Two Kings County supervisors last week hand-delivered a letter to The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation protesting the five percent water allocation approved for Central Valley farmers from the Central Valley Project. The letter was approved by the board April 12 and taken to Sacramento by Supervisors Richard Valle of Corcoran and Craig Peterson of Hanford.
The pair also managed to squeeze in an hour long meeting with David Murillo, regional director of the bureau, and received a promise from him to visit water-starved Kings County farmland. He is scheduled to come to the area in May.
The letter pointed out that the decisions made by the bureau regarding water deliveries have extraordinary impacts on this county and the entire southern Central Valley region. The current allocation, they said, will dictate that over 200,000 of otherwise fertile farmland will remain fallow again this year.
“This seems inhumane in that despite high and constant flows, only three individual smelt were caught in pumps this year and most recent trawls revealed no Delta Smelt in the south Delta,” stated the letter.
Delta Smelt is an almost extinct small fish found in the delta waters, where pumps push water from the northern area of the state to the south via a pump system. Smelt normally are found in the area of the pumps early in the year, causing the bureau to idle pumps in order to save fish. Despite the El Nino weather pattern of the past winter, with flows much higher than has been experienced in recent years, water still was not received by Valley farmers; the vast majority, instead, was allowed to flow out to the ocean. This year, as the letter noted, 5.5 million acre feet entered the Delta, but only 852,000 acre feet were pumped out. The rest was allowed to flow out through San Francisco Bay.
“If the Central Valley Project (CVP) cannot pump in an El Nino year, then when ever can it pump,” supervisors asked.
Valle said the meeting with Murillo was productive. Valle said the regional director told him and Peterson he is committed to working as hard as he can to get more water pumped this way. Now that the smelt, through their annual delta migration, are no longer in the vicinity of the pumps, he plans to work as hard as he can to increase the five percent allocation. Murillo said he continues to look at the date and numbers each day.
Valle said Murillo has shown he will listen to local concerns. He noted that when Avenal, part of his district along with Corcoran, was in danger of going dry from lack of water, Murillo approved an additional emergency allocation.
Valle said he invited Murillo to visit his district to personally see the effects of the water shortage. Murillo has agreed and tentatively will come to Kings County May 19. Valle hopes to host a town hall type meeting, where the regional director can reach out to local ag interests.
Valle has also launched a “Show Me the Water” campaign and has posted a video regarding the subject on his Facebook page. In just a few days, the site has received over 5,000 hits.
“When Mr. Murillo comes here, I want him to find that our community is informed and aware,” said Valle. “This water allocation is a real injustice to the people of this area.”