Westlands Water District Announces Scholarship Winners

Westlands Water District Announces Recipients of the Six West Side Scholarships

News Release

Westlands Water District awarded scholarships to six high school seniors in recognition of the students’ exceptional academic achievement. Each recipient, all of whom are from west side communities, will receive $1,000 towards their community college or university expenses. Applicants were judged on their academic performance, school activities, and community leadership, and each applicant submitted an essay on an agricultural-related topic.

The District congratulates the following 2019 scholarships winners:

Joe Cardiel III, a senior at Firebaugh High School. Cardiel plans to attend Fresno State, where he will major in Agriculture Education, with plans to pursue a career as an agricultural educator.

Cardiel is a varsity basketball and varsity baseball player and FFA chapter secretary. As a Firebaugh high school student, Cardiel was honored with the Eagle Baseball award, FFA State Degree, and FFA Outstanding senior.

Marvin Cornejo, a senior at Mendota High School. Cornejo is an honors student who plans to attend Fresno State to pursue a degree in Chemistry. Following college, Cornejo aspires to pursue a career as a pharmacist.

Cornejo is a Mendota School Board student representative; a West Side Youth volunteer; an avid athlete involved in track &field, cross country wrestling and soccer; and an FFA Greenhand and Chapter degree holder.

Myriam Castro, a senior at Tranquility High School. Castro will graduate in the top five of her class. Castro plans to attend Fresno State, where she will major in Criminology.

During her time at Tranquility High School, Castro was involved in the Honor Guard and the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) and obtained the ROP Criminal Justice certificate of completion and the State Seal of Biliteracy.

Peter Hawken, a senior at Lemoore High School. Hawken was honored as the Chemistry Student of the Year. Following graduation, Hawken will attend the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he will major in Environmental Science. With his degree, Hawken aims to pursue a career as an environmental and agricultural irrigation specialist.

Hawken is the Varsity Soccer team captain, both the soccer and tennis club president and is involved in Jesus Club and a California Scholarship Federation life member.

Jazmin A. Murillo, a senior at Coalinga High School. Murillo plans to attend West Hills College Coalinga, where she will major in Political Science and film. Following college, Murillo plans to pursue a career as a paralegal and as a film director.

Murillo is the editor-in-chief of the Coalinga High School Magazine, President of the After School Program Leadership Club and VIDA club, and was on the Principal’s Honor Roll from 2015 to 2019. Murillo has also been honored with the Bausch + Lomb Honorary Science Award, first place in the Chevron Robotics Challenge and as a National Hispanic Scholar.

Emma Andrade, a senior at Riverdale High School. Andrade is an honor roll student who plans to attend Fresno State, where she will major in Physics and plans to pursue a career as an experimental physicist.

Andrade plays varsity basketball and tennis and has been involved with Rural Route 4-H since 2010, continually holding leadership positions, such as Corresponding Secretary and Camp Director. Andrade has been honored with the Academic All-League Team and Letter, County Heartbeat Artistry Award and All-League First Team Varsity Tennis.

Westlands is honored to recognize and assist these outstanding students; as reiterated by Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands, “these scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks and support to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region productive and vibrant. Our hope is that these students will continue to contribute to their communities and make them even better for future generations.”

Mario Santoyo On Allocating Enviromental Water to Cities and Farms

All Sectors Of California Have Had to Reduce Water Usage, Except the Environment

By Kyle Buchoff, Correspondent

Mario Santoyo is the Assistant General Manager of the Friant Water Authority as well the Executive Director of the Latino Water Coalition. He suggests the environment give up some of its water, like the other sectors in California, to free up supply for cities and farms that are suffering this year.

He told California Ag Today, “This is the fourth year of a serious drought and the second year of what I call ‘double zeros,’ meaning zero water allocation on the West Side and zero allocation on the East Side of the Central San Joaquin Valley. Historically, a year of double zeros has never happened, much less a second year of it. This translates to the worst possible condtion for agriculture in the Central Valley—ever,” Santoyo said.

“At this point there is clearly nothing we can do relating to Mother Nature; she’s going to do what she’s going to do. But the fact is, it is not just Mother Nature causing this drought; human involvement in the operations and management of water has resulted in this level of crisis,” he said.

Santoyo emphasized that the environment must be considered in any  water usage allotment, but “to the degree that there are no requirements to justify the level of the water that it needs, unlike municipal and agricultural allocations, that is not reasonable,” Santoyo noted.

“So as we move further down the drought road in terms of farmer hardship, we’ve tried to appeal to policymakers to rethink how environmental water is being used. We’ve talked to legislators in Washington D.C. and we are talking with the Governor Brown.”

“The governor has implemented a 25 percent water reduction for municipalities, and of course you cannot receive less than a zero water  allocation for agriculture, so a similar cutback to environmental water use is warranted,” Santoyo said. “It is very reasonable, given the dire circumstances we all face, that everyone share in the pain. Reductions in  environmental water could be reallocated to the communities and farms to ease at least some of the pain.”

Santoyo hopes that state and federal legislators will help to reallocate some of the water supply this summer.

Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

Zero Water for West Side Districts

The unprecedented zero water deliveries this year are extremely hard for managers of West Side Water Districts.

Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District based in Los Banos, is very frustrated about keeping farming operations and employment viable with zero percent water allocation.

Martin McIntyre,
Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District.

“The biggest frustration for us has been the regulations that interfere with water supply deliveries intended to protect a couple of endangered fish species. From our perspective, they are rather misguided,” said McIntyre.

A recent study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found that the current drought is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture. This, in conjunction with federal environmental restrictions on the state, have create some difficult situations.

“There are many causes in the decline of species, and the regulators have seized water flow as the principle cause. There is ample evidence that it’s the declining food supply and the toxic releases into the delta; but the popular, publicized notion remains that water deliveries are endangering the species, and its simply isn’t the case,” said McIntyre.

While the preservation of fish species is an admirable goal, the environmental restrictions that have been put into effect are not the most appropriate solution. Especially during a severe drought when farmers are already struggling.

“We’re allowed to take, depending on the year, approximately 300 smelt, little Minnows, at the major pumping stations that serve the lower two-thirds of the state. That’s a snack for a Striped Bass! It’s estimated that, in some reaches of the delta, 90 percent of salmon smelt are eaten by Striped Bass; and yet, regulations are putting the state’s water supply in jeopardy in a misguided effort to try to recover the species–without addressing the more fundamental problems,” said McIntyre.

Fresno County Crop Value Drops to $6.43 Billion

For the first time in history, Fresno County has two $1 billion crops, and for the first time in 11 years, grapes are not the #1 crop. Now almonds are the top crop produced in Fresno County with a value of $1.1 billion, with grapes coming in second at $1.03 billion. However, despite these highlights, Fresno County crop value in 2013  was $6.436 billion in gross production—a decrease of 2.28 percent of 2012.

Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright
Fresno Ag Commissioner Les Wright

As it stands now, Fresno County loses it’s #1 position as top agricultural county in the nation, dropping behind Tulare County, which recently announced a $7.8 billion 2013 crop year. It could get worse when Kern County releases their report in August.

“Much of the decrease can be attributed to the shortage of water,” said Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner. “The impacts of drought began to show on our 2012 crop report with decrease of 2.29 percent from 2011. Producers are feeling the affects of the water shortage more in 2014 than in the previous two yeas.”

Water shortages in Fresno County with a large part of the West Side dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries have meant the annual crop report’s gross value of production has dropped three years in a row.

Details of the 2013 report include an increase of fresh vegetable production in 2013 by 3.8 percent in value led by garlic and fresh market tomatoes, while livestock and poultry decreased in value by more than 16 percent.

Field crops, representing barley, wheat, corn silage, cotton an alfalfa declined nearly 42 percent, while fruit and nut crops increased more than 8 percent.

Wright noted that Fresno County growers exported nearly 26,000 shipments to 99 different countries. “This tells us that we are still feeding the world,” said Wright.

“Once we get water back, we are going to see our ag economy rebound,” said Wright. “Just give the farmers water and they will do the rest.”