Lettuce will suffer in Fresno, a dry county

01/09/2014 11:24:00 AM
Mike Hornick

“The problem is not so much the drought as the pumping restrictions,” Bourdeau said. “(In December 2012) 1 million acre feet of water was let out to the ocean because of pumping restrictions. Then a long drought started. If you could have put that water into the reservoirs, it would be easier to manage the situation.”

Pumping restrictions are related to federal protection for the endangered delta smelt.

“Two years ago, there were heavy rains and snowpack,” Duda said. “Water was released all summer to get reservoirs ready for winter. These were virtual flood control conditions, but the Westside still got less than 50% of its allocation. There’s no question policy played a role.”

“I am depressed and disappointed that this fertile farming area with a great history of high quality spring and fall lettuce for decades may fade out of existence,” said John Harris, chairman and chief executive officer of Coalinga, Calif.-based Harris Farms.

“A huge hit is taken by the Western Fresno County economy if it suddenly goes away due to the draconian water policies we face,” Harris said.

“As I understand it, most delta smelt killed are killed by striped bass,” Bourdeau said. “Instead of addressing that, the pumps are restricted. The smelt’s health and vitality haven’t improved.”

“First off, the governor and president need to declare a drought emergency,” he said. “They need to operate within the biological opinion protecting the (smelt) but in a way that can maximize water transfers and pumping. They have some ability to use their judgment. There is some tolerance and range, and they need to operate at the higher end.”

After initial water allocations, subsequent allocations can adjust the amount. Last year’s allocation in the district dropped to 20% after starting at 25%. In 2012, it was adjusted up from 30% to 40%.

This year, even if there’s a zero allocation and it’s adjusted up, growers may not have time to react, given the planning crops require.


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Colleen    
Northern California  |  January, 10, 2014 at 10:22 AM

This article continually hits on the "draconian" water delivery system but I didn't hear any mention of conservation or recycle/reuse efforts. Not only is the water delivery problem not going to go away, it's going to continue to degrade. Until conservation is made a primary issue with water in this state, this will be the result. Be proactive.

Vance    
Phoenix, AZ  |  January, 10, 2014 at 05:05 PM

Day in and day out -- 24/7/365 Farmers in all states do their best to conserve water. With the food safety issues today, most of which can be traced back to contaminated water, recycling and reusing water is not going to happen. If you think it's needs to be done, then you need to be speaking up when the FDA is having open comments on the Food Safety Modernization Act. I don't live in California, but farmers are farmers everywhere and since water is such a huge factor and is expensive in the production of any crop, water use efficiency is the highest priority of any farmer. Try researching, best to do away with your lawn and swimming pools if you want to reduce water use. http://www.water.ca.gov/wateruseefficiency/

Steven    
California  |  January, 13, 2014 at 08:10 PM

Good answer Vance! Amen!

Dr. Creek    
Fresno, CA  |  January, 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM

I have lived in the valley all my life. My job requires me to travel throughout California and several months up in the Sacramento and Chico areas. When you see all the water 24/7/365 going out to the sea,it makes you sick to think there would be no water shortage if we were able to store or transfer this water to the facilities B.F. Sisk intended it to go to. Maybe we will eat smelt,since we won't be able to grow Fruits & Vegetables. Opps vegetarians I guess will have to starve.

Colleen    
California  |  January, 15, 2014 at 10:57 AM

California's water delivery system is fairly unique Vance. I own a small farm in Northern California and am surrounded by farms for miles. The majority of farms are either using flood irrigation or large area sprinklers. These methods do not conserve water. Reusing water already occurs on a regular basis during draining. The drained water is returned into the irrigation canal system. Some farms are beginning to convert over to drip. Although this is a positive trend, it is not the norm. Sad to say, neither farmers nor irrigation districts are doing their best to conserve water. And I have commented during open comment sessions with both the FDA and the USDA.

SND    
SF  |  January, 15, 2014 at 05:32 PM

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