Winter Storm State of Emergency Now Extends to 43 Counties
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to exist in Alpine, Orange and Trinity counties resulting from the series of severe winter storms which have hit the state in recent weeks. Newsom’s proclamation comes on the heels of three others issued this month (and previously reported in last week’s Legislative Bulletin), bringing the total number of California counties currently under a state of emergency to 43.
The proclamations activate the California National Guard and tap “All agencies of the state government” to assist in disaster response and relief efforts in the counties designated as suffering a state of emergency.
President Joe Biden approved a federal Emergency Disaster Declaration on March 10 for 34 counties which had been particularly hard hit by winter storms at that time; Newsom’s latest emergency proclamation notes that the Governor will additionally “act swiftly to request a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration” once “certain Federal validated damage thresholds” needed to secure such a declaration have been met.
CCA will continue to keep members apprised of state and federal responses to the severe winter storms and of any state and federal assistance available to cattle ranchers impacted by the emergency conditions.
USDA APHIS Extends Comment Deadline for Animal Disease Traceability Rule
This morning, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a 30-day extension for public comments on the agency’s Proposed Rule regarding the “Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison.” Comments will now be accepted through April 19. The Proposed Rule would require that eartags “be both visually and electronically readable in order to be recognized for use as official eartags for interstate movement of cattle and bison” and would apply to all sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older, all dairy cattle (as defined) and all cattle used in rodeo or other recreational events. For more information, see the January 23 edition of Legislative Bulletin or listen to Season 3 Episode 3 of the Sorting Pen podcast featuring Dr. Tom Talbot.
Biden WOTUS Rule Takes Effect Today
The Biden Administration’s revised “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) Rule takes effect today in California and 47 other states after a Texas judge yesterday declined to issue a nationwide injunction against the Rule’s implementation. In an order issued last night, Judge Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted a motion from the states of Texas and Idaho staying the Rule within those states’ borders, but declined a motion from 18 national trade associations – including CCA partner the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) – seeking a nationwide stay of the Rule.
According to NCBA, the impact of the ruling is that in California and other states, “ephemeral features and isolated features may be subject to federal jurisdiction, and activities like stock pond construction and grassed waterway maintenance may require Clean Water Act permits.” Accordingly, CCA cautions members against conducting activities that alter water flow without first consulting with technical assistance providers.
Yesterday’s ruling was limited to the issue of whether a preliminary injunction should be issued; litigation is moving forward in the Southern District of Texas to consider whether the Biden Administration’s WOTUS Rule should be overturned based on the legal merits of the lawsuit. There is also ongoing litigation against the 2023 WOTUS Rule in courts in North Dakota and Kentucky. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling in Sackett v. EPA in the coming months, which could nullify portions of the Biden Administration’s WOTUS Rule depending on the justices’ interpretation of the federal Clean Water Act.
CCA will continue to keep you informed of developments regarding the 2023 WOTUS Rule.
Governor Newsom Authorizes Diversion of Flood Flows for Groundwater Recharge
Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month issued an executive order suspending certain water rights and wildlife protection statutes to allow for the “diversions of flood flows” to reduce flood risk and accelerate groundwater recharge as the state experiences high flows and flooding from a series of atmospheric rivers. The order permits diversion of flood flows until June 1, though diversion must cease when the flood risk abates. While a great deal of agricultural land is not eligible for flood flow diversion under the order, irrigated pastures may be able to take advantage of the opportunity subject to specific requirement laid out in the Executive Order. For additional details, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
SWRCB Extends Scott River Watershed Curtailment Suspensions
On Tuesday the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced that curtailments within the Scott River watershed remain suspended through midnight on Thursday, March 30, so long as flows of 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) are maintained at the Fort Jones gage; if flows dip below 200cfs, diversion under all water rights listed in Addendum 45 must immediately cease.
As a reminder, the SWRCB has suspended its prohibition against “inefficient livestock watering” within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds provided diverters comply with the conditions detailed in last week’s Legislative Bulletin. For additional details, review the Scott River and Shasta River Watersheds Drought Response webpage.
Finally, previously-reported water rights curtailment suspensions and conditional curtailments remain in effect for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Russian River, Deer Creek and Mill Creek watersheds.
New Episode of Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast
Sorting Pen: The California Cattleman Podcast, “Sorting through ranching in California w/Secretary of CDFA Karen Ross” is out now. Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, joins Katie on the podcast for a discussion on CDFA’s current works and programs for producers, the role ranchers play in California, and how listeners can help communicate with Californians about the value of ranching and agriculture in the Golden State.To listen to the episode, click here.