Lives affected by eco-imposed water laws
The Gridley Herald- 8/8/08

By Karen Duncan

The Department of Water Resources reports that California is in a drought that will result in the "most significant water crisis" since weather-pattern observations began. From the American Association of Climatologists, "We had the driest spring in California" on record in the last 114 years. It was the driest for Sacramento since 1849 and the driest for San Francisco in 159 years.

Between 1990 and 2000, as the result of new regulations, one million acre feet of water was taken from farms, residential and commercial use and handed over for "environmental" purposes - water that would have served eight million people andworth 250 million dollars annually.

To save the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from "ecological" collapse, these regulations were increased, preventing even more water from getting to farmers in counties such as Fresno and Kern.

Paul Gosselin, Director of Butte County's Water and Resources, wrote in his monthly newsletter, "The largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history contributed to place most of the state in a drought condition".

This action has not only been devastating to agriculture but to California's economy. Crops are whithering as fish take priority over families and food, health and stability.

Matthew Park, Director of Kern County's Farm Bureau, indicated, (by phone), that their small businesses, dependant on farming, are suffering greatly. "Farmer's have had to let people go. Everyone is effected". He mentioned how equipment sales and repairs are down and how some farmers are plowing their fields under.

Two hundred and forty-five million dollars in losses have been tallied to date throughout the San Joaquin Valley with rangeland taking the biggest hit: 80.1 million dollars lost, followed by cotton at 61.5 million, vegetable crops at 60.8 million - tomatoes, melons, cattle, all seriously effected. Thousands of jobs are gone and construction projects are on hold since sufficient water supplies can't be guaranteed.

In June, the Governor issued a "State of Emergency Proclamation" for nine Central Valley Counties: Sacramento, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, San Joaquin, Tulare and Kern.

Currently, all reservoirs except New Bullards Bar, (Yuba City), and Trinity Reservoir, (Trinity River), are below 50 percent capacity. Lake Oroville, with a maximum surface elevation of 900', and a supplier of water to many Butte County ranchers, is down to 38 percent of capacity. At 702', it is a mere 57' from its record low of 645' recorded in Sept. of 1977.  Much of that volume was sent south to "provide fresh-water releases [for] control of salinity intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to 'protect fish' and wildlife", according to DWR.

Closer to home, farmers in Glenn and Tehama County get their irrigation water from the Sacramento River. They were initially told to expect only 40 percent of their normal supply. That amount was cut to 35 percent .

Gosselin stated that Butte County water-table levels are at "about where they were during the last drought" which isn't too bad. Ground water is monitored on a regular basis. "Water quality can indicate a problem" he said and asked that anyone noticing sand in their wells or other anomolies, to contact him: 538-4343. A "Drought Task Force" with a "Drought Preparedness Plan" will be in place in the event we have another dry season like 2007-08.

Dave Kranz, Manager of Media Services for the California Farm Bureau Federation out of Sacramento, sent an email with details of an address given to a Congressional subcommittee in Fresno, in July, on behalf of Federation members. It included heart breaking stories of farmers having to choose between sacrificing citrus crops over avocado trees, laying off workers, cutting down some trees to spare others, a farmer letting his corn and alfalfa die to have enough water for his almond orchard, another spending $24,000. on a new well only to have it be a "dry hole".

The tragedies go on and on all the way to San Diego. One farmer implored, "The future looks bleak without added water. Please help."#