State absent on water storage

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By David Strecker, SJFB President

Just a few years ago, California faced a several-year drought that led to many of the most senior water right holders in the state losing their water. The talk of the time was, “We need more storage!” Since the last drought we have had a couple of above normal rain and snow events. That water is now gone out the Golden Gate and the cries for additional storage are once again heard.

The current state of California politics does not show any interest in helping family farmers and the people of California with ample water supplies. At the federal level, there is talk of additional storage. Myself as well as Bruce Blodgett have had a couple of different conversations with Congressman Josh Harder in the recent past. He is committed to bringing additional storage to California that will help in these drought years.

Additional storage is not something that will be solved at just the state or federal level. It will take both working together to make it happen. Unfortunately, just one can hold these projects up a lot easier than building one themselves.

This year’s drought has hit the emergency stage much quicker than the last drought. In 2015, after a couple of years of drought is when the most senior water right holders began to lose their access to surface water. This year, the end of July is when the State Water Control Board has begun talking water Curtailments in the Delta. The Water Board will meet on Aug. 3 to discuss which Water Right holders may lose access to water. Luckily by August most crops are close to harvest and water schedules have eased. Unfortunately these curtailments would last for one year unless the 2021-22 winter brings an above average snowpack.

The discussion of drought will ramp up in the State of California with the recall election of Gov. Newsom in September. Gov. Newsom has zero interest in helping the family farmer with their water needs. He has made it well known that he is not interested in building additional storage.

Additionally, he is a huge proponent of the Delta Tunnel. This year shows that the cost of building the Tunnel will never pencil out when Delta water users with Pre-1914 as well as riparian water rights may lose their water. Building a multibillion dollar empty tunnel is not too bright.

The Delta tunnel is only one of the many things that Newsom supports that is not helpful to San Joaquin farmers. He supported the legislation that brought us the new ag overtime laws and shows zero interest in helping people find jobs and helping the ag employers find a reliable workforce.

One bright spot for the month of August is our Annual Meeting at the San Joaquin Delta College Farm on Aug. 12.  It will be a drive-in style event and will be showcasing Delta College’s new barn. San Joaquin Delta College has been investing into its agriculture program the past couple of years. There have been many new hires and the enthusiasm from the board of trustees, administration, faculty and students should make San Joaquin farmers and ranchers very happy that our kids and grandchildren will have an option of furthering there education in agriculture at a local institution if they so choose.

You should have already received your notice for the annual meeting as well as received your ballots for board of directors. The Delta College School Farm is located next to the Perry & Sons Farms and Delicato Vineyards Tasting Room and both are participating and providing to this year’s event. I look forward to seeing all of you there as it has been a long 18 months of limited events. Please call the office to RSVP at (209) 931-4931.

Despite the ongoing push to keep the pandemic alive, most everything in our lives has seem at least a hint of normalcy return. There is still a long road ahead to overcome all that has happened the past year and a half. Weather is always going to be the biggest hurdle, but as we approach harvest time, labor will be an issue.

Even before COVID-19, labor was an issue. It may have been availability or the rising cost, but this year will be even more challenging due to the pandemic. Commodity prices are up, unfortunately costs are, too. But if we are able to overcome droughts, labor shortages and whatever else is thrown our way, I hope you all have a prosperous growing season.