[env-trinity] Fresno Westlands growers get some bad news

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Jan 30 08:01:32 PST 2009


 
Fresno Westlands growers get some bad news
District likely won't receive federal water deliveries this season.
Fresno Bee - 1/28/09
By Robert Rodriguez
 

FIVE POINTS -- West Fresno County farmer Bob Diedrich hoped for good news during a standing-room-only meeting of Westlands Water District growers Wednesday. 

 

But Diedrich, a farmer for 45 years, didn't like what he heard.

 

Westlands officials said growers in the district will likely receive no federal water deliveries this season. 



 

  a..  
  b..  


"Our projections are that our allocations will be zero, absent a significant change in hydrology," said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District in Fresno.

 

Farmers are heading into their third consecutive dry year.

 

Diedrich was one of about 100 crammed into a shop building at the district's west side office eager to hear details from district officials and Ron Milligan, operations manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

 

"What am I supposed to do, if I have no water?" Diedrich asked. "I have five guys that I employ year-round, and now I may have to tell them they don't have jobs."

Diedrich farms 960 acres that at one time grew processing tomatoes, dry beans, cotton and alfalfa. He is contemplating pulling up stakes temporarily and moving to Texas to live with his son. 

 

"We are at the point where a lot of us farmers need to make some decisions today about whether we are going to plant this year," Diedrich said. "We don't want to just walk away from this."

 

Birmingham told growers that the district is working on options, including water transfers and accessing water that was not used as part of a water rationing program last year.

 

"We are literally looking all over the state to get water as quickly and inexpensively as possible," Birmingham said. 

 

But none of those options is guaranteed.

 

Farmer and Westlands board President Jean Sagouspe sympathized with growers, saying he, too, is having to make tough decisions. 

 

But Sagouspe also said the problem is not just the lack of rain and snow. He said environmental policies, including court-ordered pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect endangered fish, have helped create this current crisis.

 

"People don't have a clue about what is going on," Sagouspe said. "The governor doesn't even care. He will only care when L.A. runs out of water."

 

Although the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation won't announce a water delivery forecast until Feb. 20, Milligan told growers several things are certain: Rainfall is below normal, the state reservoirs are depleted and the snowpack is small. 

 

And the short-term weather outlook is not promising. 

 

"We do not see a lot of water in the forecast," Milligan said. "And that will make it a very complicated operational season."

 

Westlands growers, who suffered the biggest hit among water districts on the west side of the Valley, are expected to have only about 300,000 acres in production this year, down from 500,000 acres that are farmed. 

 

Birmingham said that while he hopes for a solution, he knows it may come too late for some growers. 

"I pray that I am wrong," he said. "But the reality is that a lot of you in this room may not survive this."#

http://www.fresnobee.com/business/story/1161605.html

 

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DWR's California Water News is distributed to California Department of Water Resources management and staff,  for information purposes, by the DWR Public Affairs Office. For reader's services, including new subscriptions, temporary cancellations and address changes, please use the online page: http://listhost2.water.ca.gov/mailman/listinfo/water_news . DWR operates and maintains the State Water Project, provides dam safety and flood control and inspection services, assists local water districts in water management and water conservation planning, and plans for future statewide water needs. Inclusion of materials is not to be construed as an endorsement of any programs, projects, or viewpoints by the Department or the State of California.

 
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