Irrigation agency ready for wet winter

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- El Nino conditions point towards a wet winter. But a small Fresno County irrigation district will be prepared to capture run-off.

900 landowners live in the Laguna Irrigation District. They've heard all the talk about how to solve their drought problems but the district has come up with a real solution.

Levee work will soon be complete on a 55 acre parcel between Riverdale and Laton in Fresno County. Here crops will be replaced by a valuable resource. Laguna Irrigation District general manager Scott Sills said, "We're building a recharge basin to hopefully catch some of the excess waters that we might get from the El Nino."

Flood releases haven't flowed from Pine Flat Dam through the Liberty Danal for four years now. But pipe was being laid to capture excess water which may come this way this winter.

Growers received no water deliveries this season. They relied on groundwater pumping to irrigate their crops but wells have been running dry. Sills explained, "We've seen drops in our groundwater elevation in places that we've never seen before."

Nut grower and dairy operator Frank Zonneveld is keeping a close eye on the project. Zonneveld said, "We've been over drafting the groundwater because of the four years of drought but with ponds like this in place hopefully we can recharge those groundwater tables."

The basin will be able to hold 500 acre feet of water. The system would allow 3,000 acre feet of water of month to soak in and recharge the underground aquifer. Zonneveld said, "If we could get this pond and let that water settle back into our basins it's just like having water up behind the dam."

Both believed this to be a sustainable system. All they need is a wet winter to prove it. Sills said, "You know we've had hope for four years and were hoping this year is the one the lord brings to us."

The Laguna Irrigation District was able to tap into Proposition 84 funding which covered the bulk of the 1.2 million dollar project.
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