Landowners within the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors got some good news this week, as water districts continue to cope with a record-setting drought plaguing the Central Valley and California.
Federal officials announced Tuesday a plan to tap San Joaquin River water to meet contractual obligations to the Exchange Contractors, which is made up of the Central California Irrigation District, Colombia Canal Co., San Luis Canal Co. and the Firebaugh Canal Water District.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will use water from Millerton Lake and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to provide 529,000 acre-feet of water to landowners from Patterson to Mendota. For the landowners, that’s an improvement over the 350,000 acre-feet - 40 percent of their allotment to 65 percent - they were previously told they would get.
An increased water release from Millerton Lake, through Friant Dam, began Thursday, and water began to flow down the San Joaquin River, according to exchange officials
“We will get our critical year allocation between April and October, and a portion of that water will be served through the Delta-Mendota Canal from San Luis Reservoir and a portion would come from Millerton,” said Chris White, general manager with the CCID.
White said while he is thankful for the additional allocation, the district is looking at ways to support Friant users as well, who are still at zero percent allocation.
“We have been working with Friant and those districts in order to accomplish exchanges and transfers … creative ideas that can get them some water this summer.”
One idea in place involves water trades.
Recent rainstorms have helped the district, White said, but more flexibility from the fishery agencies would put the district in a better position.
Cannon Michael, with Bowles Farming Co., said the news in some ways is good and in other ways disappointing. “Mainly because there are other farmers in other districts in real jeopardy,” he said.
“It will also allow us to pump less groundwater in our district, which will be a benefit,” said Michael, who receives his water from the San Luis Canal Co.
The total amount of water delivered to Exchange Contractors from Millerton Reservoir will depend on several hydrological factors, according to the bureau.
The California Department of Resources reported May 1 the final snow survey read at a mere18 percent of average for the date.
The readings record the statewide snowpack’s water content – which normally provides about a third of the water for California’s farms and cities.
CCID serves 1,900 landowners, and a total of 143,000 acres, on which are farmed dozens of different crops including tomato, alfalfa, cotton and a variety of orchards.
The Fresno Bee contributed to this report. Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or mgaytan@losbanos enterprise.com.