Valley farmers applaud latest decision on delta water
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A federal court ruling temporarily eased restrictions on pumping water south from the delta. In a late night session on Tuesday, a judge ruled the pumps would not harm the salmon population. But local farmers remain cautiously optimistic over the court victory. They say this legal battle is far from over.
The increased water flow from the delta amounts to about 10-percent more irrigation water for farmers on the Valley's west side.
Kerman almond and cotton grower Paul Betancourt said, "I think we're starting to see a tidal shift."
But the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger doesn't mean farmers can suddenly step up crop production.
Betancourt said cropping decisions were made last fall. He explained, "The immediate change won't be in acres planted but it will be in groundwater pumped. The quality of surface water is much higher than groundwater so we can use the surface water. Get some of these salts flushed out of the soils."
For the next 20 days water can be pumped from the delta and stored at San Luis Reservoir for future use by west side farmers.
Sarah Woolf from the Westlands Water District said, "I think it's extremely significant because it also sets a precedence that you do have to work with the human environmental impacts."
Betancourt added, "If this decision holds then you'll see more acres planted, maybe starting in the fall and into next year. You'll see more ground in production which is more economic activity and more jobs in the area."
But west side growers say it's too early to celebrate. Judge Wanger will soon rule on pumping restrictions regarding the delta smelt. The decision could again shut down the pumps.
california water, ag watch, dale yurong
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