Friday, August 22, 2008

2008 Fall Tour report

On Thursday evening at the Esparto Fire Department Hall, the Yolo County Cattlemen and Wool Growers Association held its annual Fall Tour. One of the main functions of the association is education, aimed primarily at its members but also for the public. This year’s educational program included two hot topics that will affect most rural residents, the proposed Yolo County Groundwater Ordinance and our current water situation.

Speaking to the assembled farmers, ranchers and rural landowners was Rick Landon, Yolo County’s Agricultural Commissioner. Landon spoke about how the draft ordinance came about, primarily due to the concern of County Supervisor Mike McGowan’s over water transfers outside of the county. The draft ordinance developed into three main areas. A groundwater and well monitoring program, a water transfer component and the establishment of a new county water agency. Landon went on to say the draft in its current form has been described as defective. The County has now hired a consultant to gather input from all sides and to rewrite the ordinance into a final version to send to the Board of Supervisors for a vote. As this process goes forward, Landon emphasized, public input will be crucial. Many in attendance stressed their concern over the ordinance as a solution looking for a problem. A very expensive solution whose budget, they fear will come from new permits and usage and monitoring fees.

As most everyone in agriculture will tell you, we are in a two-year drought and as we look forward, hopefully to a wet winter, the question of surface water and the health of the main underground aquifer are on our minds. Max Stevenson, Water Resource Associate from the Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District gave an informative presentation on the current well and groundwater monitoring program. The number of private and public wells currently monitored dotted his map of the county. YCFC&CD monitors160 wells, and along with other agencies and districts, a total of 550 wells in Yolo County are monitored and that data is sent to the State. Stevenson drew a diagram of the Cache Creek aquifer, showing the historic levels of groundwater and how they fluctuate during drought conditions. He also explained the districts ability to maintain water delivery to farmers in dry years was greatly enhanced by the building of Indian Valley Reservoir in the late 70s. A bit of information that most water users didn’t know was the unlined canal system the district uses allows 25% of the water flowing through the system to recharge the underground aquifer.

The last speaker of the program was Matt Byrne of the California Cattlemen’s Association. Matt spoke on many current topics and pending legislation that affect the livestock industry, both statewide as well as here in Yolo County.

With the program over, the crowd of about 60 sat down to a rib-eye steak dinner prepared by the YCCWGA members.

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