Zero Allocation Concerns Draw Big Crowd
Audience Of 2,000 Friant Water Users Hears Drought’s Grim Status, Rallies For Flexibility
Briefly heavy rain may have been falling outside but water supply curtailments were most on the minds of a concerned Tulare audience of some 2,000 on March 26 that listened but occasionally strongly reacted to grim prospects created by the Friant Division’s zero allocation.
The event was a major water forum and rally held in an International Agri-Center hall. The crowd reflected the Friant Division’s diverse agricultural community. Scores of farm families and hundreds of farm workers attended along with business leaders and community members.
Two top water officials – U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo and State Water Resources Control Board member Doreen D’Adamo – explained federal and state perspectives of this year’s water crisis.
Murillo spoke of the complexities of managing the federal water supply against a backdrop of endangered species production, including restrictions by fishery agencies on Delta export pumping as well as then-existing terms of an emergency State Board administrative order that greatly curtailed Delta exports in the face of expected storm events and higher runoff.
“One thing I understand is that you [audience members] have to live with whatever decision we make,” Murillo said.
D’Adamo outlined the State Board’s administrative actions that ultimately permitted a small amount of additional Delta pumping. She said the State Board Executive Officer had acted quickly in temporarily easing water quality standards to provide some “health and safety” water for urban use while protecting the Delta from salinity.
‘WE ARE AT ZERO’
Ronald D. Jacobsma, General Manager of the Friant Water Authority (one of the event’s sponsors along with the California Latino Water Coalition, businesses and agencies), said he “appreciates what has been done but we in Friant still have a problem – we are at zero.”
“We’re not asking to wipe out the fish,” he said, but allowing so much water “to flow out to the ocean makes no sense to us” and in reality has left Friant contractors with what he called “a sub-zero allocation.”
If ample north state water is not made available to the Exchange Contractors, Jacobsma said, “We’ll stay at zero” with damaging economic and social effects along the valley’s East Side costing billions of dollars in lost crops, lost permanent plantings and lots of jobs, plus residual environmental damage to the aquifer.
“You can’t take away our surface water and wonder why we’re running out of groundwater,” Jacobsma said.
Several others spoke, many impassionedly. Here is a sampling:
Terra Bella Irrigation District General Manager Sean Geivet said the district is blessed with a perfect citrus growing climate “but cursed with no groundwater.” He said a total lack of Friant water would doom citrus groves and require years without crops to recover, threatening widespread loss of livelihoods.
“We need the people in power to understand the consequences of their decisions,” Geivet said. “Supply us the water from the projects that we were promised.”
Terra Bella grower Geoffrey Galloway said his farm has no groundwater. “Zero allocation is unacceptable and detrimental to farm families like mine. Without this precious resource, I will watch my trees die.”
Retired Delano area farm worker Carmen Garza said her grandfather long ago told her, “Don’t let the farmers Kern County tractor dealer Clayton Camp told the growers, “If you guys don’t have water, you’re not buying tractors, you’re not buying parts, you’re not buying repair labor. You don’t need us. Our employees are at risk. Our business is at risk… . It’s not a trickle-down effect. It’s a long-fall effect.”
Merced County grower Cannon Michael, complained, “We have been taking regulation after regulation. It’s been death by a thousand cuts. We have let this regulatory engine be built on our backs.”
Michael suggested regulators are using water to “control the population. That’s how you control the people of this world, by taking away their water. Now, we have got to push back.”