State lawmakers, county leaders declare regional drought emergency

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FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – California’s drought has local government officials in the Central Valley concerned.

On Friday, Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare counties declared local drought emergencies at a joint news conference at Harlan Ranch in Clovis. State lawmakers and county supervisors from across the region were standing in a parched field of dead trees and dry grass to emphasize the drought conditions.

A coalition lead by state senators Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), and Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) organized the regional drought declaration. The declaration is aimed at pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide drought emergency, which lawmakers say is needed now.

“Fresno County is declaring a state of emergency,” said Steve Brandau, chair of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. “We want to get out in front of this problem called drought.”

The counties’ drought emergencies will not trigger any emergency conservation efforts on the local level but it is part of the process to push Gov. Newsom to declare the state emergency, which would then prompt the emergency measures, according to Sen. Andreas Borgeas.

“It would legally allow for relaxation of certain regulatory, administrative, and environmental restraints to facilitate water transfers and other remedies normally unavailable without such declaration,” Borgeas said.

A little over a week ago, Gov. Newsom declared a regional drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. This in part prompted these lawmakers and county officials to speak out Friday. One Kern County farmer at the news conference says he’s been suffering for a decade.  

“Over the last ten years, we have idled thousands of acres due to lack of water being delivered to our farm,” said Larry Starr

Sen. Melissa Hurtado says if the drought is not adequately addressed, the nation’s food supply could be harmed due to the importance of Central Valley crops.  

“Our actions will determine whether we actually enter a food crisis,” Hurtado said. “This is a national security issue, we’re on the verge of a food crisis.”

Sen. Anna Caballero is also focused on preventing a food crisis. 

“If you want to continue seeing fresh food  in the stores you need to continue to provide the water that’s tremendously necessary,” Caballero said.

On Thursday state senate democrats introduced a $3 billion drought relief plan, which they say is the largest of such plans to be introduced in the legislature.

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July 23 2021 05:30 pm

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