Local leaders urging Newsom to declare drought emergency in Valley

The latest drought has growers taking extreme measures.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Land and equipment have been idled.

Without a steady supply of water, Shawn Stevenson was forced to rip out a large portion of his Clovis orange grove.

The latest drought has growers taking extreme measures.

"I know in this county, today, there are farmers that have bulldozed trees because of a lack of water. Productive trees," says Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

Another farmer was selling almond acreage because he can't access enough water to irrigate.

"We are trying to sell thousands more to be able to survive. But I don't see how we'll be able to survive if nothing changes," says Kern County farmer Larry Starr.

Democrats and Republicans don't often see eye to eye but they presented a united front in urging the governor to declare a drought emergency here in the Valley.

"Without it, we will be moving from an emergency to an absolute catastrophic crisis," said Assemblyman Jim Patterson.

State Senator Anna Caballero pointed out local food production didn't end during the pandemic.

"When you went to the grocery stores you didn't see shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables because of this Valley," she said.

A dry winter has left reservoirs such as Friant Dam well below average.

As a result, farmers face severely reduced water deliveries through canals.

A drought declaration would improve the irrigation needs of some growers.

"It would legally allow for the relaxation of certain regulatory, administrative and environmental restraints to facilitate water transfers and other remedies," said state Senator Andreas Borgeas.

Governor Newsom has said other counties could be added to the drought emergency list as needed.

The Fresno County board of supervisors is considering a local drought emergency proclamation.
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