West-Side Farmers May Not Benefit From Storms

FRESNO, Calif. A good soaking in the Valley does not guarantee a steady irrigation delivery the rest of the year. A healthier snowpack will benefit growers on the east-side of the Valley who get their water from Friant Dam and Pine Flat. But Riverdale farmer Dan Errotabere said west-side farmers may not benefit from the storms.

Errotabere said, "After going through three droughts now maybe we see a change going on. Still, nothing has changed. We're going to have lost opportunities in terms of tremendous amounts of fresh water, not just for agriculture but also for urban folks along the Valley and down in southern California."

Irrigation water for farmers in Western Fresno County is delivered through the Delta, fed in part by Shasta and Folsom dams in Northern California.

Sarge Green of the California Water Institute studied data that showed the dams are starting to fill. But he said water from any flood releases in northern California wouldn't reach west-side growers. Green explained, "It wouldn't get this way. It would fly right on by out the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and go past the pumps but pumps wouldn't be able to turn on."

Errotabere added, "The reservoirs will go into flood stage. That water will travel out to the ocean." And not flow to Valley farms because pumping from the delta is still restricted to protect endangered fish.

Errotabere said it's especially frustrating for west-side growers. "We're dying out here and here we have rainfall the way we have and we still can't find a solution on any direction."

Sarge Green said a week's worth of storms sounds and may even look impressive. But they basically amount to an average year in terms of water and snowpack.

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