Bipartisan praise for Brown’s drought declaration

Praise is raining down from both sides of the aisle for Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I applaud Governor Brown’s decision to issue a drought declaration. The declaration provides the state with greater flexibility to address drought conditions and lays the foundation for federal disaster assistance through a presidential declaration.

“This week Congressman Costa, Senator Boxer and I called on President Obama to approve a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible and to appoint a drought task force to work with the state to mitigate the drought’s effects on the state. Now that the governor has issued the state declaration, I hope the president will act quickly to approve the federal declaration.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“This bone-dry winter reminds us again that California’s water infrastructure is insufficient. Our lakes and rivers look bleak, including those that feed the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, upon which we are overly reliant as the sole solution to California’s water future.

“I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the Governor on immediate actions that should also guide long-term water policy in California.”

From state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto:

“I absolutely commend the Governor for taking action on this very serious situation. It is a great first step to setting the wheels in motion to aid California during one of the driest years in history. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with him and my colleagues on this issue.

“California’s reservoirs are at an all-time low. This is a crisis of epic proportions and underscores just how important it is for us to pass a water bond this year to address our infrastructure needs. Additional water storage is key. The Latino Water Coalition rally yesterday, his visits to Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside on Monday and Tuesday and a weather forecast that includes not a drop of rain make a pretty solid case not only for this drought declaration, but for passing a comprehensive water bond that includes money for additional above ground water storage.”

From state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford:

“The Valley roared and the governor heard us! Thank you Governor Brown for declaring California is in a drought emergency.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“With 2013 being the driest year on record, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack at 17% of its normal levels, it is clear California is in the middle of a severe drought. This will result in an increase in devastating wildfires, such as the fire currently burning in Glendora and the many others we’ve seen in recent months. It jeopardizes the farmers in the Central Valley and beyond, putting the local economies and families that depend on that industry at risk. This drought is already negatively impacting the quality life of every Californian, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

“While we pursue conservation efforts on the state level, it is important that all of us work to lower the amount of water we use. I thank Governor Brown for issuing this declaration, and join him in calling for a 20-30% voluntary reduction in water consumption. There are many simple ways to conserve water, from fixing leaky fixtures and appliances, to installing water saving showerheads and taking shorter showers, to only using your dishwasher or washing machine when you have a full load. As our economy gets back on its feet, this drought has the potential to force us back into a recession. We can help to lessen the suffering of the worst affected if we all do our part.”

More, after the jump…
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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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


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