Looking for a bit of silver lining to an endless drought? Before the rainy season this winter regulators are storing more water according to the state’s latest reservoir report than they did last year.
Despite dry conditions downstream a number of key Sierra reservoirs hold more water than the same time in 2021 that was also a drought year.
Today the state’s largest federal reservoir, Shasta, is hurting with just 1.6 milAF at 35% of capacity as of Sept 5. Still, that is improved over last year at this time when only 1.2 milAF was in storage.
Likewise, at the largest California-managed reservoir – Oroville – sits at 1.3 milAF compared to just 800,000AF as of Sept 5, 2021.
Folsom, above Sacramento, holds 423,000AF. But in September 2021 the lake held just 236,000AF.
A key Valley reservoir near Los Banos -San Luis Reservoir – holds 558,000AF compared to just 265,000AF at this time last year.
Above Fresno, Millerton is storing more with 250,00AF compared to 232,000AF last year at this time. That does not include upstream storage that feeds Millerton.
Several reservoirs are not better off in 2022 including Trinity and New Melones.
One big local reservoir that does not show improvement this year – Pine Flat – has just 132,000AF with a capacity of 1 millionAF. Last year at this time, it held over 200,000AF. Kings River water officials say Valley irrigators drained more of the lake this year because, of course, they needed it. With the low level in the lake now they are not likely to draw it down more this year.
By the way, Kings River watershed did get a pulse of precipitation from that August monsoon storm that hit the Valley, adding up to an extra 20,000AF -unusual for summers.
Adding it all up, the latest Department of Water Resources report says California has 17.2 million acre-feet in storage this year compared to 15.4 million acre-feet this time last year.
That is 68 percent of average for this time and 45% of capacity.
This week we are all focusing on the heat – Merced was 116 degrees, which broke the previous all-time record. But there are thunderstorms in the Sierra too.
Speaking of rain, Hanford NWS forecasters are watching moisture from a Baja hurricane moving into Southern California and Arizona this weekend, predicting the Sierra could get some modest precipitation. We’ll take it.
Faraday Future raises funds but stock drops
Faraday Future, with a car manufacturing plant in Hanford, has had a tough go of it with its stock falling to under $1, an all time low this week. It was over $11 in late September of last year.
Also in the past few days, the LA-based EV start-up warned production of their electric car might be delayed to the fourth quarter explaining “Certain equipment needed to fully ramp up production is currently scheduled to arrive later this year, as anticipated,” adding that it is “not expected to materially affect the timing or rate of the production ramp up,” said a Aug. 29 news release.
With the equipment on site, Faraday Future says it ”has made substantial progress” with equipment installation in vehicle manufacturing areas of the factory.
“We noted earlier some challenges with supply chain issues which affected our FF 91 timeline. We have announced the successful raising of $52 million in convertible note commitments and continue financing discussions with multiple parties, but our anticipated timing to close these potential transactions have also impacted our launch timing,” says CEO Dr. Carsten Breitfeld.
The company says it has taken actions to preserve its cash position, including reducing spending, extending payment cycles, and implementing other similar measures. As of Aug. 26, the company’s U.S. cash balance was $47.2 million and restricted cash was $1.5 million.
“The timing and amount of additional funding raised could impact the timing and rate of our production ramp, which could substantially impact expected production volumes,” Breitfeld said.
Grow agave on California’s Westside?
Agriculture in California faces an uncertain future as drought, wildfires and other climate extremes become more commonplace in the West. But a fledgling industry focused on growing and distilling agave plants, which are used to produce tequila and mezcal in Mexico, could be California’s answer to fallowed fields and a lack of water.
Earlier this year a group of growers, distillers and retailers formed the California Agave Council to foster collaboration and offer a chance to share knowledge among members who previously had no formal network.
Now, the University of California, Davis, has established the Stuart & Lisa Woolf Fund for Agave Research to focus on outreach and research into the plants and their viability as a low-water crop in the state.
“The rainfall patterns and growing conditions in California are different from those where tequila is made,” said Ron Runnebaum, an assistant professor of viticulture and enology. “It is exciting to begin to harness the capabilities at UC Davis to determine which agave varieties can be grown commercially in California and what flavors can be captured by distillation to make unique California agave spirits.”
The fund was created with a $100,000 seed gift from Stuart and Lisa Woolf, who are Central Valley farmers and have a test plot of about 900 agave plants on 1.5 acres. They hope this gift will encourage others to also contribute.
The gift is focused primarily on optimizing production in California relative to Mexico, where labor costs are lower, and the farmers rely on rain rather than irrigation for water. Stuart Woolf believes California producers could grow larger plants with higher sugar content.
“I really believe we could be very competitive with Mexico,” he said.
The research also offers a chance to better understand the impact of location on the growth of the plant, which can be a source of fiber and alternative sweetener as well as the distilled spirits it can produce.
“As a drought-tolerant plant, agave holds great potential in water-stressed California,” Woolf said. “It’s a crop that could get by with little to no water during periods of extreme drought.”
Record butter prices
Kings County dairymen should not complain about high grocery prices, considering the hefty price they are getting for a key commodity in preparing meals every day – butter.
With the fall baking season coming up, the wholesale price for butter on the commodity market now stands at $3.12 per pound. That is at or above an all time high and almost double what butter cost a year ago.( $1.78)
Blame low supply in storage and reduced supply in the hot summer months. Processors have been turning more milk into cheese, say sources. Dairy operators defend themselves facing sky high production costs from feed to labor and fuel. They say processors are pocketing the extra receipts.
Prices for retail butter have outpaced most other goods — up 13% this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some have said with consumers already facing sticker shock in the grocery store, heightened butter prices may cause consumers to back away from the dairy aisle.
Veterans Affairs eyes clinic in Visalia
The current Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Tulare would relocate and expand service in Visalia according to a preliminary plan filed with the City of Visalia this week. The clinic serves vets in both Kings and Tulare counties.
Developer Josh Hausman of CBOC Visalia LLC has identified the location as the two-story office building at 500 N. Santa Fe, the former Buckman Mitchell headquarters, now staffed by Chicago-based Gallagher Insurance.
An operational statement submitted by the developer says the 32,000 square foot VA clinic could see up to 95 patients a day.
The current VA clinic on Cherry Street in Tulare is much smaller at a few thousand square feet.
The information filed through the city site plan review process says the clinic would expand services to include mental health, optometry, podiatry, audiology, physical therapy, infusion, tele-health and others. The facility is expected to employ 45 to 53 workers.
The larger clinic would offer series to veterans in Tulare and Kings counties with support from the VA facilities in Fresno. California Veterans Affairs estimates there are nearly 30,000 veterans in Tulare and Kings counties as of 2022.
Oil price keeps dropping
The price of oil continues to drop this week to around $82 barrel for October at deadline Wednesday. That is down in three months from over $121 a barrel with motorists finally getting some relief at the pump. Gas in Hanford this week is down to $4.36 a gallon at Valero.