Brown on Drought: Governors can’t make it rain

Brown on Drought: Governors can’t make it rain

As the rest of the country remains in a deep freeze, California’s weather is making headlines of its own.

2013 was one of the driest years on record in California. Los Angeles, which sees average annual rainfall of 14.90 inches, benefited from just 3.6 inches of rain last year. At the other end of the state, it was the same story. San Francisco went the entire year without a day of rain totaling an inch or more. The severe drought, according to data compiled by the Weather Channel, is affecting 85 percent of the state.

Local governments throughout the state, especially in rural communities, are responding with emergency declarations.

Mendocino County declares state of emergency

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an emergency declaration, saying that the drought conditions “pose an imminent threat of disaster and threaten to cause widespread harm to people, businesses, property, communities, wildlife and recreation in Mendocino County.”

“Ukiah Valley vintners and farmers depend on water from one and only one source of water, Lake Mendocino, for frost protection and watering of livestock,” the declaration stated. “This supply is critically short, thus placing the local economy in a state of dire emergency if water runs out.”

Other governments have followed suit with various conservation measures. In Sonoma County, officials have adopted their first wintertime conservation campaign, while in the Coachella Valley, the Desert Water Agency is considering restrictions on lawn watering. Next week, the City of Sacramento will consider a “stage 2 declaration” that would require residents, businesses and city agencies to reduce water use by at least 20 percent.

But, don’t expect the governor to rush a statewide emergency declaration.

Brown: Governors can’t make it rain

“Don’t think that a paper from the governor’s office is going to affect the rain,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at Thursday morning press conference to announce his 2014 state budget. “I’m very aware of the problems of the drought, and we’ll take whatever steps we can in collaboration with the state’s farmers to deal with water and also the urban people have to do their part.”

The governor, who referenced the drought conditions in 1977 during his first term as governor, dismissed the importance of an emergency declaration, while simultaneously saying he was doing everything possible.

“Governors can’t make it rain, but we’ll do everything that is humanly possible to allow for a flexible use of California’s water sources,” he said

Last month, the governor announced a state water task force “to coordinate with federal and local agencies” in addressing the drought. The director of the California Department of Water Resources says the agency is doing everything possible to address the effects of a dry year.

“While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year,” said Mark Cowin, director of the state’s water agency. “And every Californian can help by making water conservation a daily habit.”

Bishops pray for rain

Everything possible, which seemingly doesn’t include a statewide declaration, includes prayer. The California Catholic Conference of Bishops has made a public plea for parishioners to pray for rain.

“As stewards of creation we can turn to the Divine Master asking that He see our plight and give ear to our plea for rain,” urged Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the conference, in his Monday prayer message.

But ranchers and farmers, who have watched feed prices skyrocket, say that the drought isn’t an act of God.

“We have deep respect for the Catholic bishops and their call for divine intervention asking people of all faiths to join in prayers for rain, but we would argue that God has given us adequate resources,” argue the Families Protecting the Valley, a coalition of farmers, agriculture providers and community leaders in the San Joaquin Valley. “It is the management of these resources that needs analysis and prayer. Our leaders are incapable of making the decisions needed to make wise water policy. They talk and talk and talk, nothing gets done.”

Farmers have criticized state and federal regulators who have imposed pumping restrictions that have reduced water deliveries in the Central Valley. The controversial restrictions were “aimed at protecting Delta smelt,” which are at their lowest levels since 1967. Farmers say that the current smelt numbers prove the government regulations aren’t working.

According to the Department of Water Resources, the state’s snow pack is at 20 percent of average for this time of year. On January 7, the Bureau of Reclamation reduced releases from Nimbus Dam to the lower American River from 1,100 cubic feet per second to 800 cubic feet per second. The agency plans to reduce flows to 500 cubic feet per second on January 10.

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