The Central Valley, the heart of California, is the state’s top agricultural producing region, often called “the nation’s salad bowl” for the great array of fruits and vegetables grown in its rich soil.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wasn’t thinking about California’s Central Valley when he wrote:
However, if the water resources department gets its way, the Central Valley may as well get used to this poem.
I talked with Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, a fourth-generation farmer from the Central Valley, about this threat. Vidak represents all of Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties.
“A five percent water allocation for our Valley is unconscionable; it will wipe out any hope of a thriving agriculture community and the jobs it brings,” Vidak said.
While Vidak said California has had two dry years, the Central Valley is suffering under the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, a federal program to restore flows to the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the confluence of Merced River, in order to restore Chinook salmon in the river. “Billions are being spent on dry salmon runs,” Vidak said. “We’re spending $2 million to $3 million per fish!”
Vidak said the Central Valley is home to the poorest district in the state, and in the entire United States. ”Yet we’re doing this with salmon?” he asked incredulously. ”Communities and cities in the Valley continue to be deprived of their fundamental right to water because of extreme environmentalists that promote policies that place the needs of animals and fish above those of families, farmers and agricultural workers.”
Vidak said the San Joaquin River Restoration Program officials are even trucking salmon around dry river areas to spawn.
“We’re now running this water out to the ocean,” Vidak said. “We don’t even had clean drinking water. “It’s politicians who have done this, and environmentalists have gone too far.”
Vidak said Gov. Jerry Brown could declare a state of emergency to help “ratchet down the federal salmon project.”
State Water Bond
“This hammers home the point that any water bond that does not fully fund surface water storage and conveyance for the Valley is a non-starter.” Vidak said the state water bond was pushed aside to make way for the bullet train.
The Water Bond Measure was originally expected to be on the 2010 ballot. Despite being certified for the ballot, it was removed and placed on the 2012 ballot. But the Legislature instead passed a bill July 2012, to take the water bond measure off the 2012 ballot and put it on the 2014 ballot.
Even if it passes, Vidak said the state still wouldn’t have any new water storage for five to ten years.
“What we’ve got is a political legacy of pumping the valley dry,” Vidak added. He said the ground is sinking where the High-Speed Rail train is supposed to run because officials are pumping out ground water.
The affected areas in Vidak’s Senate District 16 are:
- Tulare Lake Water Storage District
- Kern County Water Agency
- Empire Westside Irrigation District
- Kings County
- Dudley Ridge Water District
These five areas requested 1.1 million acre-feet of water, but with the 5 percent allocation, they will only receive 56,544 acre-feet.
Cross posted on CalWatchdog