Bigelow and coalition to feds: Don’t take water from farmers

By From page A10 | January 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO — Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Vice Chair Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, and a bipartisan coalition of San Joaquin Valley legislators today sent the following letter to the United States Bureau of Reclamation calling on them to not take water from farmers:

“We write today regarding concerns raised by our constituents about the possibility of the Bureau of Reclamation not providing rescheduled water which was held over from the 2013-2014 contract year. While we understand that no decision has been made on this issue as of yet, we believe that it would be unconscionable for the Bureau to not honor rescheduled water from the 2013-2014 contract year.

“Many growers in the San Joaquin Valley rely on contracted surface water from the Central Valley Project. For years individuals have been able to reschedule water that was not used in the previous contract year for use in the upcoming contract year. These growers have been able to make these decisions because of significant financial investments in water conservation equipment, the purchasing of millions of dollars’ worth of water through transfers, and the fallowing of land. This prudent action by growers was made with the understanding that rescheduled water would protect growers from drought conditions that may happen in the upcoming year. It would be egregious for the Bureau to penalize growers who adopted these practices based on the Bureau’s own guidelines that they could reschedule water from one contract year to the next.

“Limiting access to rescheduled water would be a disastrous economic blow to our growers and our region which will result in the fallowing of agriculture land. This in turn will devastate the economies of many small communities in the Valley as well as substantially increase unemployment, which in some areas that we represent already exceeds 40 percent. Blocking access to rescheduled surface water will also result in increased groundwater overdraft and subsidence issues within the Valley.

“We understand that California is in the midst of a drought and without substantial precipitation in the near distant future things will become even worse. Penalizing growers who made responsible decisions and investments last year to reschedule water will only exacerbate problems in the Valley and in the state. We request that the Bureau continue to provide rescheduled water to growers and call on you both to find ways to increase the amount of water that is available to all Californians that rely on the Central Valley Project.

“If the Bureau is going to move ahead and restrict rescheduled water, we would request that both of you please come to the Valley and explain to our constituents why the Bureau will not be able to honor the rescheduling of water, and what the Bureau is going to do to help growers and communities in the San Joaquin Valley.”

The letter was signed by Assemblyman Frank Bigelow and seven other state senators and assembly members.

Frank Bigelow represents the 5th Assembly District, which encompasses Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Placer, and Tuolumne counties and includes Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.

Kirk Kimmerlshue

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