Dismal snowpack foreshadows painful summer

FRESNO, Calif.

Not even steady snowfall could hide the dismal result. The final survey of the season by the Department of Water Resources at Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe showed the state snowpack at 32% of normal.

Frank Gehrke of the DWR said, "We're obviously not looking all that promising for our spring and summer certainly in terms of recovering on the reservoir storage."

Recent rains helped create scenic settings but many farmers who rely on water from Friant Dam face a zero water allocation this year.

Hundreds of acres of orange trees in an east Clovis orchard have been ripped out by their roots. Shawn Stevenson made the difficult decision because he doesn't have enough water to keep them alive.

Stevenson explained, "It's about survival and needing to be realistic about what we're facing."

Entire blocks of other productive orange trees will also be pulled out once they're harvested. Stevenson has steadily reduced his citrus acreage because of three years of drought.

He said, "We've gone from about 1200 acres of permanent crops out here and within about a month here we're going to somewhere around 800 acres."

By pumping groundwater Stevenson will have about 40% of the water he needs for his trees. Shawn says he has no choice but to lay off 50 full-time workers.

He said, "I think the best way to describe this is that this drought is going to be like a wildfire except it's going to happen over an extended period of time. It's going to leave a scar on a lot of communities for a long time."

Those communities represent not just the west side of the valley but the east side as well - Reedley, Sanger - all the way down to Tulare County.

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