County warned drought is the ‘new normal’


Daniel mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County is experiencing moderate to severe drought, but the supervisory board has been urged to view the situation as something of even more concern – the continuing progression of climate change.

At the May 25 board meeting, Supervisor Mike Wilson sponsored an agenda item titled “Drought Conditions and Implications for Fire Risk and Water Availability”. But presenting the presentations, Wilson said: “Some call it drought, but I think a lot of us will say that we are getting into climate change – it’s a deeper problem than we’ve seen before. “

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson.

Yurok Tribe President Joe James has drawn attention to a fish kills in the Klamath River and urged the county to approve an emergency proclamation.

Most of the state is in the throes of extreme drought. Representing the Karuk tribe, fisheries biologist and natural resources specialist Craig Tucker described this year’s drought as part of a worrying trend.

“I just want to make sure no one thinks 2021 is another mill drought situation,” he said, adding that was “of particular concern”.

The past two years have been “as dry as any two-year period since 1900,” he continued, and only three two-year periods in the past 120 years have been warmer.

“What I’m going to suggest is what a lot of other experts are suggesting – that this is something bigger than a drought,” Tucker said.

After detailing additional state statistics on the hot, dry years of the past decade, Tucker concluded that “what we are experiencing here is not a drought, but a new normal driven by climate change.”

Firefighting agencies and services are bracing for a potentially disastrous summer and fall.

Kurt McCray, head of CalFire’s Humboldt / Del Norte unit, recounted the fiery fall of last year, when “five of the six biggest fires in California history were burning at the same time.”

There is potential for an even more devastating repeat of this because “conditions this year are much worse than they were this time last year.”

McCray reported that so far this year, four times more acres have been burnt than last year at this time.

Many residents of the county live in the Humboldt Bay area and Chris Harris of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District said the district’s reservoir is still 99% full.

But she said the dry conditions were affecting tributaries of the Mad River.

Ryan Derby, of the county emergency services office, advised to suspend the declaration of emergency due to the state’s lack of reimbursement funds for the costs involved. .

But supervisor Steve Madrone believes the situation is urgent and has insisted on declaring a county-wide emergency as soon as possible.

Noting the state of the tributaries of the Mad River, Madrone said that “it is a false sense of security with a full reservoir when in fact the lower reaches of the river are drying up.”

He added that the rest of the county has already entered a water-related emergency.

“The vast majority of the county’s land is experiencing severe drought and many rural water supply districts have very little water and could easily run out of water later this summer,” he said. we’ve heard of all the fish killed on the Klamath, so we’re in a really dire situation – now. “

Whatever the costs of declaring an emergency, “We have to do it, it’s serious, it’s not something we should just sit back and talk about,” he continued.

A public comment period included a mixture of opinions.

The use of well water linked to growing cannabis has been reported as an impact, but southern Humboldt cannabis grower Thomas Mulder, who is a member of the county planning commission, advised not to not “reactionary politics” in response.

Planning director John Ford said the most recent version of the county’s cannabis ordinance allows the restriction of “all commercial cannabis activity” under certain circumstances, including drought and low flows in the areas. Watershed.

His department “is exploring other legal sources of water for growers” but has yet to find what Ford described as “a good clear path at this time.”

Supervisors disagreed on how and when to respond to drought-related dilemmas, but ultimately voted to form a task force to make recommendations and ask county staff to disseminate messages. communities and come back with options, including creating a new climate resilience staff position.


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