Updates & Reviews
What if someone suggested to you a new policy, one that would result in less food production, a loss of states' rights and more federal control, less water for your household, for migratory birds and economic activity, and also would spawn endless lawsuits?
What if this new policy governed water in a way that left its distribution up to a federal bureaucracy?
Yet that is what would happen if we listen to critics who are using the current California drought to sound the drumbe...
The Environmental Projection Agency (EPA) has been a busy bunch of beavers in the year since President Obama took office, and to the gratitude of nervous farmers and ranchers, has now drawn the attention of Republicans in Congress.
Norm Semanko, the executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association and a long-time member of the Family Farm Alliance’s Advisory Committee, in late September represented the Alliance before a Washington, D.C. forum entitled “The EPA’s Assault on Rural America: How New Regulations and Proposed Legislation are Stifling Job Creation and Economic Growth.”
The forum was hosted by U.S. Representatives Frank Lucas (R-OK), Sam Graves (R-MO), and Doc Hastings (RWA), Co-Chairs of the Rural America Solutions Group. Semanko and other experts from across the country traveled to Washington to discuss EPA regulations and provide real-life examples of how these regulations and related legislation have affected their work, families, and communities. The Co-Chairs lead a panel discussion on a range of EPA proposals and related legislation, including carbon dioxide restrictions, the Clean Water Act, farm dust regulations, and more.
By Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance
The Central Arizona Project (CAP) awaits a critical decision from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on emissions upgrades that may be mandated for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). The emission requirements being considered by EPA are intended to satisfy unique visibility criteria – driven in part by the proximity of NGS to Grand Canyon National Park - and they carry with them a heavy cost.
NGS is a coal-fired plant that provides 95% of the power to move Colorado River water into Central Arizona. Any added cost to that plant translates into higher bills for every single water user in the state that receives CAP water. EPA is reviewing two options it could impose to meet these unique emissions standards. Each of these options carries significant costs, but one of the alternatives is clearly preferable to CAP water users, while the other could actually drive existing surface water users out of business or force them to begin extracting limited groundwater resources rather than using renewable CAP water.
A recent report released by the National Parks Conservation Association will likely bring more political pressure to bear on this matter. The new report finds several man-made threats are contributing to the deterioration of Grand Canyon National Park, from mining to aircraft flyovers to management of the Colorado River upstream from the canyon. Notably, regional haze from power plants and cities hundreds of miles away can mar the views of the canyon, the report said. However, what is also hazy is the degree of public health and aesthetic benefits that will that result from the various emissions upgrade options under consideration at NGS. When comparing alternatives, experts predict there will be no noticeable difference to the human eye but there could be a difference registered on sensitive measuring devises.
Dan Keppen, Executive Director Family Farm Alliance
My organization has been involved for the past year or so in an effort by the so-called “Agricultural/ Urban/Environmental Water Sharing Work Group” to seek the most effective and innovative ways Colorado River water can be shared for mutual benefit, without damaging agriculture or rural communities. This collaborative effort between diverse stakeholders intends to pinpoint obstacles to sharing, and to develop strategies to alleviate obstacles.
I see two key items that we can address through this forum. The first is regulatory reform to facilitate development of new water supplies, and the second is development of a set of principles to guide ag-to-urban water transfers.
Rapid population growth, urbanization and increased competition for water in the West have created significant pressures on certain agricultural sectors. Agriculture holds the most senior water rights in the West and is considered a likely source of water to meet growing municipal and environmental demands. This water is an easy target, because farmers are facing unstable commodity prices. The aging farmer population is marked by those with heirs who have little economic incentive to farm, which means that agricultural water is a highly valuable asset for funding retirement and college educations.
Dan Keppen Executive Director
Family Farm Alliance
Klamath Falls, Oregon
One year ago, I was optimistic that California, the West, and our country were on the verge of a “tipping point”, where our policy makers would collectively “get it”, and begin to work earnestly towards finding financial and regulatory means to re-start what has effectively been stalled for over three decades: the development of new, modern water infrastructure. Several issues contributing to my thinking at that time:
- Protests and wide-spread media attention in the San Joaquin Valley were beginning to build momentum in support of Governor Schwarzenegger’s push to get state lawmakers to approve new money for dams and canals. These actions ultimately contributed to a groundswell of public support that led to the momentous reform of California's water system signed into law six months later, including the decision by state lawmakers to place an $11 billion water bond on the November 2010 ballot, designed to fund the law's provisions.
Download the Full Opt-Ed: Wishful Thinking
Agricultural water users from all over the state have been fighting the good fight in an arena where urban interests and environmental activists wield great political power and have a receptive partner with mainstream media outlets. I’m happy to report two recent victories for the “good guys” in California agriculture: court wins for San Joaquin Valley farmers, and the award of millions of dollars for a project that will benefit farmers and fish on the Sacramento River.
State and Federal Bay-Delta Export Pumping
Two-thirds of California’s population and a large part of its agricultural economy depend upon water pumped through the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta by the State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP). The continued operation of California’s water system is constrained and threatened, however, by the Delta’s deterioration and environmental collapse. Beginning in 1992...