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With Net Metering Secure, California Solar Now Faces Uncertainty From Time-of-Use Changes


New peak hours and changing rates could have a big negative effect on net-metered solar—and also boost storage or demand response that can economically shift it to later in the day.

by Jeff St. John

February 16, 2017


Last year, California’s solar industry celebrated its win on preserving net metering. This year, it gets hit by the other side of the equation -- time-of-use (TOU) rates.

Over the coming months, California’s big three utilities will be filing general rate cases that shift the hourly schedule of on-peak and off-peak hours -- and the widely varying retail prices per kilowatt-hour that go with them -- into much later in the day.

The resulting drop in value of net-metered, on-site solar for future solar projects will be considerable, according to solar industry analyses. It could amount to 15 to 20 percent for San Diego residential systems, or 20 to 40 percent for schools or public agencies looking to go solar in Pacific Gas & Electric territory.

Longer-term forecasting is complicated. The actual per kilowatt-hour prices for these new hourly structures haven’t been set yet. All of that is going to be decided in the general rate cases (GRCs) rolling out over the coming year. San Diego Gas & Electric is already underway with its GRC, and is set to close it in the third quarter, and PG&E is set to close by the end of the year. Southern California Edison will close its rate design case by the end of 2017, but doesn’t conclude its GRC until 2018.

That puts solar industry players and their customers in a tricky situation because many of them are facing the switch to new TOU regimes this year, even before the rates have been set. Commercial and industrial (C&I) customers are facing a July 2017 deadline for getting new solar projects interconnected under the old, grandfathered TOU rates, for example.

And residential solar customers will start moving onto time of use as they enter each utility’s “NEM 2.0” rate structure -- the extension of California’s retail rate net metering ordered by the CPUC last year. For PG&E, the switch to NEM 2.0 already happened in December, and SCE and SDG&E are expected to shift into the new regime sometime this year.

NEM 2.0 gave California’s solar industry a lock on retail rates, at least through 2019. But it doesn’t set those rates. As Cory Honeyman, GTM Research analyst, put it, “half the battle over the future of rooftop solar policy was NEM, but the other half was trying to get clarity on rate design. This is why the ultimate outcomes for rate reform are as important as what happened for the NEM ruling.”

Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision (PDF) that will guide how these GRCs ends up influencing the value of solar, energy efficiency, or technologies like demand response and energy storage, as they implement TOU schedules to meet the state’s later-in-the-day energy needs.

The TOU challenge to solar value

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How Hawaii’s New Shared Renewables Program Could Benefit the Electric Grid


The goal is “not just clean energy, but clean energy when the grid demands it.”

by Julian Spector

February 14, 2017

Hawaii will move ahead with a first-of-its-kind community renewables program designed to incentivize dispatchable power at times of peak grid demand.

The island state leads the nation in rooftop solar per capita, but many who live there cannot participate in that market. To serve renters, multifamily-housing dwellers, and residents who don’t have a high enough credit score or enough available sun to install their own solar modules, the legislature passed a law mandating that utilities create community renewables programs. The utilities then had to figure out how to add these projects to a grid that already faces saturation by solar over-generation in the middle of the day, with nowhere to export to.

After some fits and starts, the Public Utilities Commission amalgamated the stakeholder viewpoints and filed an order Friday to create shared solar projects that will be compensated differently based on the time of day that they provide power. (To access, search for docket 2015-0389 at the Hawaii PUC website.)

Subscribers to the “Community-Based Renewable Energy” (CBRE) program will earn 20 percent more for power shipped to the grid during the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. peak hours compared to midday, defined as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The off-peak hours from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. will earn 10 percent more than midday hours. Plants that commit to almost exclusively providing power during peak hours will earn an even higher rate of compensation.

Savvy observers of the sun may notice that it has long since vanished from Hawaii when 10 p.m. rolls around. This pricing isn’t a scheme to trick community solar participants, but an effort to reward dispatchability, which will most likely be provided by pairing energy storage with the solar and wind installations.

Due to the expense of advanced batteries and the still-emerging use cases for them, the additional cost of adding storage to a solar project only pays off in select places. As it happens, Hawaii is one of those places.

The state has to import fossil fuels for conventional electricity generation, which means electricity costs are more there than in any other state, and that solar paired with storage can compete at higher price points than it could on the mainland. Additionally, the proliferation of solar assets on the islands has led to over-generation at midday, meaning new solar projects risk losing revenue to curtailment if they can’t store their energy for use later in the day.

All of which cues Hawaii up for a tantalizing experiment in the distribution of electricity: Can a brand-new community solar program do more than its predecessors in other states? Can it create a market-driven, dispatchable resource that helps the entire grid run more efficiently?

Take a peak

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Panels to the people: ‘Community solar’ aims to democratize the sun


More solar projects start serving neighborhoods rather than just individual houses. But the movement is still in its early stages, especially in lower-income communities.

  1. Zack Colman
    Staff Writer | @zcolman

FEBRUARY 9, 2017 WASHINGTON—Dant’e King is selling sunshine and potential.

The former nuclear-plant worker is priming residents of Baltimore and Washington on a different kind of power: “community solar.” The idea is to allow people to go solar even if they don’t have a lot of money or a rooftop of their own.

Mr. King has hit the pavement in low- and middle-income communities – regularly popping up at neighborhood association meetings and churches – to spread the gospel about community solar.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of whether it’s too expensive or not. I think the misperception is that it’s exclusive,” says King, who is director of community outreach for Groundswell, which is seeking to connect customers with a growing number of developers in this nascent slice of America’s solar industry. He is also senior pastor at a Maryland church – and sees his power-to-the-people effort as flowing from a deeper sense of duty to the planet.

No longer will solar be for the “white yuppies,” as King (politely prefaced with a “no offense” warning) puts it.

In one new project Groundswell is participating in, a large Washington church is creating a solar-paneled canopy for its parking lot. The resulting power will flow on to the local electric grid and then be purchased by about 150 ratepayers who are seeking clean energy. Groundswell anticipates the deal will cut electricity costs at least 10 percent for low- or moderate-income subscribers.

That’s one example of the egalitarian vision of community solar, which can take a variety of forms across the country. Sometimes residents band together in cooperatives or similar setups, pooling their resources to create an array of solar panels in a centralized location. The credit-score limits for participating are thought to be less restrictive than for self-financing an individual rooftop solar system, so advocates believe people of modest means will be able to afford community solar.

Although the grand vision is not coming to fruition quickly – partly because financiers are still skeptical – King says he’s unfazed.

“Everything is in its infancy stage” with community solar, King says. He says there are definitely potential customers waiting. “I haven’t met anyone who has a negative response about it or doesn’t want to know more about it.”


Big potential

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Damage to California’s Oroville dam takes down 800 MW of hydropower


Robert Walton



Feb. 15, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • The storm-damaged spillway at the Oroville dam in northern California has taken more than 800 MW of carbon-free energy out of the market, likely forcing the state to turn to gas generators to make up the shortfall.
  • The dam can generate power for 600,000 homes, Bloomberg analysts report, but it will remain offline until officials say the structure has been fully repaired. A need for more gas generation comes as the state is dealing with constrained supplies due to the Aliso Canyon storage leak, as well.
  • Almost 200,000 people were evacuated from the area below the Oroville dam, over concerns a 30-foot wall of water would wash through communities in case of a catastrophic failure. The mandatory evacuation has since been lifted, as some repairs have been made.


Dive Insight:

Evacuations in Northern California transfixed a national audience and terrified local residents who scrambled to get out of harm's way. But as the panic alleviates and people return home, Bloomberg points out one impact may take longer to address.

“Gas generation probably needs to pick up the slack from what you lose at the Oroville Dam,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Het Shah told the news source. The lost capacity is roughly equivalent to two typically-sized natural gas generators.

The Oroville reservoir is currently at 92% of capacity, after officials drained water in advance of more rains, but it wasn't so long ago that California's hydropower reserves were dealing with a serious drought. A 2015 study estimated that lower hydro generation over three years cost California ratepayers more than $1 billion as the state ramped up gas generation.

Turning to more gas to replace the Oroville capacity could exacerbate another generation issue in the state. A leak at Southern California Gas' Aliso Canyon storage facility sent the state scrambling last year to ensure it had adequate supplies.

Now, the California Public Utilities Commission has opened a two-phase investigation to consider the future of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, and could shut it down altogether.

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Lessons California should learn from Oroville Dam debacle


Oroville dam break would flood almost 200,000 California residents in 7 hours 0:40

This animation details a worst-case scenario in Oroville, Calif.: dam failure. With 3.5 million acre feet of water held behind the dam, floodwaters would pour through a huge section of Northern California. Residents closest to the dam would have just minutes to evacuate. Patrick Gleason McClatchy


Special to The Bee

The Oroville Dam debacle is a wake-up call to California.

If we heed the call, we may be able to avoid what could certainly be other disasters and wrong turns in the state water system as we head into an age typified by extreme weather events associated with climate change.

In 2005, our organizations, the Sierra Club and Friends of the River, warned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency responsible for relicensing hydroelectricity dams, that the earthen emergency spillway on the dam was too dangerous. We said it needed a concrete lining and that FERC should require the dam’s operator, the California Department of Water Resources, to build that lining.

The Yuba County Water Agency noted in a technical report on the dam in 2002 that using the emergency spillway could create severe erosion over 50 to 70 acres, sending dirt, rocks and other debris shooting into the waterway below at a rate and scale that could disrupt operations of the huge Oroville-Thermalito Dam complex.

More than 11 years ago, DWR rejected our concerns. This week, we’ve watched a frightening scene unfold as the emergency spillway began to flood and erode, requiring nearly 200,000 Californians to be evacuated from their homes and businesses.

It’s worth noting that we filed our concerns about the spillway a year before the Legislature passed landmark legislation setting targets for reducing climate-change pollution generally.

State leaders and agencies weren’t entirely ignorant about climate change in California. Nor was the public, according to polling at the time. Scientists were predicting a range of changes in rain and snowfall patterns because of climate change, and the agencies and leaders knew that.

Even so, a major state agency responsible for managing dams dismissed a chance to adopt measures that would make Oroville Dam safer as we entered a new climate-affected era.

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Rough weather puts rails at risk in Northern California

FEBRUARY 15, 2017 5:52 PM




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A Union Pacific rail line hangs suspended after storms washed away the hill below it east of Oroville Union Pacific


The rail line near Elk Grove where a freight train full of canned tomatoes derailed last week is expected to be repaired by Thursday, allowing Amtrak trains to resume running and giving track owner Union Pacific an assist as it struggles to move freight during one of the wettest winters on record.

The derailment and the collapse of tracks elsewhere in Northern California this winter offer a reminder of how extreme weather can disrupt train operations and pose safety risks. The railroads face a federal deadline to install new safety technology that can slow or stop trains when it senses hazards up ahead on the rails.

Elsewhere in the north state, a key UP line in the Feather River Canyon east of Oroville has been out of service for more than a month because of erosion and mudslides, causing delays in freight shipments to and from the Sacramento Valley.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr passenger service also has been suspended between the Bay Area and Salt Lake City until Saturday because of track issues.

Union Pacific officials have not said what caused the derailment of 22 freight cars last Friday near the Cosumnes River at Dillard Road. But company spokesman Justin Jacobs said the track berm was saturated from heavy rains and was surrounded by rising water.

The incident briefly concerned county safety officials and hazardous material responders who at first didn’t know what products the train was carrying.

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Republicans’ transportation plan would focus on new roads and repair

FEBRUARY 14, 2017 12:58 PM


Potholes need to be filled and California commuters face insufferable traffic every day. Assembly Bill 496, the Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act, is built on three principles: working class Californians should not unfairly shoulder the costs; all money collected from motorists must go to transportation; and bureaucratic red tape standing in the way of building new roads must be cut and streamlined. Renée C. Byer Sacramento Bee file


Special to The Bee


Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, is the Assembly Republican leader. He can be contacted at Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, is the Assembly vice chair of transportation. He can be contacted at

Aside from housing, California families spend more on transportation costs than any other household expense. Drivers already feel the burden of some of the highest gas prices and gas taxes in the country, but as low- and middle-class Californians continue to be squeezed, the only solution offered by Democrats is to increase gas taxes and registration fees.

There is no doubt that California’s transportation infrastructure is in dire need of repair. Potholes need to be filled and commuters face insufferable traffic every day. The average Californian in a major metropolitan area spends three full days a year in unnecessary traffic due to poor road conditions. Democrats in the Legislature have proposed a plan that is almost entirely dependent on massive tax and fee increases. But there is a smarter, more responsible and fiscally prudent way to invest in fixing our roads.

Assembly Republicans have a plan – AB 496, the Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act – built on three principles: working-class Californians should not unfairly shoulder the costs; all money collected from motorists must go to transportation; and bureaucratic red tape standing in the way of building new roads must be cut and streamlined.

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Trump signs law rolling back disclosure rule for energy and mining companies

By Steven Mufson February 14 at 2:34 PM

President Trump signed his first piece of legislation on Tuesday, a measure that could presage the most aggressive assault on government regulations since President Reagan.

The bill cancels out a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that would have required oil and gas and mining companies to disclose in detail the payments they make to foreign governments in a bid to boost transparency in resource-rich countries.

It is the first of a series of bills Congress is considering that would take advantage of the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which had been used only once before today. The act gives a new president and Congress the power to revoke rules and regulations promulgated by the previous administration in its final 60 legislative days.

The previous time the review act was invoked was in 2001 to overturn a Clinton administration regulation about ergonomics.

“It’s a big deal,” Trump said as he signed the measure in the Oval Office. “The energy jobs are coming back. Lots of people going back to work now.” The White House later issued a background paper saying the measure Trump signed “blocks a misguided regulation from burdening American extraction companies.”

Hill Republicans are also seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn regulations that would: prevent coal-mining operations from dumping waste into nearby waterways; restrict methane emissions by oil and gas operations on federal land; require federal contractors to self-certify that they comply with U.S. labor laws; require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs; and introduce a planning rule for federal lands.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who attended the signing Tuesday, said it would be “the first of many Congressional Review Act bills to be signed into law by President Trump.” He said they would “provide relief for Americans hurt by regulations rushed through at the last minute by the Obama administration.”

But when the Obama administration issued the regulations now under attack, it had said they would protect ordinary Americans and the environment from corporate excesses.

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President Trump’s Energy Policy Remains a Work in Progress

Justin Worland

Feb 14, 2017

President Trump promised bold changes to the way the country handles energy and the environment to create "trillions in new wealth" and a "flood of new jobs.” But three weeks into his Administration, many in the oil and gas industry say his agenda still seems unclear.

While Trump has moved quickly to unravel a raft of environmental regulations, questions remain on major issues for the energy industry such as his tax policy, level of support for renewable energy and how he'll approach international trade.

Observers say the executive orders and regulatory rollbacks so far have been minor.

"Those things are really small compared to the other things coming up," says Ethan Ziendler, head of Americas and Policy at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, of the Trump's initial executive orders. "We’re really in early days with so many unanswered questions."

How Trump will approach tax reform and trade policy rank as perhaps the biggest uncertainties for oil and gas companies. Republicans in Congress have proposed a border adjustment tax that would require companies to pay a 20% tax on products imported rather than produced domestically. U.S. oil production has skyrocket in the past decade thanks to fracking, but the country still imports some 5 million barrels of crude daily.

Jack Gerard, who heads the American Petroleum Institute, said last month that the industry is "concerned about it" though API has not taken an official position, according to a Financial Times report.

The Administration's approach to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could also play a role in shaping the future of U.S. energy, and the Trump administration has offered little indication how it might act. Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry oversaw rapid growth in renewables during his time as Texas governor and renewables remain popular with many Republicans in Congress.

Perhaps most important way Trump can shape the future of renewables is with federal incentives, including an investment tax credit set to ratchet down incrementally beginning in 2019. Renewable energy deployment will continue regardless of tax credits as the cost of solar and wind continue to decline, but tax credits provide obvious incentives to move away from domestic coal and natural gas (though it could free up more natural gas for export).

The lack of direction has sunk in with friends and foes alike. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who heads the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources committee, told Politico in late January that Trump's team did not offer a direction on energy at the GOP's recent retreat. "I figure my job as chairman of the energy committee is to remind them of the significant opportunities that we have within the energy space and why it's important to put it at the top of your priority list," she said. (Murkowski's office did not reply to a request for comment on her remarks).

Read More: Donald Trump Says He'll Bring Back Coal. Here's Why He Can't

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As cap and trade awaits fate, auction tests market

FEBRUARY 14, 2017 2:50 PM


California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during the climate summit at United Nations headquarters in New York City on Sept. 23, 2014. Brown has called climate change the world’s most serious issue and wants California to become a global leader in curbing greenhouse gases. Craig Ruttle Associated Press file


Whither cap and trade? California’s high-profile – and highly controversial – program of selling greenhouse gas emission allowances will be tested again next week in the year’s first quarterly auction.

Three 2016 auctions fell below expectations and produced almost no funds for the state, while the final 2016 auction in November perked up a bit.

To some, it was a sign that the earlier decline was an isolated event, but to analysts who follow the emission market closely, the November uptick was more likely investor response to a mandatory 2017 price increase to $13.57 per metric ton of carbon dioxide.

This month’s auction will offer about 65 million tons, with 35 million coming from utilities, which receive allowances free of charge, and Quebec, which sells allowances in the California auction.

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LA leader fights to boost Porter Ranch health study, says gas leak settlement ‘ignores’ community


Adriana Perez (right), her partner Evon, and their daughter Cassidy, 14, struggle with Cassidy’s illness, which is aplastic anemia. Adriana said she believes her daughter came down with the anemia because of toxins in the air due to the Aliso Canyon gas leak. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Oroville Is a Warning for California Dams, as Climate Change Adds Stress



The remains of the St. Francis Dam in California, which burst just before midnight on March 12, 1928, and killed more than 400 people.


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The St. Francis Dam was a proud symbol of California’s engineering might and elaborate water system — until just before midnight on March 12, 1928, when it collapsed, killing more than 400 people in a devastating wall of water. Ever since, the state has had a reputation of diligent inspections as it has built the largest network of major public dams in the nation.

But the threat of catastrophic flooding from the damaged Oroville Dam in Northern California this week — forcing the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people because of what environmental groups had asserted in 2005 was a design flaw — presented a warning sign for California, where a network of dams and waterways is suffering from age and stress. It also demonstrated that older dams may not be designed to deal with the severe weather patterns California has experienced because of global warming. The Oroville Dam was completed in 1968, toward the end of the golden era of dam building.

The culprit at Oroville was a faulty emergency spillway, used for the first time since the dam was opened after days of drenching storms, driven by what are known as atmospheric rivers, that filled the reservoir to capacity. But engineers and environmentalists said similar problems could occur at many of the roughly 1,500 dams that dot this state.

“We are not maintaining the water infrastructure adequately,” said Peter H. Gleick, a founder of the Pacific Institute, a think tank dedicated to water issues. “We are not maintaining it in Flint, Mich., and we are not maintaining it at our big dams in California. We need to spend more money and time on maintaining these.”

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An Oroville message: As climate shifts, so will water strategies


Safety concerns at the Oroville Dam center on engineering and maintenance. But dams also face new challenges in managing water in an era when rains can be heavier, and less precipitation is falling as snow.

  1. Zack Colman
    Staff Writer | @zcolman

FEBRUARY 14, 2017 —Even when everything is going right, managing a dam is a juggling act. What the flooding this week at California’s Oroville Dam may be demonstrating is how that juggling act is growing even more complicated due to climate change.

Many factors are at play in the ongoing emergency, which has caused more than 100,000 people downstream to be evacuated. Neglect of infrastructure has played a clear and primary role – with homes being evacuated because of signs that the dam's emergency spillway is failing to safely carry even a portion of the overflow it’s licensed to handle.

By contrast, the connection to climate change is less clear. Most climate scientists say it’s hard to prove that global warming directly causes a specific extreme weather event. What they do say, though, is that warmer temperatures make the chances of such episodes occurring more likely.

In fact, the Oroville incident is raising what may be an overdue debate over how water managers can better adapt to new climate realities.

"I think we can certainly say that under a warmer climate, more of California's winter precipitation will arrive as rain, rather than snow, so that these kinds of concerns about reservoir capacity will become increasingly urgent,"  Sally Thompson, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California-Berkeley, says in an email.

To her it looks “premature” to draw a direct line from climate change to Oroville’s busting-at-the-seams reservoir. But she and others say it’s not an irrelevant line of inquiry.

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In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers contend with a new threat: Trump



Firebaugh farmer Joe Del Bosque in a field of peas, which will be plowed under to make way for melons. Peas enrich the soil with nitrogen through tiny nodules in their roots. Now that drought fears are easing, farmers are worried about President Trump deporting workers.


February 15, 2017, 3:00 a.m.

It’s almost impossible to get a rise from my favorite farmer, Joe Del Bosque, who grows almonds, melons and asparagus here on the perpetually water-challenged west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

After years of drought, suddenly everything is green. It’s raining like crazy, the infamous pumps of the Sacramento Delta are working overtime to fill reservoirs to the south and all over the state, dry fields have become muddy lakes.

“So what are you Westside farmers whining about now?” I asked Del Bosque when I visited him Monday in his office, a modest double-wide trailer on the edge of an almond orchard off Interstate 5.

He chuckled. Farmers are always complaining about something. If they aren’t complaining, it’s because they’re too busy worrying.

Del Bosque is, as usual, worried about water.

But he’s also worried about immigration, and about President Trump’s vow to deport people who are here illegally. Del Bosque, and just about every grower he knows, depends on migrant labor for harvests.

“We need a workforce,” he said. “We can’t have immigration come here and round everyone up and deport them. Coupled with building a wall, it will ruin us. It will ruin the whole fruit and vegetable industry.”

Del Bosque’s water comes from the Central Valley Project, run by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which provides much of the water consumed by farms and people in the Central Valley.

In the past few years, he and other Westside farmers have gotten absolutely no water, or a tiny fraction of their normal, subsidized federal allocation. Even though this year has brought a record amount of rain and a boffo snowpack, he thinks he will get shorted again at the end of this month when the feds determine 2018 water allocations.

His need for water will be pitted against the needs of endangered Delta fish like smelt and salmon. Usually, the fish prevail.

But because nothing is simple when it comes to water, Del Bosque has to worry about too much water, as well. The place he stores his supply — San Luis Reservoir — will soon fill to capacity, putting him in the position of possibly losing expensive water he has already bought. (Federal water costs $220 per acre-foot. Last year, Del Bosque was able to find some water districts willing to part with water at a steep $1,000 to $1,300 per acre-foot.)

He estimates he has more than a million dollars worth of water sitting in the San Luis right now. The reservoir is at 92% capacity, well above its historical average. If it fills to the brim, the Bureau of Reclamation will not be able to pump any more water in from the Delta.

Due to the complexities of water law, the federal government then has the right to take ownership of the farmers’ expensive water.

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In California farm country, Trump’s deportation threat looms large

By Nathanael Johnson on Feb 14, 2017

You can chart Amadeo’s life journey by his clothes. He grew up poor in rural Mexico — “I couldn’t even afford to buy pants,” he says. He got a job in the city, but was making so little that he lived in terror of ripping his only pair of trousers. He migrated north to the factories at the U.S. border, and then into the United States, each time taking jobs that made it a little easier to buy the basics — a jacket, work boots, socks.

His journey seemed at an end when he reached California. By working in the fields there, he was able to make enough to afford not just clothes, but also decent housing, with some extra to send home. One day, he struck up a conversation with a pretty girl in a strawberry field, and then they were exchanging vows, and then buying onesies and diapers.

Today, Amadeo is an athletic man on the brink of middle age, his hair buzzed down to his scalp. His boys bounced in and out of frame of our video call, lunging at the camera and waving, then just as quickly going shy. He has two kids: a cute 2-year-old who wore a green hoodie, and a pudgy 5-year-old with a thick halo of black hair sticking straight out of his head; both of them U.S. citizens, unlike their father. The older boy carried a football, catching his own passes and evading his brother as his father told me his story.

For the past decade, Amadeo felt more and more comfortable in the United States. But that’s changed since President Trump’s election. After all, Trump said he was going to deport everyone in the country without legal documentation, and he hasn’t hesitated to issue orders to carry out other campaign promises. Last week, immigration officers initiated that crackdown, arresting some 680 people.

The farmworkers I talked to are wrestling with two conflicting feelings: They feel anxiety — sometimes verging on panic — but they also don’t fully believe they will be deported. Some of them may be right. The recent “immigration enforcement surge” has gotten a lot of media attention, but even if the government manages to deport everyone who was rounded up over the weekend, it would need to more than triple its pace just to match the Obama administration, which deported 409,849 people in 2012.

There are some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. In California’s farmland, the sheer ubiquity of people without official papers makes mass deportation of millions seem improbable, and yet people are afraid, Amadeo says.

“It feels like …” he turns to the man translating his Spanish to English. “What do you call what the government is doing? Is it violence? Is it discrimination?” He shrugs, bewildered. “Well, it affects us a lot.”

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