Feds Send $150 Million|for California Drought Aid

     (CN) – The Obama administration will spend $150 million to support drought-stricken California, most of it for improving streams and making forests more resilient in the Sierra and Cascade regions.
     The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service will spend $130 million in the next two years to conserve and restore the Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters, which provide 25 million Californians with drinking water and much of the irrigation water in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.
     Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said there is a “responsibility across federal, state and private lands to protect and improve the landscapes that generate our most critical water supplies.”
     “Healthy forests and meadows play a key role in ensuring water quality, yield and reliability throughout the year,” Vilsack said.
     The spending will add resiliency to natural resource systems to help cope with recurring drought and changing climate patterns, the secretary said.
     Another $13.6 million will help ranchers and $6 million will be available to drought-stricken communities through emergency water assistance grants.
     Thirty-five percent of the Western United States is facing severe drought. California’s mountain snowpack, which supplies most of the state’s water during the summer, is just slightly above zero, according to the USDA.
     A study released in May by the California Department of Food and Agriculture found that the drought has reduced surface water by 8.7 million acre-feet, with only 6.2 million acre-feet being made up by extra groundwater pumping.
     The state has seen crop revenue losses of $856 million and lost 18,600 jobs due to the drought, the study says .
     The new spending is part of President Obama’s Resilient Lands and Waters initiative. A partnership between the USDA, Department of Interior, California and other partners is expected to yield a minimum of $210 million for restoration to improve water quality and quantity, promote healthy forests and reduce wildfire risk.
     Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor said the agencies are “taking a comprehensive, science-based, long-term view of how to best make our treasured lands and precious waterways more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

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