Are California Almond Growers Being Told Not To Plant More Trees?
February 12, 2016 11:42 PM
By Leigh Martinez
STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) — It’s been a roller coaster ride for almond growers, and it continues as concerns rise over water use.
A drive through the San Joaquin Valley shows rows and rows of almond trees sharing space and resources with other farms.
“Almost didn’t have any water last summer, that’s why the yard is dead,” said Valley Home resident Tom Wilson.
Three years ago, homeowners say their wells started to run dry.
“I know there’s a whole slew of people along Pleasant Valley Road. They’re just one after another. There’s quite a few with issues,” she said.
And across the Central Valley, many people started questioning how much the neighboring almond trees were drinking up. Stanislaus County considered putting an end to new almond tree planting.
“About a year and a half ago, there was pretty serious discussion,” said water resources manager Walter Ward.
In 2013, San Luis Obispo County put a stop on new grape vineyards.
“San Luis Obispo did go with a full moratorium. From what I understand it’s all in courts,” he said.
There was also crop moratorium talk in Fresno County. The issues has been raised, but there has been no formal discussion or restrictions put in place.
So is an almond tree moratorium just rumor?
The short answer is yes, but in November 2014, Stanislaus County changed its groundwater ordinance, making it difficult to get a permit to drill a new well. If the property doesn’t receive any surface water, the landowner needs to prove he has sustainable groundwater supplies. That can be a very expensive requiring the property owner to hire his own team of geologists.
The ordinance is a deterrent to adding new trees.
“Nobody has gone through the process yet,” Ward said.
If a farmer gets a well permit, he’ll still have to face new state requirements and pay to monitor groundwater use, creating almost a functional moratorium instead of an actual one.
Leigh MartinezFollowLeigh Martinez is the multimedia journalist covering the San Joaquin Valley.
Previously, Leigh was the weekend anchor at KGET 17 in Bakersfield and also spent three years covering the San Joaquin Valley for KXTV News 10.