It might look funny for the Kings County Supervisors to extend a 3-year-old drought declaration, then at the same time declare a local flooding emergency. But, it's no joke as the Board voted unanimously for both the flood and drought emergency declarations after record rain and snow buried the area(see article below). We'd like to get a good laugh out of all of this, but unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors is trying to deal with two situations threatening the Kings County economy and the environment as best they can. It's ironic that even in a flood year like this Congress's Endangered Species Act(ESA) laws could restrict California Aqueduct water deliveries by as much as 50%. Floods are temporary, but as long as Kings, Western Fresno and Kern counties rely on contracted Delta water deliveries from the California Aqueduct to balance their water requirements, they will remain in the man-made drought regardless of rainfall.
Unless Congress amends inflexable laws like the ESA and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act(CVPIA), Kings, Kern and Fresno Counties will be in a permanent drought. In the near future you can include Madera and Tulare counties in that group as well. Why? Because in 2009 Congress passed the San Joaquin River settlement act that will export 384,000 acre feet of water or more from those counties' contracted supply, depriving them of the water they desperately need to keep their wells from going dry.
Kings County is ground zero in this water war. They are dependent upon water from the California aqueduct for both the State Water Project(SWP) and the Central Valley Project(CVP).
The costly water provided by the SWP must be FULLY paid for in advance before any water is received even if ZERO water is delivered. This risk has caused several Kings County farmers to sell their SWP water.
We have an expensive flood declaration. Until Congress acts, there will be a continuing if not permanent drought.
Congress needs to do their job, change the laws and stop the “Congress Created Dust Bowl” drought.
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Kings County Declares Drought And Flood Emergency
Jan 07, 2011
By Seth Nidever snidever@HanfordSentinel.com
Kings County supervisors on Tuesday extended a 3-year-old drought declaration. Then they declared a local flooding emergency.
The combination drew laughter from the audience. But the four county supervisors in attendance - including newcomer Doug Verboon - didn't flinch, voting unanimously for both emergency declarations after two weeks of record rainfall soaked the county and buried the mountains in snow.
Supervisors defended their votes for the drought, citing groundwater overdraft, limited storage, reduced pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect endangered fish and farmers selling water rights outside the county.
"The surface water is great, but we have to capture it," Verboon said.
"I think it would be premature to pull the plug on this [drought declaration] right now," said Supervisor Joe Neves. He is also the county's emergency services director.
Neves said that there were five private well failures in Kings County in 2010 in which the cities of Lemoore and Corcoran and the unincorporated town of Stratford had to approve the transfer of municipal water to the private landowners. Neves also cited high-profile sales of water rights from Kings County growers to Southern California in 2009 and 2010.
Neves said he believes the drought declaration helped draw attention to the economic impact of reduced pumping from the delta, which mainly affects western Kings County, but also provides approximately a third of the irrigation water to the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District in southern Kings County. The financial effect of the water shortage has been explicitly acknowledged in recent court rulings requiring a reassessment of endangered fish protection policies that have limited the amount of water than can go to Kings County farmers.
As far as the flooding declaration, supervisors said dairies have been affected by the recent heavy rains, as have crops such as alfalfa and possibly some trees and vines.
Officials are still working to assess the extent of the damage, said Tim Niswander, county agricultural commissioner.
Worst off were dairies with a lot of standing water, much of it tainted with manure. Strict rules limit where and when dairies can send their manure waste water, especially when fields are already soaked by heavy rainfall. Several dairy farmers have said they are worried about facing sanctions from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control board for trying to get rid of the water.
The flooding emergency declaration, retroactive to Dec. 17 and up for renewal on Feb. 3, might protect farmers who need to drain their land, said Colleen Carlson, county counsel. Pooled water in open corrals exhausts the milk cows, reducing production and affecting the animals' health.
"We are struggling with where to put the water," said Jake DeRaadt, a dairy operator north of Lemoore. "We just got hammered."
The reporter can be reached at 583-2432.