The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced a significant boost in the forecasted State Water Project (SWP) deliveries this year due to continued winter storms in March and a massive Sierra snowpack. DWR now expects to deliver 75 percent of requested water supplies, up from 35 percent announced in February. The increase translates to an additional 1.7 million acre-feet of water for the 29 public water agencies that serve 27 million Californians. Consistent storms in late February and March have built up the Sierra snowpack to more than double the amount that California typically sees this time of year. Rainfall has also allowed for robust flows through the system, providing adequate water supply for the environment and endangered fish species while allowing the SWP to pump the maximum amount of water allowed under state and federal permits into reservoir storage south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Further adjustments to the forecasted allocation are likely following the milestone April snow survey measurements. April 1 is traditionally when California’s snowpack peaks and starts to melt. DWR is planning to host its April snow survey on Monday, April 3, at Phillips Station, weather conditions permitting.
NEWS & ISSUES
Association Seeks Tractor Replacement Funding But Budget Looms Large
Association President/CEO Roger Isom spent part of this past week at the State Capitol meeting legislators in an all-out effort to reinstate FARMER funding into the state budget. The Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) is an incentive program designed to help farmers achieve voluntary emission reductions by helping pay for new lean burning tractors and harvesters while having the farmers destroy the older higher emitting equipment. As of last year, more than 4,200 tractors and harvesters had been replaced as well as 277 ag trucks and 66 ag pump engines with the lowest emission equipment available. In addition, more than 2,600 fuel burning ATVs had been replaced with fully electric UTVs. In total, this has generated more than 20,000 tons of NOx reductions, 1,200 tons of PM reductions, and more than 185,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. The hugely successful program has been a win-win for everyone especially air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. The program is also part of an important State Implementation Plan (SIP) that promotes the use of the incentives as meeting as part of an effort to achieve 11 tons per day of NOx emissions by the end of 2023. Should the goal not be achieved, it will force the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop and implement a mandatory tractor replacement rule that will require the replacement of every Tier 0, 1 and 2 tractor and harvester by 2030! This would be devastating to farmers throughout the valley that are already battling high energy, labor, fuel and other input costs while dealing with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Unfortunately, the growing statewide budget deficit is weighing heavy on legislators as they fight to keep funding in existing programs. “Every office we visited understood the importance of the FARMER program, but many indicated this is a very tough year from a fiscal perspective”, stated Isom. “Nonetheless, many indicated their support of the FARMER program, and we remain hopeful some amount of funding will be reinstated.” The Association is part of a large coalition seeking $160 million in FARMER funding for FY 2023.
Reclamation announces initial 2023 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project
This week, the Bureau of Reclamation announced initial 2023 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project water users. Water supply allocations are based on an estimate of water available for delivery to CVP water users and reflect current reservoir storage, precipitation, and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. “While we are cautiously optimistic, we are also cognizant of the uncertainties that exist and the fluctuating nature of California’s climate with the possibility that dry conditions will return,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We received a much-needed dose of rain and snow in December and January that helped boost the water levels at our CVP reservoirs. The projected runoff from the snowmelt later this year will further benefit the state as we head into the summer months. However, we are all too aware of the precarious nature of recent weather patterns and must proceed prudently as we move through the water year—especially with below average storage in the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta.” This year’s initial allocations reflect the improved hydrologic conditions caused by the winter storms that left the Sierra Nevada snowpack at well above normal conditions.
Currently, reservoir storages in Trinity and Shasta reservoirs are below the historic average for this time of year and runoff forecasts indicate that overall storage for these reservoirs may be limited if substantial spring precipitation does not materialize. Other CVP reservoirs, such as Folsom and Millerton, are in better shape with above average water storage levels for this time of year.
Central Valley Project Reservoir status (as of Feb. 19)
|Reservoir||Storage Percent of
|Percent of 15-Year
|San Luis (federal share)||64||618||95|
“Three years of record-setting drought in California will take some time to recover from,” said Reclamation Regional Director Conant. “In the short-term, the early winter storms have helped, but in the long-term, we still have much catching up to do, especially in the northern part of our system.” Based on current hydrology and forecasting, Reclamation is announcing the following initial CVP water supply allocations:
- Irrigation water service and repayment contractors north-of-Delta are allocated 35% of their contract total.
- Municipal and industrial water service and repayment contractors north-of-Delta are allocated 75% of their historic use or public health and safety needs, whichever, is greater.
- Sacramento River Settlement Contractors’ water supply is based upon settlement of claimed senior water rights. The 2023 water year is currently determined as non-critical, as defined in their Settlement Contracts, which allows for 100% of their contract supply.
- Irrigation water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta are allocated 35% of their contract total.
- M&I water service and repayment contractors south-of-Delta are allocated 75% of their historical use.
- San Joaquin River Settlement Contractors and San Joaquin Exchange Contractors’ water supply is based upon settlement/exchange of claimed senior water rights. The 2023 water year is currently determined as non-critical, as defined in their contracts, which allows for 100% of their contract supply.
Eastside Water Contractors
- Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District) will receive 100% of their contract total.
Friant Division Contractors
- Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River via the Madera and Friant-Kern canals. The first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply is considered Class 1; Class 2 is considered the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet. Given the current hydrologic conditions, the Friant Division water supply allocation is 100% of Class 1 and 20% of Class 2.
As the water year progresses, changes in hydrology, actions that impact operations, and opportunities to deliver additional water will influence future allocations. Reclamation will continue to monitor hydrology and may adjust basin-specific allocations if conditions warrant an update.
Association’s Isom Addresses Farm Show Crowd on Port Issue Concerns
The Association’s President/CEO Roger Isom spoke today at the World Ag Expo in Tulare as part of a panel on Rising Costs and Inflation Impacts on Global Trade. Isom highlighted long term impacts due to the ongoing West Coast Port problems, and what the long-term implications might be. In addition, Isom took the opportunity to call for automation at the three West Coast Ports. “Our ports are among the worst in the world when it comes to container handling times” Isom stated. “We have both Federal and State Infrastructure money and we need to utilize to get these ports up to speed”.
URGENT ADVISORY – UC Merced Air Quality Monitoring
This is an urgent advisory! This week one of our members was approached by a student from UC Merced to ask if they would be allowed to place an air quality monitor on their facility grounds (see attached letter). This effort is being led by the SJV Center for Air Assessment and Injustice Reduction at UC Merced. This is not scientifically valid as it would not meet Federal EPA citing requirements and could lead to very misleading results. DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO OCCUR ON YOUR PROPERTY! Nothing good will come from this study other than to try and regulate you even more than you already are and based on scientifically flawed information. You are not required to comply with their request in any way. If you are contacted, please tell them NO, and then let us know.
Cal/OSHA Adopts COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations this past week. The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards will continue to remain in effect while the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) reviews the proposed Non-Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. OAL has 30 working days to complete its review. If approved by OAL, the new regulations will remain in effect for two years.
Notable provisions include:
- COVID workplace measures: Employers are legally obligated to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace for employees, including by taking measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure. Employers must maintain an effective written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) that addresses COVID-19 as a workplace hazard and includes measures to prevent workplace transmission, employee training, and methods for responding to COVID-19 cases at the workplace. Employers may address COVID-19 workplace measures within their written IIPP or in a separate document.
- COVID Testing: Employers must make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees following a close contact, except for returned cases.
- Ventilation: For all indoor locations regardless of size, employers must review applicable CDPH guidance and implement effective measures to prevent transmission through improved filtration and/or ventilation.
- Close Contact Definition: Close contact is defined by the size of the workplace:
- For indoor spaces of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor, a close contact is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace as a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period, as defined in the regulations, regardless of the use of face coverings.
- For indoor spaces of greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor, a close contact is defined as being within six feet of the COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period, as defined in the regulations, regardless of the use of face coverings.
- Offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, break or eating areas, bathrooms, or other spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls shall be considered distinct indoor spaces.
- Infectious Period Definition: The regulations use the definition of “infectious period” found in the most recent California Department of Public Health (CDPH) State Public Health Officer Order.
Cal/OSHA is updating its resources to assist employers with understanding their obligations required by the COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. When the new regulation becomes effective, Cal/OSHA will publish an updated set of FAQs and model program.
Association Participates in Meeting w/ CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Fresno State Officials
It was a very special visit today from the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, as she toured the school farm at California State University Fresno, and then met with industry officials and the President of California State University Fresno, Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval. Association President/CEO Roger Isom joined a select group of industry representatives to discuss critical issues facing agriculture and what role the university might play. During the lunch meeting discussion, Isom commented on the role of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) Tree Nut Processing Laboratory and educating students and prospective employees by highlighting on some recent success stories of recent graduates impacting member operations. Isom also highlighted the critical applied research Fresno State is conducting such as the fusarium research that Dr. Maggie Ellis is doing on cotton. Following the discussion several Fresno State researchers made brief presentations on critical work being performed at Fresno State.
Sites Reservoir Awarded Additional $30 Million in Federal Funds
Federal investment in Sites Reservoir was reinforced this week with an additional $30 million in funding allocated from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (passed in 2021). With the allocation of these funds, Sites has now received roughly $134 million in federal funding from the Bureau of Reclamation for construction of the Sites Reservoir Project. “Sites Reservoir creates new resiliency for California in the face of climate change,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority. “Through Sites, we are building smarter infrastructure that will provide water supplies for people, farms and the environment when it’s needed most.”
Sites will provide significant public benefits, including environmental, flood control and recreational benefits. The investment from the project’s federal partners will enhance what the project will deliver for the environment and would be additive to environmental benefits provided by the State’s Proposition 1 dollars. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, commented “Our investment in these projects will increase water storage capacity and lay conveyance pipeline to deliver reliable and safe drinking water and build resiliency for communities most impacted by drought.”
Sites Reservoir is an off-stream facility that does not dam a major river system and would not block fish migration or spawning. Sites captures and stores stormwater flows from the Sacramento River – after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met – for release primarily in dry and critical years for environmental use and for California communities, farms, and businesses when it is so desperately needed. One of Sites Reservoir’s greatest strengths is in its broad statewide representation including cities, counties, water and irrigation districts throughout the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area, and Southern California. The Sites Reservoir Project is locally led by the Sites Project Authority which is made up Sacramento Valley water districts, cities and counties.
Air District Accepts and Appropriates $118 Million for FARMER Funding
Today, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board accepted and appropriated $118 million in new FARMER funding to help replace older diesel tractors and harvesters with new Tier 4 equipment. This is the 5th year for the FARMER program, and in the first four years, the District had allocated more than $432 million to replace ag equipment. This year’s money is a significant shot in the arm and comes just in time as the Air District’s queue of applications increased from 2,061 to 3,305 just since April! Association President/CEO Roger Isom attended the Governing Board Meeting and testified in support of the allocation. In doing so, Isom thanked the District staff and the Board for their support in this funding and emphasized the need for this funding to help agriculture be a part of the solution to the Valley’s air quality problems. Isom stated “Agriculture can’t pass along the cost of new equipment like other industries, and this is exacerbated by the drought and incredibly high input costs. The incentive programs, like FARMER have been hugely successful and we must continue them.” In allocating the $118 million, the District will also hire additional staff to help address this growing backlog of applications.
Association and Other Ag Groups File Petition to California Supreme Court on Bumblebee Case
Following a somewhat surprise ruling by the California Third District Court of Appeal, which affirmed the California Fish and Game Commission’s authority to determine if insects such as four bumblebee species can be protected under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), a coalition of seven agricultural organizations including the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) and the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) have filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court asking them to hear this case. The Appeals Court’s new order reverses a previous trial court decision and opens the flood gates to include many potential insect species under CESA. This process began in 2018 when some public interest groups petitioned the Commission to list four species of bumblebees as endangered. The Commission accepted the petition and began the process to list the 4 species as candidate species. At that point, seven agricultural organizations, including CCGGA and WAPA, challenged the decision, and the California Superior Court agreed. In response, the Commission and public interest groups filed an appeal with the Third District Court of Appeal. Unfortunately, the Third District found that the legislature intended the definition of fish to include insects (invertebrates). Feeling confident in the agricultural groups’ position, the coalition decided to move forward with filing the petition with the hopes the case will be heard by the California Supreme Court. Stay tuned!