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High and Dry: Managing the Drought, Part One

NORTH COAST- The North Coast was not immune from the severe drought that swept through California this year. Rivers ran low, lawns turned brown and even the City of Rio Dell was told to curtail their water use.

Humboldt County's $100 million a year agriculture industry was hardest hit, ranchers the most. Grass land where cows feed dried up fast, forcing ranchers to buy feed for their cows.

"As the drought continued and became more serious the lack of available water started to become an issue," said Jeff Dolf the Humboldt County agricultural commissioner. Streams and wells dried up leaving some ranchers with no other choice than to bring water to the cows.

Jay Russ a grass farmer and rancher is the fifth generation in his family ranching in Ferndale. After several storms this season, now his family's ranch is green again.

"Right now things look promising. We've had nice early rains and we've had warm temperatures, and as you can see around us the grass is really responding and looking very promising," he said while looking out at his green pastures.

Reginald Kennedy a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Eureka agrees and said the North Coast appears to be out of the woods for now.

"It looks like we're going to be well over precipitation, our wet year is starting of fantastically," said Kennedy. "We hope it just continues so that we can get our ground water replenished and our rivers up to a normal flow."

However, Russ said he is remaining cautious. "Last year was a very similar pattern, we got nice early rains and it quite mid November."

Dolf said it will take time for ranchers to get back on their feet. Already about $3 million in assistance has been given to farmers, many of which have seen a 30 percent loss from this years drought.

"The drought will impact the current production but also will impact production for several years," Dolf said. 


*Part two of High and Dry will air Wednesday at 6 and 11.