Wild pigs cause levee break in Fresno County

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Water destined for 3,000 thirsty farms burst through an irrigation canal just east of Sanger on Sunday. The water flooded adjacent fields and forced the temporary evacuation of nearby homes. Repairs to the canal and cleanup are now underway.

The Irrigation District is blaming wild pigs for this flooding. While the canal was dry, the animals apparently dug burrows into the canal bank. When water was put in for the first time Sunday, a section of the bank gave way -- cutting water to more than 100,000 acres of farmland and giving one grower way too much.

Water rushed through the canal break on Sunday evening -- flooding Highway 180, catching nearby residents by surprise.

"A stranger came in our driveway honking his horn and getting our attention and just told us the field was flooding," said Armando Olveira.

Fearing for their home, Alice Dedmon's family hustled to save what they could before evacuating.

"They got everything out of the house that needed to come out, all the important things from our office computers, paperwork, to his mother's pictures, who passed, my mom's ashes," said Dedmon.

As it turned out, Dedmon's house was spared. A neighbor's basement was flooded. The real damage occurred to the vineyard surrounding the property. Grape grower Michael Shoffner is in a race against time.

"Right now we got tractors going, trying to get water out of the vineyard," said Shoffner. "We've got men working, pumps going trying to get the water out. We are looking at a two- or three-day job to get all the water out."

The problem is too much water will destroy his wine grapes.

"With this grape, zinfandel it's a wine grape, it will rot on the vine with too much water," he said.

Shoffner is estimating he will lose from 15 to 40 percent of his crop.

The 20-foot break will have to be repaired before the flow of water to the 3,000 farms in the Alta Irrigation District can resume.

"We'll delay water runs this week then start next week. All the farmers will still get their same water and everything," said Alta Irrigation District General Manager Chris Kapheim.

Because of the drought the district is getting only about 30 percent of its usual supply from the Kings River this year, so every drop is important. This setback that created lots of mud is being blamed on wild pigs who like to dig.

"All the time, all the time, we have a big problem with that," said Olveira.

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