Gov. Newsom’s Drought Emergency Water Declaration Skips Central Valley

Photo: Office of the Governor.


FRESNO CA (KMJ) – Standing in a dried out bed of Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for two Northern California counties on Wednesday, to the ire of Central Valley leaders.

Newsom’s emergency drought declaration covered only two counties above San Francisco – Mendocino and Sonoma, and the Russian River watershed to address acute conditions in the region.


Fresno County Supervisors and leaders from other counties affected by the drought were urging the governor to bring more water to sustain agriculture in the Central Valley.

Republican Sen. Andreas Borgeas, the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman,  had gathered leaders to sign a letter to be sent to the governor pleading for more water, and the declaration Wednesday wasn’t what he had hoped for.

Fresno County joined San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Kings, Tulare, and Kern Counties requesting a declaration of drought.

Senator Borgeas began circulating the request in early April after the California Department of Water resources announced in March that the allocation to Fresno County farmers would be only 5% of what they requested, half of what the DWR had announced would be available in December.

Tom Vilsak, the Biden Administration’s AG Secretary also wrote to Gov. Newsom last month, urging him to allow more water to de diverted to the Valley and farmers.

in a tweet shortly after Gov. Newsom’s press conference, Sen. Borgeas responded to the declaration saying the Central Valley can not afford to be overlooked.



Gov. Newsom said the state action was to address drought and support vulnerable communities, local economies and ecosystems.

The governor said his plan could flex to cover more areas but as badly as Sen. Borgeas and others said the Central Valley needs the influx of more water,  Newsom did not mention the area.

“Lake Mendocino is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to California’s drought,” said State Sen. Mike McGuire, (D-Healdsburg).

McGuire said he is preparing a $2 billion budget proposal focused on the drought to be presented to the California Legislature.

Gov. Newsom said there were no mandates on water consumption in his declaration, just action to infuse water in areas with drought conditions and to support high-risk communities.

Democratic Senator Jim Costa released a statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s drought emergency declaration:

“I want to commend Gov. Newsom for outlining an approach to dealing with California’s drought. History has shown us that devastating impacts sustained drought has on our communities. It is without question that this drought will have human and economic impacts that we cannot wait to confront. I am encouraged to hear the Governor discuss flexibility and real-time strategic changes. For his regional strategy to be successful he must focus on the needs of the San Joaquin Valley, the breadbasket of California.

We must use all the tools in our water toolbox to get through this crisis. We need flexibility and reassurances that we balance supporting communities, farmers, and environmental needs. I am hopeful that the state and federal governments will work together in managing this drought and I will advocate and push for the resources necessary to help the Valley through this difficult time.”


Click to listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern: