"Build it and they will go mad"

"Build it and they will go mad" should have been the slogan for construction of the Friant Dam/Lake Millerton/Friant-Kern Canal. The lastest chapter in the drama, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, hereafter known as the Octopus, released flood waters from Lake Millerton -- not to aid restoration of the San Joaquin River under the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement -- but for Octopos customers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, in Westlands Water District. The Friant Water Users Authority has just sued the Octopus.
Meanwhile (see the March 12 posting on Badlands, "Downstream vengeance in California ," http://www.badlandsjournal.com/2012-03-12/007762) for the action in Congress regarding the settlement, Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, authored by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. While the FWA staff and the boards of the districts that compose the authority spent 18 years in court on the side of the Octopus, fighting against the Natural Resources Defense Council and its co-plaintiffs, and ultimately came to agreement with a funding appropriation passed by Congress rather than face the decision of the federal judge, little Devin Nunes grew up and won himself a seat in Congress. And now he's the leader of all the haters south of the Kings River. That's a mean crowd.
The latest wrinkle is that Nunes is going all over the district accusing the FWA of selling out to enviros and, to prove it, he says, the authority staff will not back his bill, which would in passing eliminate the San Joaquin River settlement. The authority's position is that it is bound by contract with Congress to participate in good faith in the settlement.
For Nunes and his crowd, politics begins with the betrayal of good faith.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Fresno Bee
East Valley farmers sue over Friant water releases…The Fresno Bee
East Valley farmers sued the federal government Friday, claiming flood water released from Friant Dam in wet winters for the San Joaquin River restoration should be returned to their farms.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, is aimed at a federal decision in February to use the flood water as fulfillment of contract requirements for some west-side farmers. The suit is not a challenge to the hard-fought restoration, farm leaders said.
Friant Water Authority, representing 15,000 east-side farmers, said the decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation goes beyond the scope of the law authorizing the river restoration.
A Bureau of Reclamation spokesman said the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
The Business Journal
Friant sues feds over piece of river settlement…Business Journal staff...4-13-12
The Friant Water Authority has filed suit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over the federal agency's plan to give flood control flows from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River to other water users, including westside growers.
The authority said the bureau's decision is a misinterpretation of the San Joaquin River Settlement Act that would fly in the face of the authority's goal to recirculate water released under the settlement and return it to Friant water users.
The complaint was filed today in U.S. district court in Fresno
Ron Jacobsma, general manager of the Friant Water Authority, said the lawsuit isn't challenging the settlement's goal of bringing the San Joaquin River back to life and introducing a salmon run. It relates only to flood flows that occur once every five to seven years, Jacobsma said.
"This is not attack against the settlement," Jacobsma added. "It's a very narrow interpretation."
Jacobsma said the bureau determined it could give some of the flood flows — potentially up to 100,000 acre-feet — to third-party, south-of-Delta Central Valley Project users.
"It doesn't happen often, but it can be a significant amount of water," Jacobsma said.
Jacobsma said he is hopeful the bureau and the authority "can work out a reasonable alternative solution."
Representatives with the Bureau of Reclamation could not immediately be reached for comment.
KSEE 24 News…Fresno, CA
Friant Water Authority Files Suit Against Bureau of Reclamation…KSEE News…4-13-12
(Press Release) The Friant Water Authority filed a complaint on Friday against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) in U.S. District Court in Fresno challenging Reclamation's misinterpretation of provisions of the San Joaquin River Settlement Act. If implemented, Reclamation's decision would result in a violation of the Settlement’s Water Management Goal and reduced water supplies to Friant Division water contractors. Friant has filed this lawsuit to enforce terms of the Settlement Act (Public Law 11-111, Title X). The Settlement Act does not permit such an interpretation or this result.
The lawsuit relates only to the narrow issue of flood management flows being used for San Joaquin River Restoration. It is only intended to overturn this one erroneous decision. Friant will continue to carry out its obligations under the Settlement, officials said.
The Settlement Act acknowledges that required San Joaquin River fish flow releases may be met with flood management flows in wet years. The Settlement Act also provides certain stated protections for third parties which include no involuntary reductions in water allocations, other than as a result of the implementation of the Settlement. Reclamation's decision extends beyond these agreed-upon parameters and therefore violates the Act.
The Water Management Goal’s recirculation provision under the Settlement includes a requirement for Reclamation to develop and implement a plan to recirculate or recapture water released under the Settlement and return such water to the Friant Division water contractors. The intent of the Water Management Goal is to eliminate or minimize water losses to CVP-Friant Division contractors as a result of providing flows for river restoration.
According to Friant's attorneys, Reclamation’s decision to give recirculated or recaptured water to third parties rather than the Friant farmers who provided the water for the river flows is in clear violation of the Settlement Act.
“Friant understands that the south-of-Delta CVP water users have water supply challenges and we sympathize with their plight, but we can't let Reclamation fix their problem by simply giving them our water,” FWA General Manager Ronald D. Jacobsma said.
Jacobsma added, “Friant does not take litigation lightly. We were forced to file this suit to defend our rights and protect ourselves from suffering the impacts of an erroneous decision. We are hopeful that the parties can workout a reasonable alternative solution that is consistent with the Act and the Settlement.”
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Mid-Pacific Region
Sacramento, Calif.
Media Contact:             Pete Lucero
Released On: April 13, 2012
Reclamation Announces Updated 2012 Water Supplies for California’s Central Valley Project
Thanks to improved precipitation in the Sacramento Valley and improved snowpack in the Northern Sierra, the Bureau of Reclamation is increasing the allocation for Central Valley Project (CVP) Exchange and Settlement Contractors, wildlife refuges, agricultural and municipal and industrial (M&I) water service contractors.
Precipitation in the Sacramento River Basin is currently 81 percent of the seasonal average to date, precipitation in the San Joaquin River Basin is 58 percent of the seasonal average to date, and the snow water content ranges from 81 percent of the April 1 average for the Northern Sierra to 32 percent for the Southern Sierra. Due to the improved hydrology since mid-March, combined with actions to improve water management throughout the CVP, Reclamation announces the following updated allocations based upon the 90-percent exceedence (dry future conditions) forecast:
North-of-Delta: • Agricultural and M&I water service contractors’ allocation has increased to 100 percent from the initial allocation of 30 percent for agricultural contractors and 75 percent of their historic use for M&I contractors of their contract supply of 782,740 acre-feet (includes American River M&I – 313,750 acre-feet, and Sacramento River M&I and Agriculture – 468,990 acre-feet).
• Sacramento River Settlement Contractors’ allocation has increased to 100 percent from the initial allocation of 75 percent of their contract supply of 2.1 MAF. These contractors receive their CVP water supply based upon pre-CVP held water rights, and the allocation is tied to pre-established Shasta inflow criteria.
• Wildlife refuges’ allocation has increased to 100 percent from the initial allocation of 75 percent of their Level 2 contract supply of 151,250 acre-feet. Refuge water allocations are also based upon Shasta inflow criteria.
South-of-Delta: • Agricultural water service contractors’ allocation has increased to 40 percent from the initial allocation of 30 percent of their contract supply of 1.9 MAF.
• M&I water service contractors’ allocation remains unchanged at 75 percent of their historic use. The allocations may be adjusted to meet public health and safety needs.
• The allocation for San Joaquin River Exchange and Settlement Contractors has increased to 100 percent of their contract supply of 875,000 acre-feet from their initial allocation of 75 percent. These contractors receive their CVP water supply based upon pre-CVP held water rights, and the allocation is tied to Shasta inflow criteria.
• Wildlife refuges’ allocation (Level 2) has increased to 100 percent from the initial allocation of 75 percent of their contract supply of 271,000 acre-feet. The refuges’ allocation is based upon Shasta inflow criteria.
Other: • Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River. The first 800,000 acre-feet of water supply is considered Class 1; any remaining water is considered Class 2. The Friant Division water supply allocation has increased to 45 percent from the initial allocation of 35 percent of Class 1 and Class 2 remains unchanged at zero percent of the contracted supply of 1.4 MAF.
• There is no change to the 100 percent allocation for Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservancy District and Stockton East Water District), whose water supplies are delivered from New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River; they are allocated their full contract supply of 155,000 acre-feet.
• Contra Costa Water District’s allocation has increased to 100 percent from the initial allocation of 75 percent of their historic use.
Reclamation has developed a series of actions in the CVP Water Plan 2012 to help support water management efforts this year. The plan, available at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/pa/water, identifies actions related to Joint Point of Diversion, Exchange Contractors’ transfers, and California Aqueduct/Delta-Mendota Canal Intertie operations. Any of these actions may offer opportunities to better manage critical water supplies.
Changes to hydrology and opportunities to exercise operational flexibility of the CVP will influence allocations during the remainder of the water year. Reclamation is monitoring the hydrologic and operating conditions and working closely with local, state and federal partners to take immediate advantage of any opportunities to increase CVP allocations. Water supply updates will be made as appropriate and posted at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/pa/water.
For additional information, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 916-978-5100 (TTY 916-978-5608) or e-mail mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov.