed the pact, calling it a “major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-Delta.” Feinstein led the federal legislation mandating completion of a Bay-Delta Conservation Plan by February 2013. See her press release issued today below.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, water | 26 Comments »

Failed Contra Costa water fee flopped in 18 of 19 cities

The failed Contra Costa clean water fee sank in every city in the county except El Cerrito, according to a vote breakdown.

As you may recall, the county and its 19 cities attempted earlier this year to persuade property owners to pass an annual fee to pay for programs associated with tightening state and federal anti-pollution regulations on stormwater runoff.

The unusual property-owner election coupled with the bad economy and campaign missteps doomed the effort, which went down 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent.

Here are the final numbers ranked by the percentage of support, as provided by the Contra Costa Clean Water Program:

AREA YES (%) NO (%)
El Cerrito 54.9 45.1
Walnut Creek 47.3 52.7
Moraga 45.6 54.4
Orinda 45 55
Richmond 43.5 56.5
Hercules 42.8 57.2
San Ramon 42.6 57.4
Lafayette 42.4 57.6
Danville 42.3 57.7
Pleasant Hill 39.5 60.5
Pittsburg 39.1 60.9
Unincorporated 38.6 61.4
San Pablo 38.2 61.8
Martinez 37.9 62.1
Antioch 37.4 62.6
Concord 37 63
Brentwood 35.7 64.3
Clayton 35.7 64.3
Oakley 33.3 66.7
Pinole 33 67
COUNTYWIDE 40.6 59.4

 

Posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, water | 7 Comments »

Consultant prematurely mails stormwater election flyers

The nearly 30 people who testified Tuesday before the Contra Costa Board of  Supervisors against a proposed new stormwater fee  arrived home later in the day to find an unpleasant surprise: A fold-out mailer promoting the countywide fee election that had been approved just a few hours earlier.

Critics immediately called the public hearing on the Contra Costa Community Clean Water Initiative a sham and started phoning supervisors’ offices.

It looks bad. The mailers were clearly prepared and mailed before the supervisors voted on whether to proceed with the election.

But the county says an outside consulting firm mistakenly and prematurely sent out the mailers during a staff changeover.

Supervisors and County Administrator David Twa are very displeased with SCI Consulting Group, which has a $1.1 million contract to help the county and its 19 cities put together the stormwater fee election.

“We did convey to (SCI) that this did a great deal of harm to the entire process and only adds to the belief that government fails to provide meaningful opportunities for the public to be heard,” Twa told me in an email.

See the mailer below.

 

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, water | 13 Comments »

House Democrats want water deal rescinded

Five Northern California House Democrats demanded answers Monday from the Interior Department on the Bay-Delta planning process, urging the department to rescind a “flawed” deal developed behind closed doors.

That memorandum of agreement, they say, gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over a public process affecting California’s fresh water supplies.

Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the agreement his department made with the water agencies be withdrawn and the process be opened up to include other key stakeholders left out of the discussions, including Bay Area, Delta and coastal communities, farmers, businesses, and fishermen.

“Interior should immediately rescind this flawed MOA and work instead to establish a successful BDCP (Bay-Delta Conservation Plan) process that is transparent and based on parity, and that genuinely puts the restoration of the Bay-Delta and its fisheries, the needs of local communities, and the quality of local water resources on par with other water supply goals,” the lawmakers wrote.

They claim the agreement includes an unreasonable timeline and raises expectations of favorable treatment for the water agencies that signed it.

The agencies’ desired policies “have the potential to harm the Bay-Delta, fishing communities, local farmers, and our constituents more broadly,” the lawmakers wrote. “They compromise Interior’s ability to exercise its mandates to restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem and California’s fisheries, and to consider the interests of all stakeholder groups. And they were developed in closed-door negotiations with the water export contractors that excluded all other interests.”

The lawmakers met repeatedly recently with Interior Department and California officials to express their concerns about the agreement signed with water export agencies, and the department had told them to expect an answer to their inquiries early last week. None came, and today’s letter demands a written response from Salazar by next Monday.

Interior Department press secretary Adam Fetcher said the letter was received and the department will respond directly to the House members.

“Secretary Salazar has been clear that California’s complex water problems require science-based solutions developed as part of a close partnership between the federal and state government, as well as all key stakeholders,” he said. “Transparency and accessibility for all parties in this process is a key part of our efforts to move forward with the BDCP as quickly as possible in order to address the all-important goals of a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California.”

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011
Under: George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House, water | No Comments »