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Friant Water Authority not concerned with low water levels

The Central Valley Project begins the water year with only 3.6 million acre feet of water storage, but is without water debtCENTRAL VALLEY – While the water year began with one of the lowest storage amounts ever, the Friant Water Authority believes low water allocations will leave them largely unaffected.The Friant Water Authority contended with several factors when it came to water allocation last year. Chief among them was “water debt” owed to the State Water Project. This year, despite a de...

The Central Valley Project begins the water year with only 3.6 million acre feet of water storage, but is without water debt

CENTRAL VALLEY – While the water year began with one of the lowest storage amounts ever, the Friant Water Authority believes low water allocations will leave them largely unaffected.

The Friant Water Authority contended with several factors when it came to water allocation last year. Chief among them was “water debt” owed to the State Water Project. This year, despite a deepening drought, the authority will no longer have that burden.

“[Last water year] we were not building the Central Valley Project supply until the beginning of January. We had a big debt [of water] that we were paying back from last year…compared to this time, we have no debt, [so] we’re actually in a positive position,” water resources manager for Friant Water Authority Ian Buck-Macleod, said. “So every drop of water that’s developing now, moving into the next calendar year is all going towards next year’s supply.”

After the one month mark of the 2023 water year, numbers are where they are expected to be, as far as October is concerned according to Buck-Macleod. As the forecast predicts rain in the upcoming weeks for the majority of the state, he said this is a positive look for the waterways. Locally for instance, the Friant Kern Canal is fed from multiple water sources and therefore needs rain from multiple areas throughout the state.

“[Water comes] from the Delta and north of Delta,” Buck-Macleod said. “That’s why for the Friant [Kern Canal], we’re concerned about it not just raining on the upper San Joaquin, we need it to basically rain throughout California, in order to make sure that the exchange contract supply is met.”

The Friant Kern Canal has several exchange contracts that need to be met. Each contract has an allocation percentage that is updated each month based on how much water is available. Usually those who have a contract are those who do not have access or have limited access to ground water according to Buck-Macleod.

In years where other water supplies are low on water, the Friant Water Authority may be “called on” to allocate some of their water to those who have senior water rights. This happened last year, allowing for yet another reason for a lack of water in the Friant Kern Canal. However, Buck-Macleod said this year there is a smaller chance, about 10-20% chance, of the Friant Kern Canal being called on. In order for the Friant Kern Canal to build their own water storage, they need to have an above normal water year, otherwise future years will continue to struggle.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamations is calculating water allocations for the water year–which began on Oct. 1–following the winter months between 2022 and 2023. According to a bureau of reclamations press release they are taking a “fresh look” at the CVP.

“In order to navigate through this record-breaking drought, we had to modify operations outside of those considered in previous droughts and take a fresh look at every component of the CVP including facilities, contractors and environmental requirements.” Ernest Conant, regional director of the California-Great Basin region, said.

While 3.6 million acre feet of water is among the lowest in water storage for the water year, the 2021-2022 water year began with less. In addition the CVP needed to pay off their water debt that they do not have this year, but that does not mean there is nothing to worry about.

According to the bureau, with little water coming into the surrounding lakes and in anticipation of continued drought in 2023, the Bureau of Reclamation will pursue a water management strategy. That strategy will emphasize providing supplies for health and safety needs; maintaining suitable water quality in the Delta, which is the source of municipal drinking water for many communities; protecting species by meeting environmental requirements; conserving storage to meet future critical needs; and urban and agricultural water supplies.

Last year, the bureau of reclamation responded with a 0% allocation to CVP agricultural contractors. With a 0% allocation, that does not entirely mean no contracts will receive water. Buck-Mecloed said the CVP has to deliver water to those with exchange contracts as well as those with municipal and industrial (MI) health and safety contracts. Those with MI health and safety contracts have priority and will receive allocations even if there is a 0% allocation in place.

“The city of Fresno, the city Lindsay, Orange Cove, there’s some of those, I think even Shafter, that basically if there’s no supply…there’s still some supply for health and safety, to make sure that they have enough [water] to get by,” Buck-Macleod said.

The CVP is the largest single source of irrigation water in California, typically supplying water to about 3 million acres of agricultural land in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. The CVP also provides urban water for millions of people and industrial water, including that essential to the San Francisco Bay Area’s economy. Water from the CVP is also vital for the environment, wildlife and fishery restoration, including providing water to 19 refuges in the Central Valley and hydroelectric power production.

“The 2022 water year was wetter than 2020 and 2021 in some areas of the state, but it was still well below average and came on such a large water supply deficit that it earned the title as the worst three-year drought on record with some of the driest winter months on record,” Conant said.

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Amid California’s drought, environmental laws get scrutiny

The impacts of California’s interminable drought are well-known. But one aspect has drawn little relatively attention — its relationship with environmental laws.Last year was the second-driest water year on record, with all 58 California counties placed under a drought emergency proclamation, according to California’s official drought website. The map shows how the vast majority of California is suffering from moderate to...

The impacts of California’s interminable drought are well-known. But one aspect has drawn little relatively attention — its relationship with environmental laws.

Last year was the second-driest water year on record, with all 58 California counties placed under a drought emergency proclamation, according to California’s official drought website. The map shows how the vast majority of California is suffering from moderate to extreme drought conditions.

The impacts of a water shortage ultimately will affect everyone in California as usable water continues its downward trend, says California Water Watch, which tracks the state’s water conditions. It notes that the next two decades could see California lose “10 percent of its water supplies” due to the warming climate.

The cutoff affects farmers differently, depending on their water rights, but both state and federal cuts clearly have a sharp impact.

Some, led by farmers, argue that certain environmental laws — the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) — actually make the drought worse.

Environmentalists and conservationists say protecting the species does not harm agriculture, and the fierce debate continues.

It is clear that water to farmers declined dramatically. For example, California farmers were allocated little or no water from the federal government, as noted in a March 2022 announcement. The cutoff affects farmers differently, depending on their water rights, but both state and federal cuts clearly have a sharp impact.

The CESA is an environmental law, enacted in 1970, that “conserves and protects plant and animal species at risk of extinction,” notes the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. It protects about 250 species from being imported into California, exported out, killed, possessed, purchased, or sold without proper authorization.

Agriculture advocates say both the state and federal governments protect species at the expense of food for people.

The CESA was repealed, then replaced with an updated form in 1984, then amended once again in 1997.

CESA’s federal counterpart is ESA, which is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. The ESA protects endangered plants and animals in tandem with the states, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Agriculture advocates say both the state and federal governments protect species at the expense of food for people. By diverting water from farms, they argue, the laws make the drought even morse and exacerbates the water-supply struggles they already face.

This is not a new complaint.

“Farming and agriculture are quickly becoming the endangered species,” says Mario Santoyo, then assistant general manage for Friant Water Authority, in a 2010 article by Catherine Merlo of Dairy Herd Management, a company that serves the United States’ dairy operators in an effort to create more efficient and profitable dairy businesses. It’s owned by Farm Journal, an agricultural organization that reports on farmers, producers and the produce supply chain.

By one estimate, it takes about 142 million gallons of water a day to service California’s dairy cows.

Beth Pratt’s blog defends the ESA and opposes attempts to override it, notes the protection of the state’s environmental values.

Other upset members of the agricultural industry said their farms were only operating 5,000 acres, compared to 13,000 acres normally. They point to the wildlife protection actions that allow a huge quantity of water to run into the vast Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta east of San Francisco, rather than support farmers.

NPR’s Kirk Siegler, in 2015, also wrote about the plights Central Valley farmers face, made only worse by the water restrictions of the ESA. They vouch for the law to be changed to lessen the negative impact it has on farmers caught in the “man-made drought created by government.”

But Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federadation (NWF) Blog says farmers are hurting and looking to blame wildlife protections for their water woes when wildlife are suffering from the drought as well. The blog defends the ESA and opposes attempts to override it, notes the protection of the state’s environmental values.

The NWF’s blog discusses and advocates for protecting “wildlife habitats and populations” and defending the environment.

“I don’t think there’s been any species that have gone extinct that are on the (endangered species) list.” — Ron Stork,

Environmentalists argue that the CESA and ESA have been successful and that its water consequences are not as dramatic as opposers say.

“I don’t think there’s been any species that have gone extinct that are on the list,” says Ron Stork, senior policy advocate for the Friends of the River (FOR), a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 1973. “The bald eagle, the symbol of our country, and the California condor have experiences substantial recovery and range expansions and the like since they were listed.”

Stork joined the FOR in 1987 as their Associate Conservation Director and is a national expert in “flood management, federal water resources development, hydropower reform, and Wild & Scenic Rivers.” Stork, among other roles, is a member of the Governor’s Flood Management Task Force.

Now, the red-legged frogs are “thriving again,” according to the nonprofit Water Education Foundation.

Stork acknowledges that the CESA and ESA are not flawless, however.

“Many species, probably the majority of them, have not seen a lot of measurable recovery.” Stork continued to explain that these species have continued to survive under the acts, but have struggled to reach great regeneration in numbers.

Friends of the River (FOR), dedicated to “preserving and restoring California’s rivers, streams, and their watersheds, and advocates on behalf of conservation and fighting climate change.

The CESA has made meaningful strides, saving species such as the California red-legged frog that were threatened under the act. Now, the frogs are “thriving again,” according to the nonprofit Water Education Foundation. The frogs have been reintroduced to the Yosemite Valley after a 50-year absence and, as of 2019, are once again breeding.

Proving its success so far, upwards of 227 would’ve gone extinct if not for the passing of the federal ESA, says the Center for Biological Diversity. The act has been more than 99% successful.

“The Act has shown a 90 percent recovery rate in more than 100 species throughout the United States,” it said. — Editor’s Note: Liam Gravvat is a Capitol Weekly intern from Sacramento State.

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Restaurant roundup: Island flavor, steak in the ‘Chandelier Room,’ buffet to Denny’s & waiver chicken

Ono Hawaiian BBQ opened its third Fresno location Friday at the corner of Shaw and Brawley avenues, offering free food, shirts, tote bags and pins at a ribbon cutting.The restaurant took over the space formerly occupied by Del Taco in similar fashion to their second location, which also now occupies a former Del Taco location on Kings Canyon Road.Ono Hawaiian BBQ opened its first location 20 years ago, offering guests its version of Hawaiian and island sp...

Ono Hawaiian BBQ opened its third Fresno location Friday at the corner of Shaw and Brawley avenues, offering free food, shirts, tote bags and pins at a ribbon cutting.

The restaurant took over the space formerly occupied by Del Taco in similar fashion to their second location, which also now occupies a former Del Taco location on Kings Canyon Road.

Ono Hawaiian BBQ opened its first location 20 years ago, offering guests its version of Hawaiian and island specialties.

Since its debut in Santa Monica, the latest Fresno restaurant is the 101st location between California and Arizona. The company owns 11 stores in Arizona with the remainder of their locations in California.

All Ono locations are corporate owned, said store manager Nathan Qu.

The new Ono location also joins their restaurant on Kings Canyon with a drive-thru.

13 Prime

Improvements, renovation and expansion will be coming to 13 Prime in Clovis, confirmed Chief Financial Officer Falina Marihart.

According to Marihart, the restaurant will occupy the space formerly home to House of Pendragon, which closed in the summer.

The restaurant hopes to unveil its new dining room, an additional 872 square feet of space, in December.

Marihart added this is the initial phase of a two-phase project that aims to be fully completed by Valentine’s Day 2023.

The additional dining room will replace the existing private dining room, which will be transitioned into kitchen space in phase two.

Named the “Chandelier Room,” the new dining space aims to attract private parties, business events and additional seating space on weekends.

“The Chandelier Room is a different dining experience with white linen tables, higher end seating, crystal light fixtures and modern all textures and colors,” Marihart said. “The room will have its own vibe with softer music and lower volume compared to the main dining room.”

Denny’s Reedley

Reedley will welcome its first Denny’s location soon, with permits being filed with the city planning department last month.

The building permit for improvements for the new location was issued Oct. 17.

The restaurant’s future home was previously occupied by Manning Chinese Buffet. The 5,100 square-foot building is located at 955 E. Manning Ave. in the same shopping center as Ace Hardware and Auto Zone.

Currently, the closest Denny’s is in Selma.

An official opening date has yet to be announced.

Houston’s Hot Chicken

The Park Crossing Shopping Center at Fresno Street and Friant Road will be home to a new chicken restaurant in early December.

The Houston’s Hot Chicken chain, according to the website, will see its number of locations double by spring 2023, with six additional openings in Fresno, Las Vegas and San Diego in the coming months.

“Our mission is to serve the freshest and healthiest Texas Hot Chicken sandwiches in the world,” the website states, along with a link for job opportunities.

Menu items range from hot chicken sandwiches to salads and loaded french fries. They also offer milkshakes, sides and party packages.

Despite having “hot” in their name, sauce options can be customized, from no spice and honey butter, all the way to “liftoff” and “Houston we have a problem,” which requires a signed waiver to order.

Attempts to contact Houston’s Hot Chicken were not successful.

The up-and-coming chain was ranked a Top Place to Eat in Vegas in 2021 by Yelp.

First rain of season causes thousands in Fresno to lose power. PG&E cites dust on lines

Power went out for thousands of Fresno residents Tuesday night as the first rainstorm of the autumn season rolled in and caused problems.A large swath of central Fresno — from Golden State Boulevard on the west to Temperance Avenue on the east, and Ashlan Avenue on the north to Kings Canyon Road on the south — was in dark after the rainfall.To the south of Fresno, up to 5,000 customers also lost power in K...

Power went out for thousands of Fresno residents Tuesday night as the first rainstorm of the autumn season rolled in and caused problems.

A large swath of central Fresno — from Golden State Boulevard on the west to Temperance Avenue on the east, and Ashlan Avenue on the north to Kings Canyon Road on the south — was in dark after the rainfall.

To the south of Fresno, up to 5,000 customers also lost power in Kingsburg. PG&E later listed on its outage map that 568 Kingsburg customers were affected.

Denny Boyles, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric Company, said most of the outages appeared to be related to a long, dry summer that left a residue of dust on power lines.

When the rainfall hits the lines, it can cause electrical short circuits and outages.

Something else that often happens with the first rain also took place: numerous traffic collisions as drivers reacquainted themselves with wet streets.

In one case, a crash at Fulton Street and Belmont Avenue knocked down power lines. There were several other crashes, as well.

Earlier, power was out in north Fresno as the area at Blackstone Avenue and Friant Road went dark about 4 p.m. Lights were back on by 7 p.m.

There initially was no immediate information from the utility on when the lights would be restored for most customers in the remainder of the darkened areas.

But by 11 p.m., PG&E’s outage map did not show anymore areas impacting 500-plus customers in the Fresno area.

Tuesday marked the first time it rained in Fresno since Sept. 19, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Meteorologist David Spector said there’s also a chance it could rain again at some point Wednesday with a similar downpour as Tuesday when 0.13 inches of rain was recorded at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

“The initial wave of rain came today,” Spector said Tuesday evening. “But we could still see some showers sometime in the morning or evening. The weather is chilly and unsettled.”

In the Sierra Nevada, the storm brought a light dusting of snow. Ahead of the storm’s arrival, Yosemite National Park closed Tioga Road at least temporarily. The high mountain pass usually closes for the season sometime in November.

The forgotten underwater town at the bottom of Millerton Lake

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Millerton Lake has a presence in both Fresno County and Madera County, just north of the town of Friant. But those new to the area may not know that underneath the waters of Millerton Lake was the original town of Millerton.According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Millerton Lake was created following the co...

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Millerton Lake has a presence in both Fresno County and Madera County, just north of the town of Friant. But those new to the area may not know that underneath the waters of Millerton Lake was the original town of Millerton.

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Millerton Lake was created following the construction of the Friant Dam. But to create the lake, the town underneath had to be flooded.

State-provided documents show that the town of Millerton was originally founded in 1852, then known as Rootville. The California gold rush brought miners into the area and the town continued to do well until the railroad reached what is now Fresno.

Other state-provided documents detail what led to the residents to leave the town of Millerton. A flood on Christmas Eve 1867 struck the town when landslides that had previously blocked the flow of water upriver broke away – sending a cascade of water down into the town. The strong flowing water is said to have destroyed everything in its path.

Fortunately, no lives were lost in the incident. Records show that the people of Millerton had been warned ahead of time about the impending danger and had taken some of their belongings to higher ground. The value of the mine that started the town was not worth as much anymore – leaving little money to rebuild the town following the water damage.

An election in 1874 established that the county offices should be moved – and then the population also voted to move everything from Millerton to Fresno station. The town’s courthouse was moved as well and eventually rebuilt in its current location in 1966.

Work on what we now know as Friant Dam began in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Millerton Lake had inundated the town below. In 1957, Millerton Lake State Recreation Area was established as a part of the State Park system.

Millerton isn’t the only California town whose remnants are sitting at the bottom of a lake. Under Lexington Reservoir in the Bay Area, there used to be two towns called Lexington and Alma, writes SFGate.

Several Gold Rush towns were also flooded by the creation of Folsom Lake near Sacramento. One of them became exposed last year when drought caused water levels to drop particularly low.

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