By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Today is April 5th, a lovely spring day of 65 degrees in Kern County. In my last month’s article, California was still experiencing atmospheric river events, and during the week of March 26th, Kern had four days of rain. A lot has happened; the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced on March 24th the forecast of the State Water Project (SWP) deliveries to 75 percent, up from the 35 percent reported in February. In addition, the Governor rolled back some drought emergency provisions by Executive Order N-4-23, allowing for diversions of flood flows. WOW, think a few months ago, who would have thought that flood flows would even be in an executive order and recommended? This increase in SWP deliveries and rolled-back drought provisions is supported by the fourth snow survey of the season at Phillips Station conducted on April 3rd. That manual survey recorded 126.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 54 inches, which is 221 percent of the average for this location. For the Southern Sierra location, the snow water equivalent is 61.6 inches which is 302% of the average for this date. And for the Kern area, the snowpack is estimated to be 422% of normal. So, if you have been driving around the Kern County area, you will notice recharge facilities full of water, but imagine as the weather warms, more water to come from the snow melt. Poso Creek broke its bank, and the water headed towards the City of McFarland, but some growers diverted that water onto their properties. Thank you, Kern growers! The situation at Poso Creek will be the beginning of similar problems as the snow melts, especially with Kern having a snowpack estimated at 422%. The agricultural water districts over the years have spent millions of dollars to construct these recharge basins, and this year, similar to 2017, will be used to their capacity. Let us be grateful for the proactive efforts of the agricultural water districts because these recharge basins help all beneficial users (domestic, municipal, and agricultural) who extract water.
Let us hope that this year goes down as a wet year but not too disastrous to agricultural lands. As mentioned, the Governor issued an executive order, and also in that order was the ability to take flood waters and divert them onto farmlands. However, I strongly recommend that you, as a landowner, read the executive order about that diversion; some restrictions could end up causing you some major problems down the road. Some restrictions include any water diverted shall not be applied to any dairy land application areas, any agricultural field where pesticide or fertilize application has occurred in the last 30 days, any space that could cause damage to drinking water wells or drinking water supplies and there are others (water quality standards still apply). Another important item to note is that the person or entity files a preliminary report with the State Water Board 14 days after initially commencing the diversion of flood flows and a final report by June 15th, 2023. Rumor has it that the date of June 15th will be extended to accommodate the later flood flows as the snow melts. If you still need to get a permit from the State Water Board for diversions, the water you are placing on your lands and recharging into the basin belongs to the public trust, not you as a landowner. Again, take the time to read the executive order. If you need a copy of the executive order, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Farm Bureau.