District 13 (Madera, Fresno, Alpine, Mono, Inyo counties and Kings and Tulare counties north of Nevada Avenue (Avenue 192), had the largest share of the state’s 2022 Grape Crush, according to a new report issued in February.
The District 13 crush was 1,149,339 tons. The average price per ton in District 13 was $357.48.
Last year the crop was down year-over-year overall by a significant 11.3% with a total of 1,062,398 tons crushed — likely due to lack of water. The price in 2021 was lower as well at $337 last year.
Runoff expected to be more than double average
For all the South Valley rivers the latest DWR Bulletin 120 predicts “For the Tulare Lake Basin (Kings River, Kaweah River, Tule River, and Kern River), the accumulated unimpaired runoff of 782 TAF is 215% of average.”
Flood releases drain the lake
Recognizing all that stored water up there, the thinking of water managers and the Corps of Engineers has been to dump thousands of acre feet from Terminus Dam (Lake Kaweah) since Jan 1.
Vacating the reservoir built to insure downstream floods don't happen, the Corps took the reservoir from over 83,000 acre feet down to 25,000 acre feet in anticipation of a whopper of a snow melt in coming months.
Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District's general manager Mark Larsen says the releases have stopped at 25,000 acre feet of storage as of Feb 8.
On Jan. 10, “Kaweah Lake was 412% of average with releases beginning downstream to insure there is enough room for a big snowmelt coming this spring, according to Kaweah watermaster Mark Larsen. The reservoir water supply chart had an arrow pointing straight up over the past month with the near-empty lake going from just 10,000 acre feet Nov. 1 to 80,000 acre feet today. That’s nearly half of the lake’s 185,000 acre feet capacity.”
Now it's down to 25,000 acre feet with releases down the Kaweah River channels being put to beneficial use in scores of recently constructed recharge basins and about 40 such recharge basins overall that have been waiting for a wet year to be put into service.
Delta Mendota Canal next for subsidence fix
Land subsidence from pumping has not just reduced flows on the Friant Kern Canal and California Aqueduct, it is expected to reduce capacity by 44% along the Delta Mendota Canal that waters the westside down to Fresno County.
A notice says 30 out of the existing 115 bridges along the canal are considered deficient because they do not have 1 foot of clearance above the maximum water surface elevation when the canal is operated at design flow.
However, the number of deficient bridges is expected to reach 45 when taking into consideration future subsidence conditions. Deficient bridges would be partially submerged when the canal is operated at the design flow, resulting in safety risks.
The US Department of Reclamation performed construction on the canal to remediate subsidence issues in 1969 and 1977. Farmers who complain the government is not moving enough water south won't be able to move it if major repairs are not made.
The 171-mile canal, built in 1951, brings water as far south as Fresno County. Last year the state announced that the Delta-Mendota Canal was one of four projects that will receive funds as part of a $100 million initiative in the California Budget Act of 2021 to improve water conveyance systems in the San Joaquin Valley.
DWR is also working on agreements for projects on the San Luis Canal and the California Aqueduct, and announced the release of funds for repairs of the Friant-Kern Canal with works underway now. Canal fixes are not cheap. Repairs to the 152-mile Friant-Kern Canal, which stretches from Millerton Lake to Kern County, are estimated at $250 million to $500 million.
Focus on capturing stormwater
The state is promoting more stormwater capture and recharge in the Valley including in the Pixley Irrigation District. Here they will construct a new 5.5-mile-long canal to provide surface water for irrigation to approximately 5,500 acres of land that currently rely on groundwater as the only source of water.
The project will increase flood protection for downstream infrastructure, crops and more than 1,000 residents of the community of Alpaugh, while also capturing flood water when available for recharge.
French company to make feta cheese in Tulare
French dairy giant Lactalis acquired the Tulare Kraft cheese plant along Highway 99 in 2021 in a merger with Kraft. Now the new owners want to expand the facility and product offerings adding a new 38,300 square foot building that will produce and package Feta cheese.
The company filed plans with the city this week. Lactalis is the world's largest cheese maker.
Construction is expected to start soon and be ready for use by December, says the company. It will operate on a 24/7 schedule. Some 22 new employees are expected to be hired.
Feta Cheese is a pickled curd cheese with a salty and tangy taste due to its coupling with brine solution. Popular in Greek cooking, the product has taken off in the US (like Greek yogurt) and is expanding rapidly due to increased use in the fast food industry.
In comparison with other cheeses, Feta is a low-fat variety often used on salads and Mediterranean dishes. In Europe and elsewhere feta cheese is often a blend of cows' milk goat or sheep milk. Here it will be just cows' milk.
New Visalia VA clinic will replace Tulare office
A new Visalia Veteran Administration clinic at 500 N. Santa Fe will be replacing the current VA CBOC in Tulare and plans to expand primary care and specialty services.The building, the former Buckman Mitchell office, is 32,000 square feet, of which the VA will take 25,000.
The services include mental health, optometry, podiatry, audiology, physical therapy, logistics, and administrative functions. The new location is expected to offer VA clinic services in greater proximity to veterans based on their data.
Initially, the VA clinic anticipates 45 employees, which could potentially increase to 53 employees in over five years. The proposed hours of operation for the medical office are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The office will have a variety of exam rooms, procedure rooms, audiology and speech consultation rooms, an x-ray room and radiographic ultrasound room, where primary care and specialty services may be completed. Additionally, the use is expected to receive as many as 89 to 95 veterans daily.