Ag Today Monday, March 23, 2015

Conservationists say thinning Sierra forests may help state water supply [Sacramento Bee]

With the state entering its fourth year of drought, some conservationists are looking at thinning Sierra forests to increase the amount of water that flows into area rivers. The Nature Conservancy issued a report Friday that argues that thinning forests on public lands can reduce wildfire risk in the Northern Sierra. The report also found that such action brings a bonus: water conservation. Thinning dense forests may lead to a 3 percent to 6 percent increase in mean annual stream flow to some watersheds, according to the report….On Friday, the Association of California Water Agencies also released its own report that calls for better headwater and forest management – and for better collaboration among federal, state and other agencies, and other stakeholders.
Editorial: Pay for fighting wildfires like natural disasters [Sacramento Bee]
An out-of-control wildfire is just as much a natural disaster as a hurricane or flood….But that’s not how wildfires are handled in the federal budget, and it’s taking money away from worthwhile programs in our national forests and parks. This has to change. The U.S. Forest Service, the White House, bipartisan supporters in Congress and conservation groups are on the right track. They’re trying to push through legislation (H.R. 167) so that the costs of fighting the few catastrophic wildfires would be paid from emergency funds, just as when other natural disasters strike.
Opinion: Bees need allies beyond Big Almond [Sacramento Bee]
…No industry comes close to almond growers in their concern for bee health. But it’s not enough, given the disregard in the rest of the food system for bees. Even here, knee-deep in their favorite kind of pollen and nectar, hazards beset bees. Fungicide cocktails sicken adults and kill larvae. Insecticide-laced fertilizers in neighboring fields taint nearby plants with poison….Broadly speaking, the culprit is modern industrial farming. Particularly in the Midwest, bee habitat has been all but eradicated by crops like corn and soy, which have replaced once-diverse landscapes with monocultures….Everyone who eats has a stake in this issue. Bees cannot live on the self-interest of California almond farmers alone.
Sonoma County gets set to study groundwater regulations [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]
When Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed a package of three bills designed to curb overpumping of water from underground aquifers, the historic legislation sent fear and panic throughout Sonoma County. Residents who depend on underground wells as their primary source of water contacted county officials to ask how the laws would affect them, and farmers whose operations require a steady supply of water lobbied hard to be included in conversations about restrictions going forward….Sonoma County this week unveiled its first formal response to a wave of queries over the past six months about how California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which establishes the first rules for pumping groundwater in the Golden State, would affect property owners and agriculture.
Salinas area growers begin push to secure water supply [Salinas Californian]
It’s push and push back time. With the first phases of the Groundwater Sustainability Act taking shape, growers realize that this legislation will affect them in a big way. And by big, I don’t mean good….Already state agencies such as the Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Water Resources, along with sister federal agencies, are implementing rules governing the amount of water farmers in the Central Valley receive. Farmers, meanwhile, are organizing a push-back of their own. Last week growers — represented by Farm Bureau leaders — from throughout the state made the rounds in Sacramento, visiting Assembly members and state senators….“If we are going to change what is happening in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., we have to have a presence,” said California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger at this year’s CFBF Leaders Conference. It appears his words were heeded.
Lake Mendocino shrinking again [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]
On the surface, Lake Mendocino appears to have plenty of water, especially when compared with the near-record low levels that turned most of the lake into a mudflat last year. But the lake’s water level already has begun a steady decline that has farmers and water officials concerned it could again shrink to near empty by the end of this fourth year of drought. “Everybody’s watching it,” Mendocino County Farm Bureau Executive Director Devon Jones said. Unless significant rain falls this spring, state regulators are likely to repeat last year’s unprecedented curtailment of hundreds of water rights held by farmers and others along the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and Healdsburg. The state already has curtailed water rights to some Sacramento River tributaries and notified Russian River water users they could be next.
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