Growers Faced with Low Water Allocation Despite Plentiful Winter Storms

Byron, CA (February 20, 2019) – BBID General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement, after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on Wednesday issued an initial 35% allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“Reclamation’s initial allocation tells an all-too-familiar story. Despite above-average water supplies, CVP water deliveries are being restricted by outdated science and failed regulations, forcing growers to make do with less water.

This month, California has seen 18 trillion gallons of precipitation – enough to fill Lake Shasta 12 times. Our snowpack is well above normal. Runoff into many of the state’s main reservoirs this year is projected to be as much as 1.1 million-acre-feet higherthan at this time in 2012. Mother Nature is doing her part.

These overly conservative, low initial allocations unfairly burden the District’s growers and ranchers. They struggle to make informed planning decisions in the face of an uncertain water supply. BBID continues to work for constructive, collaborative reviews of existing regulations, and to ensure that the latest science is put to use for water allocations that impact BBID and the entire state.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

U.S. Secretary of Interior: “Time for Action is Now”

In a move met with widespread praise and hope in the Central Valley, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior called on federal agencies to act to fix the broken Central Valley Project (CVP). Secretary Ryan Zinke’s memo on Friday directs the development of an action plan to maximize water deliveries and shore up operations of the federally-managed CVP, which Zinke described as being in “…a desperate state of disrepair.”

“For our growers and others in the Central Valley who have borne the brunt of failed policy and mismanagement, this is welcome news,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “The District wholeheartedly agrees with Secretary Zinke: the time to take action is now.”

Growers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID)’s CVP service area faced three consecutive years of zero-percent allocations. Even now, with many reservoirs at or above 100% of normal, the South-of-Delta CVP allocation began in 2018 at a mere 20%, and has since climbed to only 45%.

Secretary Zinke’s plan calls for maximizing water deliveries by incorporating the latest and greatest science into the decision-making process. It also includes the construction of new storage for the CVP, a “major source of farms, families, industry and fish and wildlife in California.”

Under the current CVP operation, he wrote, “communities have been harmed, productive land has stood fallow, and the populations of fish these particular water delivery limitations were intended to protect have seen no meaningful improvements.”

“The Secretary’s bold action renews hope for a more equitable approach,” Gilmore added. “We must restore reliability to strengthen the CVP. It is time to consider the reoperation of the Federal and State water projects to provide that much-needed balance.”

The Secretary allotted 15 days to develop an action plan, and ordered the Office of the Deputy Secretary make final recommendations within 10 days of receiving the report.

The full memo is below.

8.17.18 Memo

Water Allocation Remains Low, Despite Full Reservoirs

Byron, CA (May 28, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement, after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) crept up the water supply allocation – from 40% to 45% – for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“The Bureau’s latest allocation increase amounts to a drop in the bucket for BBID’s farmers, who should have been able to count on a much more robust supply in a year like this. The statewide average for CVP reservoirs is more than 100 percent of normal, just one year removed from the wettest year on record.

The still-low allocation – which began at 20% and has gradually increased to 45% – shows that the greatest challenge to reliable CVP water deliveries is our regulatory climate, not Mother Nature.

We join our partners at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) in calling for change. Overly conservative and restrictive CVP operations create unnecessary hardships not just for farmers, but for the entire state. If the federal government can’t supply requisite deliveries even with abundant supplies, then clearly, the system is broken.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

Decision to Increase Growers’ Water Supply Too Little, Too Late

Byron, CA (April 20, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced an increased water supply allocation – from 20% to 40% – for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“Once again, the USBR is taking a far too conservative approach. Nearly every reservoir across California is at, or well above, historical average. Shasta Lake is at 108% of normal. San Luis Reservoir is at 100% of normal. If that doesn’t merit an allocation for BBID’s CVP growers greater than 40%, then what will?”

“The USBR’s decision to delay this announcement to this point – when growing season is well underway – means that it will be difficult for farmers to take full advantage of the increased water availability. Many planting decisions have already been made based upon a smaller supply. Simply put: the Central Valley Project is broken and we need to make changes to restore its delivery capabilities – especially when there’s more than enough water to go around.”

–Rick Gilmore, GM

BBID: Water Allocation Announcement “Far Too Cautious”

Byron, CA (February 20, 2018) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore released the following statement after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) announced an initial 20% water supply allocation for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including BBID:

“Just one year removed from the wettest winter on record – with reservoirs still above 100% of historical average across the state – growers in BBID’s CVP service area will yet again face a water shortage. We recognize the winter has been dry thus far. However, given how much water is in Shasta Lake and San Luis Reservoir, the Bureau took a far too cautious approach that penalizes our farmers and ranchers.”

“This allocation announcement strongly underscores the need to build more water storage capacity. It’s time to put voter-approved Proposition 1 dollars to work to build the storage projects we so desperately need. Capturing storm runoff in above-average or record-setting years is a critical piece of the puzzle to fix the state’s broken water system.”

– Rick Gilmore, GM

The full announcement from the USBR is below.

Reclamation announces initial water supply allocation for the Central Valley Project

 

UPDATE: In Historically Wet Year, Farmers to Receive Full Water Supply

Byron, CA (April 11, 2017) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement: 

“For the first time in more than a decade, farmers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Central Valley Project (CVP) service area will rightfully enjoy a full water supply. Today’s updated allocation announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, increasing the south-of-Delta CVP allocation from 65% to 100%, is long-awaited news for our growers. The decision is certainly appropriate in the wake of a historically wet winter that brought near-record rainfall and snow. BBID also applauds the Bureau for allowing unused water from this year’s allocation, to be stored and used next year.”

“Unfortunately, the announcement may have come too late. Many planting decisions have already been made, based on a lesser – and now, outdated – water supply. The delay highlights the need for change. BBID remains committed to working with our local, state and federal partners to seek solutions for a water system that falls short for California’s cities, its agricultural community and its environment.”

Delayed Decision Proves System is Broken, Prolongs Regulatory Drought

Byron, CA (March 23, 2017) – Farmers left waiting in limbo to learn how much water they would receive from the Central Valley Project (CVP) finally have their answer – and it is stunningly disappointing.

On Wednesday, after weeks of inexplicable delays that hamstrung farmers at the outset of the growing season, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finally announced a mere 65% allocation for South-of-Delta CVP contractors, including Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). The CVP, one of the state’s largest infrastructure projects, is managed by the federal government and delivers water to the Central Valley.

“If there was ever a year for a full, 100% allocation, this is it,” said BBID GM Rick Gilmore. “This is the wettest year ever in California. The state has double the water it normally has this time of year. Our reservoirs are literally overflowing. Our snowpack is at more than 150% of normal. This delayed decision extends our regulatory drought and shows how badly broken California’s water system is.”

Instead of utilizing what should be abundant water supplies to grow farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to feed California and the nation, growers in BBID’s CVP service area will yet again face shortages. The lack of a timely decision was damaging enough. Without knowing how much water is available, farmers can’t make critical decisions about how many acres to plant, or how many people to hire. The 65% allocation adds insult to injury, and may reduce how much local produce is available for California’s families.

Meanwhile, water that could be used in cities and on farms, or to recharge the state’s taxed groundwater flows into the ocean, in the name of failed environmental policies. Federal fisheries are hoarding water to keep river temperatures at arbitrary levels to protect fish – with no concrete improvements. These policies aren’t good for California’s communities, its farms or even its environment.

“The District is more committed than ever to doing whatever necessary to fix the system,” Gilmore added. “We must finally build new infrastructure to store more water in wet years. We must pursue constructive regulatory solutions to properly divvy water between the state’s cities, its agriculture community and the environment. That’s the best – and only – way to insulate against future droughts and secure long-term water reliability for not only our growers, but the entire state.”

Farmers Left in Limbo After “Extremely Puzzling” Water Allocation Announcement

Byron, CA (February 28, 2017) – Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore issued the following statement:

“In what’s shaping up as the wettest year on record, farmers in Byron-Bethany Irrigation District’s (BBID) Central Valley Project (CVP) service area are stuck in limbo, their water held hostage apparently at the behest of federal fishery agencies.

Today’s extremely puzzling announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation means some CVP users will receive a full 100% allocation in 2017, while many of their immediate neighbors, including BBID, will have to wait weeks to find out what this year’s water supply will be. This nonsensical, imbalanced approach introduces unnecessary and potentially costly uncertainty to many of the District’s growers, who are now forced to wait to plant crops.”

“As we have seen time and again, federal fisheries are hoarding water in a misguided effort to keep river temperatures at an arbitrary level to protect fish – at everyone else’s expense. Today’s announcement underscores how badly the water supply system, built to bring water to farms and communities, has been commandeered by environmental interests.

With months left in the rainy season, reservoirs are already filled. The Bureau itself acknowledged historic precipitation levels. There is plenty of water to go around. And yet, there is still no balance in sharing our overflowing supplies between mounting environmental demands and the water users who fund the system and rely upon its supplies. Our growers expect – and deserve – better.” – Rick Gilmore, GM

San Luis Reservoir Storage Sinks to “Shameful” 25-Year Low

Los Banos, CA (August 5, 2016) – The San Luis Reservoir has fallen to just 10% capacity, its lowest level in 25 years.

“These pictures speak volumes about the gross mismanagement of the Central Valley Project ,” said Byron- Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) General Manager Rick Gilmore. “We simply cannot continue to prioritize failing environmental policies over the survival of agriculture.”

Despite above-average rainfall this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced in April a 5%  allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, a harsh blow for farmers in BBID’s CVP service area near Tracy. The CVP was started in the 1930s to transport water from reservoirs in Northern California to the Central Valley, largely for agricultural use. However, before this year’s 5% allocation, farmers in BBID’s CVP service area were hit with a zero-percent CVP supply for three straight years. While Shasta Lake sits three-quarters full, San Luis Reservoir, where water from Northern California is stored, is dwindling.

“The broken state of San Luis Reservoir reflects the broader reality that the CVP, as a water supply project, has been broken by the policy choices of the Federal government,” said Jason Peltier, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

“The unending practice of taking water from human use and giving it to fish in hopes of helping the fish is a failed enterprise,” Peltier added. “The fish are not responding at all. At the same time human, social and economic destruction continues to accelerate. Shameful.”