While trees were being uprooted in a Bakersfield grove, California Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen and two state senators protested water policies that resulted in zero water allocations in the state’s Central Valley.
California Citrus Mutual estimates nearly 50,000 acres of citrus will receive no federal or state water allocation this year. State Sens. Andy Vidak and Jean Fuller joined Nelsen for a June 6 media event at Gless Ranch.
“(They) are here with me watching trees get bulldozed,” said Nelsen, according to a prepared statement. “This is not just an issue for the citrus industry, or even agriculture. It is far greater. The federal government will be the cause of lost jobs and economic recession in the Central Valley if water is not made available.”
The federal Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service are challenging agriculture’s ability to produce fresh fruits and vegetables, as Nelsen sees it.
“There is water available that could by law be delivered to agricultural users,” according to his statement. “But these agencies have mandated that available water remain in storage. Their calculations come after the March storms, which we know added 1.2 million acre feet to storage.”
Much of the debate over water in California centers on what measures would suffice to protect the delta smelt. Agriculture has argued that it’s being shorted by a policy that the fish’s survival doesn’t require.
The actions by the federal government and the inability of the state administration to challenge existing policy is forcing another block of prime citrus acreage to be removed as a result of water not being made available,” Nelsen said in the statement.
In one case, he said, the Bureau of Reclamation blocked a water transfer from a seller in the north to a buyer in the south because its process would not allow the deal to be done in time.
“This is the same federal agency that released several hundred thousand acre feet of water last fall in anticipation of a normal rain season,” according to his statement. “(It) mandated the release of water down a dry river bed just a few short weeks ago, while senior water rights are not being met. And it is the same agency that made more water available during a harsher drought period in 1977.”