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PD Editorial: Preparing to declare the obvious

  • A dry gauge stands at a vineyard reservoir in the Dry Creek Valley. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

If it's true that, as Thomas Fuller said, “we never know the worth of water till the well is dry,” then the North Coast is closing in on a major value-adjustment.

Even with the three-day downpour earlier this month and some rain on the horizon this week, Sonoma County is looking at the smallest rainfall total in recorded history. Santa Rosa, which averages nearly 24 inches by this time of year, is hovers just above 9 inches. One has to go back to the drought of 1976-77 to find conditions anywhere near as dire as these.

The impacts are already significant. Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar is projecting major crop losses on pastures and fields producing hay, oats and other grains in the region.

He estimated that, as of the end of January, economic losses had already reached $6.2 million. As a result, Linegar already is launching a water hauling/trucking program “to aid ranchers and farmers who are in dire need of water for livestock and feed.”

Thus it should come as no surprise that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today is expected to declare a drought emergency, a move that would open up opportunities for the county to pursue state and federal assistance.

At this point, this is a declaration of the obvious — something that should come across more as government process than a call for action. Sonoma County residents should have gotten the message by now.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statewide emergency proclamation on Jan. 17 calling on every Californian to voluntarily cut their water use by 20 percent.

A week later, the U. S. Department of Agriculture designated many California counties — including Sonoma County — as disaster areas due to the drought conditions. That designation also opened up access to a variety of emergency financial assistance programs for local ranchers and farmers.

But to some the drought remains more inconvenience than anything. This is especially true depending on where one resides along the North Coast.

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