[env-trinity] CV Biz Times: Retire westside farmlands, environmentalists say

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Feb 11 09:09:53 PST 2014


Retire westside farmlands, environmentalists say 

February 10, 2014 12:26pm

•  Would ease current water emergency
•  “There is only so much water in California during normal periods”
California’s water woes could be eased if some of the farms on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley were fallowed, say environmental groups Monday.
The farms grow permanent crops, such as almonds and pistachios, on land that cannot be properly drained and for which there is not adequate ground water or senior water rights, the groups say.
Restore the Delta says there has been a virtual explosion of permanent crops being grown on the west side of the Valley, sucking up large quantities of water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“There is only so much water in California during normal periods. Much less in dry periods, which we experience about 40 percent of the time,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. Her group is among those opposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build massive water tunnels to export water from the Sacramento River to the state and federal irrigation systems.
“During this current drought, Californians once again are being presented with a false dichotomy that California’s water problems are all about fish versus people,” she says. “The facts show that the unsustainable business practices of Westlands [Water District] and Kern [County Water Agency], planting permanent crops like almonds in areas that are only to receive extra water in wet years, that’s the real source behind the emergency that this drought has evolved into.”
She says instead of spending an estimated $67 billion on the governor’s tunnels, a much smaller amount of money should be spent on buying up impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and taking it out of growing thousands of almond and pistachio trees and miles of grape vines.
But it’s not just the growth of permanent crops on the west side of the valley that has helped put the state into a water emergency, says Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
“The absence of a drought response plan, egregious mismanagement and unsustainable expectations” are also responsible for the current water emergency, he says.
“Water crises will continue until California eliminates ‘paper’ water, and bring water demand into balance with actual water,” Mr. Jennings says.
He says that over the years, roughly five times as much water has been promised as the state actually has during a normal year.
They spoke along with others in a Monday teleconference. Listen to the conference by clicking on the link below.

Click here to listen now or to download the MP3 audio file (water presser.mp3, 34.07 MB) 
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