At 10:19 p.m. on Sunday night, an earthquake, so large it overshadowed the massive earthquake that struck Los Angeles in 1994, shook off the northern coast of California. According the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake registered at 6.9 magnitude a mere 50 miles into the ocean west of Ferndale, Arcata and Eureka, Calif.
The quake was felt as far north as central Oregon and into California’s Bay Area. No reports of tsunami waves or significant damage have been reported. In 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California, epicentered near the city of Northridge. According to sensors in the area, it was among the strongest and fastest ground movement recorded in North America. In its wake, the shaking left 57 residents of Los Angeles County dead and more than 11,800 residents of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties injured.
Today, leaders of the Governor’s Drought Task Force met with the California Board of Agriculture on the statewide impacts of the current drought and especially water and farm conditions in the central valley.
A packed house at UC Merced sat in to hear from Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, State Water Resources Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus and Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water Program Director Mark Starr.
“The central valley is the heartbeat of agriculture, not only for California, but for much of the country’s supermarkets and dinner tables,” Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci said. “I want to hear how we at the state can leverage our powers to address this emergency situation.”
The Governor’s Drought Task Force leaders are traveling throughout the state to speak with local on the their unique needs and concerns about the drought. The Board meeting at UC Merced provides an opportunity for the Drought Task Force to update the public and agricultural stakeholders on current actions, including the Emergency Drought Legislation announced on Feb. 19, 2014 by Governor Brown and legislative leaders.
“It is important for the State Board and the Governor’s Drought Task Force to hear from local leaders on current drought impacts,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This drought is going to have significant statewide impacts on many sectors of California’s economy – we are engaging with local communities and with farmers and farm workers to help advise on potential future actions that can be taken at the state level.”
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representative and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.
Today’s host of the meeting, UC Merced, is the tenth and newest University of California campus. On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama also visited Merced County to hear briefings on the current drought conditions impacting the central valley, which feeds much of the country with fruits, vegetables and meat.
For the latest actions by the state and the Drought Task Force, follow us on Twitter!
SACRAMENTO – Storms are lightly blanketing the Sierra with fresh snow, but Department of Water Resources (DWR) snow surveyors today reported that snowpack water content remains far below what will be needed by cities and farms this summer.
“We welcome the late storms but they are not enough to end the drought,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “We can’t control the weather but we can control the amount of water we use. This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.”
Although freshly fallen snow brightened the scenery this morning as DWR and cooperating agencies trekked into the mountains to conduct the winter’s third manual snow survey, the state’s drought has left the Sierra largely bare for much of the winter.
And reservoirs are low.
On Tuesday, before the current storm system reached the area, water content in the statewide snowpack was 22 percent of normal for the date and only 19 percent of the average reading in early April when snow begins to melt into streams and reservoirs. These readings were just above the 1991record lows of 18 percent for the date and 15 percent of the April 1 average. These records go back to 1960.
Manual and electronic readings today record the snowpack’s statewide water content just slightly improved at 24 percent of average for the date, still far below normal but with more snow expected. That is 21 percent of the average April 1 reading.
Electronic readings indicate that water content in the northern mountains is 15 percent of normal for the date and 13 percent of the April 1 average. Electronic readings in the central Sierra show 32 percent of normal for the date and 28 percent of the April 1 average. The numbers for the southern Sierra are 24 percent of average for the date and 20 percent of the April 1 average.
Surveyors from DWR and cooperating agencies manually measure snowpack water content on or about the first of the month from January through May to supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings.
Results of today’s manual readings by DWR off Highway 50 near Echo Summit are as follows:
The snowpack – often called California’s largest reservoir – normally provides about a third of the water used by cities and farms as it melts into streams and reservoirs in spring and early summer.
California’s major reservoirs, mostly bereft of both snow and rain this winter as the drought pushes through its third year, are dangerously low.
Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s (SWP) principal reservoir, is at only 39 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (57 percent of its historical average for the date). Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is at 38 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity capacity (52 percent of its historical average). San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and CVP, is at a mere 33 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity (39 percent of average for this time of year).
With no end to the drought in sight, DWR on January 31 set its allocation of State Water Project water at zero. The only previous zero percent allocation (water delivery estimate) was for agriculture in the drought year of 1991, but cities that year received 30 percent of requested amounts. This is the first time the allocation has been set at zero across the board.
Despite the “zero” allocation, water essential for health and safety will still be delivered. And nearly all people and areas served by the State Water Project also have other sources of water, but most of these also are stressed by three successive dry years.
Deliveries will be boosted if storms produce enough rain and snow to boost reservoir storage and the snowpack.
The final State Water Project (SWP) allocation for calendar year 2013 was 35 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water collectively requested by the 29 public agencies that deliver water to more than 25 million Californians and just under a million acres of irrigated agricultural land. In 2012, the final allocation was 65 percent of the requested 4 million acre-feet. It was 80 percent in 2011, up dramatically from an initial allocation of 25 percent. The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Small, nonfarm businesses in five California counties and one neighboring county in Arizona are now eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA). “These loans offset economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by the drought that began on February 18, 2014, in the following primary county,” announced Tanya N. Garfield, Acting Director of SBA’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West.
Primary California counties: Riverside and San Diego;
Neighboring California counties: Imperial, Orange and San Bernardino;
Neighboring Arizona County: La Paz.
“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” Garfield said.
Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.
“Eligibility for these loans is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. These loans have an interest rate of 4% for businesses and 2.625% for private, nonprofit organizations, a maximum term of 30 years, and are available to small businesses and most private, nonprofits without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship,” Garfield said.
By law, SBA makes EIDLs available when the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. Secretary Tom Vilsack declared this disaster on February 26, 2014.
Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance. Agricultural enterprises should contact the Farm Services Agency (FSA) about the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance made available by the Secretary’s declaration. However, in drought disasters nurseries are eligible for SBA disaster assistance.
Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure Web site at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
Disaster loan information and application forms are also available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. For more information about SBA’s disaster assistance programs, visit http://www.sba.gov/disaster.
The deadline to apply for these loans is October 27, 2014.
SBA Field Operations Center – West, P.O. Box 419004, Sacramento, CA 95841
Disasters often show the complex needs of every day life and the drought impacting the communities of Mendocino County on the north coast is no different. Farmers are facing serious questions about their livestock and the health of their agricultural production. All citizens in the area of Willits and Ukiah are also facing drinking water shortages in multiple water districts.
These issues brought the leaders of the Governor’s Drought Task Force (DTF) together today. As part of a government-to-government conversation, the DTF leaders toured an active emergency pipeline project in Willits and the severely low Lake Mendocino near Ukiah.
“We’re here to get the first hand accounts of how this drought is affecting California’s communities and how I, Cal OES and the Drought Task Force can help alleviate those impacts,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “Even as one of the state’s wettest counties annually, the drought has hit this area full force already in February.”
Ghilarducci is also the chair of the Governor’s Drought Task Force.
The Task Force officials visited an emergency pipeline project in Willits that was funded by a California Department of Public Health Water Program grant of $250,000. This water system has been identified as vulnerable to losing its capacity to deliver safe drinking water due to drought conditions in California. Working on the installation of the pipeline, CAL FIRE has supplied the city of Willits with several inmate hand crews, each comprised of a CAL FIRE captain and approximately 15 low-level inmates from CDCR to provide the city with a large emergency workforce.
State officials also toured Lake Mendocino that is now so dry that much of the lakebed is traversable by foot. Water district officials have said Lake Mendocino is dangerously low to being too shallow to pump for regional water needs.
SACRAMENTO – With California experiencing its worst water shortage crisis in modern history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to announce legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and provide funding to increase local water supplies.
“This is a call to action. We must all do our part to conserve in this drought,” said Governor Brown. “The state is doing its part by providing immediate funding for drinking water, food, housing and assistance for water-conserving technologies,” said Governor Brown.
The legislation provides $687.4 million to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities.
In addition, the legislation increases funding for state and local conservation corps to assist communities with efficiency upgrades and reduce fire fuels in fire risk areas, and includes $1 million for the Save Our Water public awareness campaign – which will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water.
“Without enough rain and snow this winter, we need to capture as much water as we can through any means possible. Water agencies around the state have projects ready to go to capture and distribute more of the water that’s now lost to evaporation or simply flowing out to the ocean. They simply need money to get those projects done,” said Senate President pro Tem Steinberg. “We don’t have to ignore environmental protections, raise fees or get bogged down in political arguments over projects that will take many years to produce a single drop of water. It’s time to focus on what we can do right now.”
“By making smart use of these funds, we can alleviate and prevent some of the worst impacts of the drought and, at the same time, make badly needed improvements to our water system that will benefit California for years to come,” Speaker Pérez said. “These targeted responses will have tangible results, but the solution requires more than legislation and investment. Every Californian needs to be a part of the solution, and we strongly urge every person in our state to take action to conserve water.”
In addition to the funding provided by the legislation, the bill calls for the California Department of Public Health (DPH) to adopt new groundwater replenishment regulations by July 1, 2014, and for the State Water Resources Control Board and the DPH to work on additional measures to allow for the use of recycled water and storm water capture for increasing water supply availability.
The bill also makes statutory changes to ensure existing water rights laws are followed, including streamlined authority to enforce water rights laws and increased penalties for illegally diverting water during drought conditions. The bill also provides the California Department of Housing and Community Development with the greatest flexibility to maximize migrant housing units.
Several of the proposals included in this package were proposed in the Governor’s January budget, but will now be expedited
Highlights of the legislation include:
Enhancing Water Conservation and Improving Water Supplies
- $549 million from the accelerated expenditure of voter-approved bonds, Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E, in the form of infrastructure grants for local and regional projects that are already planned or partially completed to increase local reliability, including recapturing of storm water, expand the use and distribution of recycled water, enhance the management and recharging of groundwater storage and strengthen water conservation.
- $20 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for direct expenditures and grants to state and local agencies to improve water use efficiency, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from state and local water transportation and management systems.
- $14 million for groundwater management across the state, including assistance to disadvantaged communities with groundwater contamination exacerbated by the drought.
- $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the California Department of Food and Agriculture to invest in irrigation and water pumping systems that reduce water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
- $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the DWR to establish a grant program for state and local agencies to implement residential, commercial or institutional water efficiency projects that reduce water and energy use.
- $15 million from the General Fund for Emergency Drinking Water Fund to address emergency water shortages due to drought.
- $13 million from the General Fund to augment the California Conservation Corps and local community conservation corps to expand water use efficiency and conservation activities and to reduce fuel loads to prevent catastrophic fires.
Assisting Californians Disproportionately Impacted by the Drought
- $25.3 million from the General Fund for food assistance, which will be structured to maximize the potential federal drought assistance that can be provided to provide food assistance to those impacted by the drought.
- $21 million from the General Fund and federal funds for housing related assistance for individuals impacted by the drought.
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Governor Brown met with President Obama about crucial federal support during the ongoing drought last week, and the state continues to work with federal partners to ensure a coordinated drought response. Governor Brown and the administration have also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Jim Costa, Tony Cárdenas and Sam Farr.
Across state government, action is being taken. The Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California’s roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.
In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy, and recently the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced they would seek the authority to make water exchanges to deliver water to those who need it most. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. Recently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.
The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.
Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it’s also planning for the future. Recently, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California’s preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water.
Today, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Mark Ghilarducci, joined other Drought Task Force leaders Secretary John Laird, California Natural Resources Agency and Chairperson Felicia Marcus, State Water Resources Control Board at the “ACWA 2014 Drought Briefing – Impacts and Actions: What You Need to Know.” This briefing, sponsored by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), California Department of Water Resources, California State Association of Counties (CSAC), League of California Cities, California Farm Water Coalition, California Farm Bureau Federation and others was held at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento and was attended by other local elected officials, water managers, legislative staff, statewide businesses, agricultural leaders and the media.
CLICK the link below to listen to the opening comments by the Task Force leaders on how the State is responding to the current drought conditions statewide.
Whether it’s the lowest Sierra snowpack on record or the historic announcement of zero allocation from the State Water Project, it’s clear that California is in a serious drought. Local, state and federal agencies are mobilizing to address the challenge. Experts agree it is an unprecedented challenge. What will these extraordinary conditions and exceptional response measures mean for California in 2014 and beyond? How will impacts of the drought reverberate across the state this summer? Among topics discussed today include: Overview of California’s Drought Conditions, A Look at Local Impacts around the State, Managing the drought Crisis on the Ground, The Ripple Effect and Reaching the California Consumer.