Ag Today August 6, 2021

Massive fire wipes out much of California town, leaving broken hearts, broken dreams [Los Angeles Times]

Greenville, nestled in dense forests southeast of Lake Almanor, was decimated when the massive Dixie fire swept through three weeks after it ignited near a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power station in Feather River Canyon. the town was a smoking ruin, its sign melted so that the lettering crackled like glaze. Entire blocks were razed. Flames still flickered where they could find perches on something left to burn. Hulls of cars lined the street, reduced to charred tanks and melted wheels. The U.S. Postal Service building was standing, but inside, the banks of P.O. boxes lay collapsed on the ground, their doors burned off. The gas station was smoldering, its metal roof twisted and swollen, its pumps burned-out shells. At Main and Crescent streets, the historic Bransford & McIntyre Store was reduced to its walls and five steel doors that were meant to protect it from just such a fate. A plaque on the front of the building said the store had been built on this site in the mid-1870s but burned in an 1881 fire. It was immediately replaced with a brick building that, according to a plaque, was “built like a fortress,” complete with “steel shuttered doors and windows.” None of it was enough to save the store from the Dixie fire.


Wildfire updates: River and Dixie fires continue to spread, multiple fires in Shasta-Trinity [Sacramento Bee]

Northern California was on fire Thursday, with explosive growth at the River Fire, the continued spread of the Dixie Fire and multiple fires in the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National forests. More than 20,000 firefighters and support personnel battled 97 active wildfires covering 2,919 square miles in 13 U.S. states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The Dixie Fire burning in Butte, Tehama and Plumas counties is now the sixth-largest in California history after it exploded to 322,000 acres (435 square miles).


Opinion: Save shepherds and firefighting flocks [Riverside Press-Enterprise]

Suburban cities with wildland interface hiring herds of goats and sheep to munch down vegetation, greatly lessening the fire danger for surrounding neighborhoods. While the animals are great mowing machines, and while border collies are very smart and very good at controlling the herds, there is a need for some human supervision. But thanks to a new California labor law, the people power part of this equation may price the practice of hiring sheep and goats into unaffordable realms. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tara Duggan reported last month, “California’s 2016 overtime law for agriculture, AB1066, requires that herders of sheep and goats receive pay for a 168-hour week because they are on call 24 hours a day. The law went into effect in 2019 for companies with 26 or more employees, and in January will also apply to those with 25 or fewer employees, the size of most operations.”


Lake Oroville reaches all-time low level; Record dry conditions at tallest dam in United States highlight California drought [East Bay Times]

Four years ago, Oroville Dam, the tallest in the United States, made international news when its massive 10-mile-long reservoir filled to the top in heavy winter storms, and raging waters destroyed its spillway, causing the emergency evacuation of 188,000 people. But now, in the latest symbol of California’s worsening drought, the opposite problem is underway: Lake Oroville’s water level has fallen so low that on Thursday, for the first time since the dam was built in 1967, its power plant was shut down because there is no longer enough water to spin the turbines and generate electricity. “This is just one of many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, which owns the dam. On Thursday, the reservoir was only 24% full, having fallen below an all-time low record set in September 1977. The lake level has dropped a stunning 250 feet in the past two years. The water level has fallen below the intake pipes that normally send water to spin six huge turbines at the Edward Hyatt Power Plant in the bedrock under the dam.


Amid worsening drought, Lake Oroville’s record-low water level forces shutdown of hydroelectric power plant [Los Angeles Times]

In a sign of the region’s worsening drought, state water officials announced Thursday the shutdown of a major hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville in Northern California, citing the lowest-ever recorded water level at the reservoir. It marks the first time that officials have been forced to close the Edward Hyatt Powerplant, which was completed in 1967, on account of low water at the lake. The loss of the hydroelectric power source at Lake Oroville, about 75 miles north of Sacramento, could contribute to rolling blackouts in the state during heat waves in coming months.

“This is just one of many unprecedented impacts we are experiencing in California as a result of our climate-induced drought,” Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said in a statement.


Experts say new normal of drought in west requires new approach to water conservation [Bay City News/Napa Valley Register]

California is in the midst of another drought, and experts say the strategy should be more than hoping for an ample supply of rainfall. Heather Cooley, director of research at the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, said “the challenges we now face are a result of the decisions from the past, but it’s incumbent upon all of us to take actions now for a more sustainable, resilient and just water future for the West.” Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said drought conditions could have major implications for one of the country’s greatest sectors — our food supply. He called on the federal government and corresponding agencies to provide short-term relief for farmers, like greater disaster payments and crop insurance programs.



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