Sen. Feinstein Introduces Legislation to Restore “Backbone” of CA Water System

Joint Statement by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, Friant Water Authority, and the State Water Contractors, in Support of S.3811, the Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act

The introduction of the S.3811, the Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act by Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a welcome step toward restoring critically-important water supplies to 27 million Californians, 3 million acres of the nation’s most productive farmland, hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and restoration of the San Joaquin River.

This legislation helps to address the impacts of groundwater subsidence on major portions of California’s water delivery system – infrastructure millions of people depend on for water supply, flood control, and environmental protection.

The bill authorizes $600 million in federal funding for three major projects to repair California’s water delivery system, which has reduced conveyance capacity as a result of subsidence along the canals. The bill provides $200 million for the Friant-Kern Canal, $200 million for the Delta-Mendota Canal, and $200 million for the California Aqueduct. Additionally, the bill provides an additional $200 million in funding for restoration of the San Joaquin River, including environmentally protective infrastructure such as fish screens, fish bypass projects, and control structures necessary to successfully implement the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement.

“The Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act increases federal investments to restore California’s backbone water conveyance infrastructure, which is the foundation on which California’s success is built,” said Federico Barajas, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “Access to reliable water is vital for California’s people, its environment and its economy. This is about investing in the repair and long-term reliability of California’s water infrastructure that serves millions of people, farmland vital to the nation’s food supply, and the preservation and restoration of California’s environment.”

“By helping to address the conveyance pinch on the Friant-Kern Canal – which has reduced its carrying capacity by as much as 60% in some locations – this bill assists with one of the most critical and desperate needs to achieve long-term sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley.  The bill also makes significant investments in implementing the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, in acknowledgement of the shared future between the Friant Division contractors and the San Joaquin River,” said Jason Phillips, executive director of the Friant Water Authority.

“Successful implementation of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires that public water agencies have access to the full capacity of the State Water Project’s existing canals.  Senator Feinstein’s bill helps restore capacity in existing canals that are used to move water into storage in wet years so it is available in dry years.  Restoring canal capacity also supports implementation of water storage projects that produce environmental benefits funded by Proposition 1,” said Jennifer Pierre of the State Water Contractors.

The Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act complements legislation by Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), the author of H.R. 5752, the Conveyance Capacity Correction Act, and H.R. 5316 by Rep. T.J. Cox (CA-21), the Move Water Now Act. Together, the Senate and House bills, if enacted, will provide significant funding necessary to repair these essential conveyance projects.

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Byron-Bethany Irrigation District is a member agency of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

Spring Storms Boost CVP Water Allocation

Sacramento, CA (May 19, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) issued an updated, increased water supply allocation of 20% for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors, including the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID). The initial allocation had been set at 15%.

Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, issued the following statement:

“During these unprecedented times, we must remember that reliable water supplies are the foundation on which community and economic health is built.

This year’s lack of rain and snowpack has challenged Reclamation’s ability to meet the multiple needs for water deliveries from the Central Valley Project – agricultural water supply, water for ecosystems and threatened species, and water for California’s urban populations.

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority appreciates Reclamation’s ability to carefully strike a balance, given the challenging conditions. The reliability and quantity of surface water deliveries directly impacts the amount of groundwater that is used to produce the food we eat and the water we drink.

Today’s announcement of a water allocation increase has positive benefits for California communities and its environment and reduces the reliance on groundwater aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley.”

BBID is a member agency of the SLDMWA, which serves 28 member public agencies, 25 of which contract with Reclamation for water supply from the CVP.

In a news release, Reclamation credited spring storms for the increased allocation.

“Thanks to April precipitation showing a sizeable water supply improvement for the American River watershed, Reclamation is pleased to announce this increased allocation for CVP water contractors south-of-the Delta,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Ernest Conant. “Even with the recent gains in water supply, the year as a whole has still been relatively dry. Reclamation will continue to monitor conditions and adjust accordingly. We urge our contractors to continue to exercise conservative use of the resource.”

Further water supply updates are posted at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvp-water/index.html. 

San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Board Elects Officers for 2020

LOS BANOS, CA – Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer was re-elected chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Authority). Michael is president of Bowles Farming Company, a family owned and operated farming company headquartered in Los Banos. Michael also serves as chair of the Henry Miller Reclamation District, is a board member with the Water Education Foundation and serves as an advisory board member of the Public Policy Institute of California.

Following his re-election, Michael said, “The Authority plays a critical role in managing a significant part of the Central Valley Project. It is a big responsibility to oversee the operations that bring project water to over a million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents and important wildlife refuges along the Pacific Flyway.

“It is very rewarding to work with a great group of directors who have the knowledge and skill to solve complex water issues. Our board is supported by a tremendous group of employees who work tirelessly to make sure water is delivered safely, reliably, and efficiently.

“It is an honor to work with our member agencies who represent urban, agricultural and environmental uses of water, and all work on innovative solutions to improve water reliability for their areas,” he said.

Elected to serve as vice-chair of the Authority is William Bordeau. Bordeau is Executive Vice President of farming operations for Harris Farms and is a board member of the Westlands Water District. Bordeau also serves as chairman of the Valley Future Foundation, the California Water Alliance, and serves on the board of the Agricultural Foundation at California State University, Fresno. He replaces former Westlands Water District Chairman Don Peracchi.

Bordeau said, “It is an honor to serve in this leadership capacity on the Authority board of directors. There are critical needs within the communities in the San Joaquin and Santa Clara valleys. Having access to reliable water supplies lies at the heart of their economies and quality of life. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Bowles Farming Company is an organic and conventional farm growing fresh market and processing tomatoes, field crops including corn, melons, carrots and onions, alfalfa for local dairies and other commodities such as durum wheat for bread, pima cotton, pistachios and almonds. Other activities include managing wetlands and habitat restoration on the family farm.

Harris Farms is a diversified farming and hospitality company founded in 1937 and based near Coalinga, California.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is a member agency of the Authority.

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The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority serves 28 member public agencies, 25 of which contract with Reclamation for water supply from the CVP. These agencies deliver water to approximately 1.2 million acres of farmland, 2 million California residents, and millions of waterfowl dependent upon the nearly 200,000 acres of managed wetlands within the Pacific Flyway.

SLDMWA Announces New Executive Director

Los Banos, CA (December 6, 2018) – The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (Water Authority) Board of Directors voted today to approve an employment contract for Federico Barajas to fill the position of its Executive Director, replacing Assistant Executive Director Frances Mizuno who has been serving on an interim basis since June 1.

Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) is a member agency of the Water Authority.

Read the full release below!

San Luis Release 12.6.18

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