MADERA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The Madera County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to implement penalties for growers and farmers throughout the county who go over their allocated amount of water.
The penalty would start at $100 per acre-foot of water starting in 2023 and gradually increase by $100 annually until it hits a $500 cap.
This comes after the board voted to deny penalties up to $500 for farmers and growers that went over their allocated water usage.
That ordinance failed to pass 3-2, with District 4 Madera County Supervisor Leticia Gonzales being the deciding vote, and choosing to not pursue overdraft penalties of that amount.
The board eventually backtracked, and compromised in a 4-1 vote, to begin with a $100 penalty per acre-foot of water.
It can be changed, modified or even thrown out, if the board decides to do that at any later date.
“People don’t realize what they’re doing to us farmers, they’re killing us! We are dying. They put those meters in, we already get $30,000 dollars in PG&E bills, I just got it this week,” said long-time farmer and grower Betty Morgan.
Betty Morgan has been growing crops in the same plot of land in Madera County for over 73 years. She was getting into the passenger seat of her car while the meeting was still going on.
“I don’t have the guts to get up and talk to em anymore, that’s why I got the hell out of there,” she said.
Those who stuck around for the over five-hour meeting were able to see the final votes come down. After much deliberation, the board agreed to the $100 water overdraft penalty.
Supervisor David Rogers was the sole Supervisor to vote ‘no’ on both ordinances.
“We went from 500 down to 100 for the first year. Sounds to me like they’re going to build a better tier system. This can all be adjusted as time goes on,” said Rogers.
Several pieces of research and charts were presented to the board and showed meters installed on plots of land would be the methods used to track farmer and grower water usage.
However, some people present at the meeting, and even some supervisors, were against the meters, since there is a margin of error with them.
“I wasn’t in favor of imposing penalties right now because we have no accurate measurement,” said Rogers.
“I think the fact that the cameras are here, and the growers are here causes the council to take a step back. I hope that we can all get together and come up with a commonsense solution,” said Mark Kanato, a supporter of the farmers and growers.