Ag Today February 6, 2019

Lawsuits from Central Valley, Bay Area keep state ‘water grab’ tied up in courts [Modesto Bee]

An assortment of groups, from a leading farming organization to a water supplier for Silicon Valley, joined the legal fray in courts over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. Monday, the California Farm Bureau Federation said it filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court, charging the water board’s plan misrepresents and underestimates the impacts on Central Valley agriculture, which is the lifeblood of local communities. The plan would require irrigation districts to leave 30 to 50 percent of watershed runoff in the rivers from February through June to push young salmon downstream to the San Joaquin-Sacramento delta and the ocean. Lawsuits opposing the Dec. 12 decision were filed in early January on behalf of Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Merced and South San Joaquin irrigation districts. The Farm Bureau, with 36,000 members in California, filed its own suit because many of its members outside those water districts are affected by the state board decision, a spokesman said.


Will Trump’s California water plan send more to Republican farmers and short Democrat cities? [Sacramento Bee]

While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the water” for Central Valley farmers who’d been victimized by “insane” environmental rules to protect fish. Trump took one of the most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the Central Valley. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released an 871-page “biological assessment” of conditions in the Delta that it said is designed to “maximize water supply and delivery” while maintaining protections for fish. But environmental groups said the move would put new strains on the Valley’s struggling salmon and smelt populations — and could also force the state to cough up some of its urban water supplies to keep the fish from declining further.


Valley Fever cases in California continue to increase [San Francisco Chronicle]

Documented cases of Valley Fever rose 11 percent in 2018 — a preliminary total of 7,886 cases compared to 7,090 cases for the same period in 2017, according to the California Department of Public Health. Health officials said final data for 2018 will be available in March. Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) is an illness caused by a fungus found in the soil and dirt in the Central Valley. The fungus thrives in areas of low rainfall, high summer temperatures and moderate winter temperatures. The spores are carried by the wind in dust particles when the desert soil is disturbed. Simply passing through an area with Valley Fever and breathing in a small number of spores can lead to an infection of the lungs with flu-like symptoms. About half of the infections produce no symptoms, but in a few cases, the infection can spread from the lungs to the brain, bones, skin or eyes, causing blindness, skin abscesses, lung failure and, occasionally, death.


Automation could be a threat to jobs in the Central Valley, according to a new study. [KCRA-TV, Sacramento]

At Morado Produce in Stockton, hundreds of employees work alongside machines during the season….A professor of economics at Stanislaus State University, Dr. Ayuba Seidu, said some people will lose jobs in the future. “Jobs will be lost. It may not happen in five years or 10 years, but it will happen,” Seidu said. The new study suggests intelligent machines may well take over more jobs in the future. It found as technology becomes less expensive and more sophisticated, it’s spreading into jobs usually done by warehouse laborers and farm workers. “We don’t have a choice,” San Joaquin County Farm Bureau spokesperson Bruce Blodgett said. “We see a lot of people trying different things, trying different machines.”


2018 was one of the hottest years on record — and this year could be even hotter [Los Angeles Times]

All five of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last five years, according to global temperature data released Wednesday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While 2018 was slightly cooler than the three prior years, Earth still had its fourth-warmest year since scientists began keeping records in 1880, the federal agencies said. Their separate analyses add to decades of evidence that the burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of forests and other human activities are releasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing the planet to warm….Last year’s average global surface temperature was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, according to NOAA.


Are we safe from a drought this year? Here’s what we know so far [San Francisco Chronicle]

The rain and even a bit of snow keep on coming. Except for a 10-day dry spell at the end of January, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a series of drenching winter storms that have watered gardens, fueled waterfalls, recharged reservoirs, and diminished the possibility of the ever-dreaded drought. In fact, all of California has been slammed with an onslaught of unsettled weather unleashing heavy snow and rain. There are some areas in Southern California such as Ventura and Kern counties where more rain has fallen in the past week than in all of last year. The plentiful water is reflected in key indicators used to gauge drought — including snowpack and reservoir levels — that are showing the state and the Bay Area are well-equipped with water.