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Cannella joins bipartisan group calling for state water emergency

POSTED December 12, 2013 6:23 p.m.

In an effort to bring attention to the ongoing water issues facing California, Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) has joined a bipartisan coalition calling upon Governor Jerry Brown to issue a drought declaration for the upcoming year.

In the letter issued to Governor Brown, Cannella and several other state legislators share their belief that the State is facing the realistic possibility of experiencing true drought conditions that has not been seen since the mid 1970s when California saw the driest two years in the State’s history.

“These grim water projections require critical action now when there is still enough lead time to implement policies and regulations to ensure that adequate water can be captured during what little snowpack and precipitation the state may see over the first few months of next year,” reads the letter to Gov. Brown. “With these drought conditions already in motion, we request that you issue a drought declaration for the upcoming year.”

The letter also calls for Governor Brown and his administration to work alongside federal and state agencies to find ways to use their discretion to ensure a proper allocation of water through both the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project for the millions of Californians whose livelihoods depend on a realistic supply of water.

“Without immediate action, we worry about the thousands of acres of farmland that will be taken out of production due to the lack of water, increased cost of food and livestock feed, depletion of scarce groundwater, devastating increases in water rates, and the obliteration of jobs dependent on agriculture in the Central Valley and throughout California that rely on water,” said the coalition.

According to Sen. Cannella, the California Department of Water Resources announced last month an initial five percent water allocation for California State Water Project contractors for 2014. Additionally, when the United States Department of Reclamation announces their initial allocation, there is a strong possibility of a zero percent water allocation for contractors within the Central Valley.

“While we understand that these are initial allocations, the already record low reservoirs levels around the state compounded with a projected mild winter lead us to believe that we will experience dramatic drought conditions next year,” said Cannella.

Even in Turlock, water analysts and city staff are preparing for water rate increases, as the area’s groundwater continues to become a diminishing resource.

“We do need to take action one way or another,” said City Councilman Steven Nascimento. “In the past, water has been very cheap, but unfortunately all the cheap water is gone. We have no other options if we want to keep water running and flowing.”

The City is expected to approve six rate increases over the next five fiscal years, while continuing to pursue a Regional Surface Water Supply Project alongside the Turlock Irrigation District.

TID irrigation customers are not a part of the State Water Project or the Central Valley Project. However, low snowpack and lack of spring rain would mean another dry year — and short irrigation water caps —  for local farmers.

In late October, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors opted to approve new groundwater mining and exportation regulations to help end the over drafting of the precious resource. With some exemptions, the County’s new ordinance prohibits the mining of groundwater within the unincorporated areas of the county and the export of water.

Governor Brown has also taken action to help improve the access to water in California, signing more than a dozen bills in October that address some of the State’s most immediate water concerns, including the pollution or over pumping of local groundwater.

A drought declaration is expected to not only bring awareness to the diminishing resource and dry conditions, but to also prompt state and federal agencies to improve California’s water supply.

The coalition calling for the state water emergency includes Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte), Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford), Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare), and Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield).

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