Moving water around California is never simple. And the troubles with the state's "water bank" show why.Oh, and DWR also offered TOO LITTLE MONEY. So much for "prices will be established by the open market."
Fish-related pumping restrictions in the Delta narrowed the window for moving water from north to south, limiting the amount some farmers could sell and scaring off potential buyers.
A collection of environmental groups sued the state for what they claim is a failure to properly assess the impacts of the water sale on everything from local aquifers to the habitat of the threatened giant garter snake. One provision of the bank would allow farmers to sell their river-water allocation but pump ground water for irrigation...
Many farmers were leery of entering into a complex water deal with the state, fearing they might be liable for unexpected environmental damages, become ineligible for federal subsidy programs or simply lose money if the sale fell through. The diesel engines some would have to use to pump water are considered air polluters, subject to a complicated permit process.
What's more, rice prices are at their highest levels in nearly 30 years...
The state water bank offered farmers $275 an acre-foot, a price meant to roughly compete with this year's rice returns. Teresa Geimer, who is coordinating the program for the Department of Water Resources, said it is likely to transfer about 82,000 acre-feet. The target was as high as 600,000.
Bottom Line: The DWB failed. Blame DWR, but don't blame "markets." And, yes, I called it.