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Reduced Tulare Lake flood forecast brings little consolation to Valley farmers

More than 100 square miles of land is already flooded in the Tulare Lake Basin.
Claire Harbage
More than 100 square miles of land is already flooded in the Tulare Lake Basin.

Listen to this report in the player. Read the transcript below.

ELIZABETH ARAKELIAN, HOST: State officials announced this week that flooding from the record Sierra Nevada snowpack won't be quite as catastrophic as forecasters initially feared. KVPR’s Joshua Yeager reports why that’s little consolation to farmers in the region.

JOSHUA YEAGER: In a matter of months, bone-dry farmland in Kings County has become the bottom of Tulare Lake.

YEAGER: New forecasts show by as early as next week, the lake will have reached its maximum size. That’s great news for communities like Corocran who were threatened by the lake’s growth.

YEAGER: But the formerly dry lake is still more than a 100,00-acres wide – nearly the surface area of Lake Tahoe – and that’s been disastrous for the region’s billion-dollar agriculture industry. Dusty Ference is the director of the Kings County Farm Bureau in the heart of the Tulare lakebed.

DUSTY FERENCE: Overall, we’re concerned. There’s a lot of water to be managed and a lot more damage to be done.

YEAGER: He says lakewater could persist for more than a year, further exacerbating those losses. For KVPR News, I’m Joshua Yeager in Bakersfield.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.