Badlands Journal editorial board has come to its position about the proposed changes in the distribution of surface and groundwater in the Delta and San Joaquin Valley.
The new appropriation of river water and regulation on pumping groundwater comes down to a battle between the California executive resource agencies and the money, influence and lawyers a half a dozen northeast valley irrigation districts can muster to defeat it. In other words, lobbyists vs. the bureaucracy, with a supporting chorus of county officials, local newspapers, farm bureaus, etc.
The state claims it must take more river water to protect endangered species in the Delta. The irrigation districts that take water from the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers claim the water will end up in Southern California. At a bit more complex a level of description, the additional river water from San Joaquin River tributaries will replace water taken from the Sacramento River, which would normally keep salt water from the San Francisco Bay from turning the whole Delta into a slough. The peripheral tunnel project, beloved by Gov. Jerry Brown, would take a quantity of fresh water from the Sacramento River above the Delta, ship it under and around the Delta to canals running south to Southern California cities and the powerful agribusiness interests on the west side of the valley. Just to add a tiny bit more, the state has required additional flows into the Delta for environmental reasons from the Sacramento River as well.
Meanwhile, in addition to a severe drought that has forced farmers to rely more on groundwater, the state has mandated that most groundwater basins develop plans to sustain groundwater levels in the future. Voluntarily. If not, the state claims it will step in and it already has stepped in to sort out groundwater issues in the Redding area.
Also, the San Joaquin River for the first time in more than 60 years, will flow year-round across the valley, as the result of the settlement reached on a lawsuit almost half the age of the dam and the canal that diverted its flow to farmers on the southeast side of the valley.
Agribusiness didn't agree with any of these plans, settlements and policies restricting the amount of water available for farming because without either surface or groundwater, particularly with the arrival of global warming, San Joaquin Valley agriculture will disappear, at least in the form we know it. Of course, farmers will be paid off by the government, as they are for every disaster, crop subsidy or crop-insurance subsidy or conservation deed they perform. And after the land is already salted up from irrigation, taxpayers will pay for it based on some imaginary agricultural value it no longer has.
Government payments aside however, this does not mean that farmers will not fill the air with whines and screams, threats and curses. It is ludicrous to assume that agricultural interests will ever accept "voluntarily" any reduction in the amount of water their irrigation districts are allowed to take from any river because in the sad world of their delusions, they own the rivers. In fact, they own land only as profitable as the amount of water they can apply makes it. The state will have to find the means and the will to enforce all these restrictions bravely proposed by state resource bureaucrats in the sunset of Gov. Jerry Brown's fourth term in office.
If the government doesn't enforce groundwater-pumping restrictions well ahead of its present schedule, valley aquifers will crash and land will subside with disastrous consequences for the agricultural and municipal future. Furthermore, the amounts of river water proposed to be taken for environmental reasons are not enough for the job, according to environmentalists.
Meanwhile, other irrigation districts will continue to flourish right up to the moment when the soil is so full of salt that it can no longer be profitably farmed, whereupon the districts will make larger contracts with municipal districts. They will need to retain larger fees in part to rebuild canals damaged by land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping, including their own, adjacent to the canals.
This is as far as we can see into it at the moment. Given that Modesto, in the center of the affected region, is the administrative home of the dairy and almond industries, the Gallo Wine Co., and several state and national secretaries of agriculture, we assume the flow of propaganda, long-standing political power and money against the state's proposal will be enormous, incredibly distorting, and possibly successful. A city whose triumphal arch reads "Water Wealth Contentment Health," lives at a high level of denial, a high level of crime, unemployment, and disease.
Modesto crime rate https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/modesto/crime
Modesto unemployment http://www.modbee.com/news/article109808417.html
Stanislaus County ranks near bottom in state for health http://www.turlockjournal.com/archives/31715/
County resolutions against governor's proposal http://www.modbee.com/news/article109808417.html
New water fight http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-joaquin-flow-20160915-snap-story.html
Owens Valley 2.0? http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/1/article/138496/
Water war declared http://www.modbee.com/opinion/state-issues/article25349335.html
Environmentalists "don't want to destroy valley farms" http://www.modbee.com/opinion/state-issues/article106162677.html
Oakdale Irrigation District response http://www.modbee.com/news/local/oakdale/article109451487.html
UC Davis assessment of groundwater legal issues https://californiawaterblog.com/2016/10/23/evaluating-californias-adjudicated-groundwater-basins-in-the-sgma-era/
San Joaquin River flow year round http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-river-flowing-20161022-snap-story.html
Regulators propose leaving more water in state's rivers http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Regulators-propose-leaving-more-water-in-10154863.php
More Sacramento River Water for Delta fish http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/10/20/the-drought-california-considers-more-sacramento-river-water-for-fish-less-for-farms-cities/