Central Valley farmers learned Tuesday they will get a full allocation of water this year for the first time since 2006. But their celebrations were muted.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it will provide a 100 percent allocation to Central Valley Project customers this year, including the large agricultural districts in the San Joaquin Valley. Just a year ago those districts got a 5 percent allotment, and three weeks ago the farmers were told their deliveries might not top 65 percent this year.
The announcement came four days after Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official end to the drought practically everywhere in California.
Farm groups said they were pleased with the increase in CVP water deliveries but said the announcement came too late for some growers.
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“You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, but it’s a reality of farming that the decisions for the growing season are made months ago,” said Johnny Amaral, deputy general manager of the sprawling Westlands Water District in Fresno. “There’s reason to celebrate, (but) my only hope is that we could have had this announcement earlier.”
Growers in Westlands and other districts had blamed environmental restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for holding up deliveries of water from the Sacramento Valley. But federal officials said they had to be cautious about increasing the allocations.
“We were looking at it conservatively. What if conditions dry up? How will we manage water going forward?” said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Louis Moore.
California’s other big water-delivery network, the State Water Project, has told its contractors to expect a 60 percent allocation this year. The figure could increase but will depend greatly on how the Department of Water Resources manages troubled Lake Oroville this summer. State contractors said they expect DWR to keep the lake lower than normal because of the repairs to the dam’s cracked spillway. If that happens, less water would be available for State Water Project customers.