Agriculture · Highlight

“We’ve been here before”: Valley counties pile on Newsom to declare drought emergency

A coalition of Central Valley counties is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare an emergency declaration in response to the drought crisis. 

The chairs of the Board of Supervisors for Fresno, Madera, Stanislaus, Tulare, San Joaquin, Kings, Kern and Merced counties sent a joint letter to the governor in support of a letter from a bipartisan mix of Valley legislators spurring a yet-to-be-issued emergency declaration.

“We’ve been here before,” said Steve Brandau, Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman, in a statement. “This time we need to get ahead of the crisis. A declaration of drought emergency would be a good start.” 

The push for a state of emergency comes after the California Department of Water announced that Fresno County farmers would only receive 5 percent of their contracted water supplies, which was half of what the department had previously announced at the end of last year. 

“In light of the recent water allocation announcement to California farmers and growers, we are writing to share our concerns and respectfully request that your administration take immediate steps to address this pending statewide emergency. California produces half of the nation’s livestock and produce products, which are an essential part of our local economies,” the letter reads. 

“Agriculture is a cornerstone of our local economies and will sustain significant losses as water scarcity becomes a reality. It is estimated that one million acres of land may be fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley over a period of two to three decades as a result of reduced ground and surface water availability. A drought will expedite this loss in productivity and result in thousands of lost jobs. 

“By providing agencies more flexibility under a state of emergency order, state agencies and stakeholders can work together to adapt to this challenging situation. All tools should be available to minimize red tape for water transfers, and allow state agencies to modify certain reservoir release standards to allow for more water to go to farms and communities throughout the state.”

Newsom, thus far, has resisted calls from Democratic and Republican state lawmakers in the San Joaquin Valley, along with California lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.