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Letters for the Week of April 1, 2015

Readers sound off on Oakland's Director of Transportation, bike parking, and agricultural water use in California.

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We too have made sacrifices in the face of this drought — and we've proactively worked to conserve water for decades, even when water was plentiful. Over the past twenty years we've reduced the amount of water we use to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent. We've done it by replacing outdated irrigation methods with more efficient technology and techniques. And we continue to improve. Each year, California's almond growers spend more than $2 million on environmental and production research, much of which helps us be ever more efficient with resources like water.

We value and appreciate the responsibility we have to grow a high-value, nutrient-rich food in the best way we can for our consumers and our community. So, let's step back and agree that we must work together to determine a viable future for the use of California's water. It needs to be done in a way that acknowledges the value of the environment, the economy, and the quality of life for Californians.

Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California

Robert Gammon Responds

Mr. Waycott, thanks for your letter. My assertion that agriculture uses 80 percent of the available water in the state comes from the California Department of Water Resources' website: "In an average year, California agriculture irrigates 9.6 million acres using roughly 34 million acre-feet of water of the 43 million acre-feet diverted from surface waters or pumped from groundwater." Thirty-four million out of 43 million is 79.1 percent.

As for my assertion that California exports 80 percent of its almonds, that's a common figure cited in numerous news articles in recent years. But so is 70 percent. And because that's the figure used by your organization, the Almond Board of California, I have corrected the piece to reflect that fact.

Nonetheless, exporting 70 percent of a crop that is using about 10 percent of the available water in the state is not sound policy. And in a drought, it's absurd.

As for almond growers taking a hit during the drought, the numbers don't bear that out. According to the Almond Board, almond exports increased last year compared to the previous year, as the number of almond acres went up as well.

Moreover, as you know, agriculture has been pumping huge amounts of groundwater during the drought in order to support the nut crop. As has been reported elsewhere, parts of the Central Valley have now sunk by as much of one foot because of all the pumping.

That's just not sustainable.

Here's to Long Showers

Good article. Add another big water waster — the soft drink companies such as Dr. Pepper in Victorville. It uses 250 million gallons of water a year in a high desert location. And in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and other Los Angeles locations, they are tearing down big mansions to build mega-mansions with more bathrooms than many small hotels, and sometimes two swimming pools.

So why should the little guys be fined for washing their cars and watering their lawns to protect their home investment? Especially when Stewart and Linda Resnick (who live in the largest mansion in Beverly Hills) and others like John Vidovich, their Silicon Valley real estate development partner in the Kern Water Bank, can resell California water for millions of dollars of profits for themselves, thanks to the Monterey Amendments sweet deal they got back in 1992 from the State of California?

Until these inequities are solved, yes, I, too, will continue to take long showers in protest to the mismanagement from the California bureaucrats in Sacramento and influence of politicians such as Senator Dianne Feinstein, who goes out of her way to channel more water to the Resnicks every chance she gets.

Gene Beley, Stockton

There Are No Bad Guys Here

A question to ponder: If California agriculture gets cut back who will be most affected? Farmers yes, but how about the consumers in the cities who will pay much more for their food and maybe have less fresh food? There are no demons in this — just a lot of Californians who need to work together to deal with the new normal.

Ed Gerber, Oakland

Where's the Balance?

California almonds again are coming under attack, this time by the editor of the Express, who presents a one-sided viewpoint that claims too much water is used to grow almonds and that 70 percent of the harvested crop is shipped overseas, mostly to China. Sources are cited in the article are longtime critics of California's farming industry and refuse to acknowledge its benefits. They attempt to carve out a single portion — almonds — to drive home their point that they know better than farmers in deciding which crops should be grown.

It is unfortunate that the readers of the Express are not exposed to other viewpoints from those who are deeply involved in growing the food and fiber they eat, as well as by consumers throughout California and around the world. I have previously submitted a letter to the Express that provided a balanced approach to farming in the San Joaquin Valley and I find myself compelled to once again attempt to provide that balance.

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