Central San Joaquin Valley farmers got a dose of good and bad news Tuesday as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a full supply of water for east-side farmers in the Friant Division, while telling west-side farmers they must wait a few more weeks to learn what they will get from the Central Valley Project.
Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delayed the critical allocation announcement for water users north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, saying the unusually wet year is requiring them to take more time to refine their estimate. Those farmers may not have an answer until mid- to late March.
“No sooner had we received the February forecast that it became obsolete,” said Reclamation’s acting Mid-Pacific Regional Director Pablo Arroyave. “We also realized that the conditions on the ground have changed. And we want to be more prudent.”
Farm leaders were not pleased with the delay.
Never miss a local story.
“While the short-term relief of this year’s water outlook should have our industry optimistic, reality says something much different,” said Ryan Jacobsen, chief executive officer of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.
“The implications of the governmental-imposed drought continue with a vengeance. How, with reservoirs at their brim, flood releases happening by the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet a day, snowpack levels in most areas 150 percent-plus for this date and Delta outflows cumulatively adding up to 24 million acre-feet since October 2016, can Fresno County’s west side federal water contractors still have no initial allocation?”
No sooner had we received the February forecast that it became obsolete.
Pablo Arroyave, Bureau of Reclamation’s Acting Mid-Pacific Regional Director
Historically, the initial announcement has come in the middle of February and can be updated later in the year based on an available supply of water. Arroyave said that despite the delay, the bureau is still working with farmers to ensure they have access to water.
“We will be working closely with them based on their needs,” he said.
Arroyave said that because of the abnormally wet year, the bureau took the unusual step of issuing the allocation news in phases. On Tuesday, it announced a 100 percent allocation for the Central Valley Project’s Friant Division. The last time Friant received a 100 percent allocation was in 2011.
Bureau officials said a record snowpack, high river flows and ample reservoir storage contributed to the 100 percent allocation for Class 1 water users.
Last year, the Friant Division water users received a 75 percent allocation. In the two years before that they received zero percent allocation.
The bureau estimates that at least 900,000 acre-feet of water will be available for delivery to south-of-the-Delta water service contractors this year. Additional supplies will be available once seasonal operational forecasts are developed later in March.
“The 2017 water year has been an extreme year thus far, with precipitation throughout the Central Valley on track to be the highest in our historic records,” Arroyave said.
Jacobsen said the wet winter, with excess water being released to the ocean, highlights the importance of building the Temperance Flat Dam.
“Over the long term, California does receive ample precipitation, but its weather patterns are cyclical,” Jacobsen said. “Without investments in our water infrastructure, it will be economically devastating to the Valley to make it through the dry times, particularly with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.”
The act, passed in 2014, provides a framework for how to manage the state’s groundwater, including requiring the registration of wells and measuring and managing the amount of water used to avoid overdrafting groundwater basins.