Opinion Columns & Blogs

April 15, 2014

John Michelena: We got the rain, so where’s the water?

West Side grower John Michelena has mixed feelings about those blue “Pray for Rain” signs along our country roads, saying he’s thankful for the rain, but believes our state and federal governments have been lying about California’s drought and water.

I have mixed feelings when I see those blue “Pray for Rain” signs along our country roads. Though I thank the Almighty for sending rain, I think our state and federal governments have been lying to us about California’s drought and water.

Through early February, Northern California was on course to receiving its worst rainfall since the 17.1 inches it got in 1923-24, according to the Northern Sierra Precipitation: 8-Station Index. The second-driest period on record was 1976-77 with 19.0 inches. Then in February and March, we had a convincing answer to our prayers, when late rains brought 26.6 inches by April 4 – which typically ends the rainy season. The average from 1922-98 was 50.0 inches.

This northern part of the state is vital because it feeds the mighty Sacramento River, which provides some 74 percent of the water flowing into our Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with 16 percent coming from the San Joaquin River and 10 percent from Eastside tributaries and Delta precipitation. This northern Sierra water has historically been used by thousands of farmers to grow food above and below the Delta, as well as on Delta islands in the middle.

Our largest reservoirs – Shasta, Oroville and Folsom – are strategically located there, as previous state and federal governments rightly saw the value of capturing Sacramento River water rather than allowing it to flow unimpeded to the sea.

But we see a disturbing reality with data from the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, particularly when comparing the second driest period of October-March 1977 to October-March 2014.

The current water storage is considerably better than in 1977 but water releases have increased only slightly. The Delta water inflows have also increased, but the Delta water outflows that go to the ocean (about 82 percent of inflows) have almost doubled from what was released in 1977.

The most alarming fact is that Total Contractor Allocations (for farms) have declined from 1.65 million acre-feet in 1977 to 464,000 acre-feet in 2014 – which is about only one-third as much water as was sent to agriculture some 37 years ago during California’s second-worst drought.

Total exports of water have also declined from 1.62 million acre-feet in 1977 to 1.09 million acre-feet in 2014, which might indicate that more water is sent to Southern California than to agriculture south of the Delta. These numbers are inexplicable. In 1977, the State Water Project had water allocations of 40 percent and the Central Valley Project had 25 percent allocations, compared with 0 percent water allocations from state and federal programs for 2014.

President Barack Obama recently visited our Central Valley and blamed our meteorological drought on global warming. Has radical environmentalism gone wild, or is this a leftist political agenda being pursued under the frauds of drought, global warming and Delta smelt?

Just recently, there was a perilous stand-off between a Nevada cattle rancher and the Bureau of Land Management because of a desert tortoise. Do you ever wonder how many human lives and businesses are ruined by the environmental lies of government? Do humans have less dignity than animals and fish?

I have advocated the building of more water storage, but that was assuming that honest people would be managing California’s water. Meanwhile, this drought deception is taking us to the cleaners.

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