Valley growers welcome latest storm cycles

FRESNO, Calif.

The fall harvest season may be over for Valley grape growers, but Easton Farmer Ray Jacobsen insists the winter-like weather still plays a critical role in the health of his vines, which is why he's welcoming the latest storm cycles with open arms.

"The vines need a certain amount of saturation in the ground even though we post-irrigate after the harvest season," he said. "This ground is still dry down below so we need to get the deep profile of moisture into the ground. That's why any rain we can get is beneficial to us."

The precipitation is also beneficial to the largest agricultural water district in the United States. Westlands Water District encompasses more than 600,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties. It pumps its water from Northern California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through to the San Luis Resevoir.

"Water is such a huge component here, and we have so many people dependent on the ag industry and without that water you can't really grow crops, and without those crops that means higher food prices and truly lack of jobs," said Westlands spokesperson Gayle Holman. "That becomes a very negative economic impact on our community so we're hopeful for water."

Hopeful, she said, especially after Valley farming communities saw a dry December last year. She said the level of allocation from the Bureau of Reclamation was relatively low as a result.

"It was only 40% and 40% of any operation is just not enough to see you through," she said.

Holman said it's still to early for crews to make next year's determination now, but she and Valley grape growers like Ray Jacobsen said they're eager to see a wet winter ahead.

"It's really critical for us to have the snowpack in the mountains more so than the rain in here in the valley, because we need the water next summer during the growing season," said Jacobsen. "It's very critical for us to have a good snowpack to have it melt off slow. We don't want all the water right now, we need the snow to extend the season until the summer time."

In the meantime, the California Department of Water Resources announced an initial water allocation of 30% of requested deliveries to State Water Contractors and it said the allocation would be increased with more precipitation. Kings and Kern Counties both fall under that category.

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