Intern Point of View by Cody Hess
I came to Colusa County by way of Southern California. Although I am a native Northern Californian, I had relocated to Long Beach for college and ended up staying there, working for Long Beach City Hall as a geographic information systems analyst. Creating maps for city government had its moments, but when I decided to explore a new career path, I looked to the country.
I had long desired to get out of the city, and with memories of working on a rural cattle station in Australia flooding my mind, I started to think that maybe agriculture was something I should look into. Before I could truly dive in, however, there was one problem I had to fix: I knew little to nothing about California water issues or agriculture in the Sacramento Valley. Interning with Family Water Alliance gave me perspective on these topics and then some.
My first few days with FWA were flooded with insight into local water issues. Upper and mid-Sacramento regional flood management planning was first on the list. What followed included exposure to rural levee repair, the California Water Action Plan, eminent domain, private property, AB 32, and many other matters important to agriculture, water rights, and rural living. Invaluable talks with local farmers, such as Tom Ellis and Jerry Maltby, gave me first-hand perspective on modern farming and its many challenges. Asking questions about their operations – how they started out, what their main crops are, why they farm – impressed upon me the dedication and knowledge needed to be a successful farmer. Needless to say, farming is a very hard and expensive profession!
Tours of local farming operations, such as Premier Mushrooms and Carriere Walnuts, introduced me to the inner workings of processing and production agriculture. The sheer size and high output of these operations were astounding to witness. Sharing these experiences on the Family Water Alliance Facebook page was a helpful way for me to keep track of all I was learning, stay on top of California water news, and also make further connections (albeit digital) with local industries and community members.
My internship entered a new stage as it became increasingly apparent that we were in another drought year. As stories of fallowed farmland and water shortages began hitting the headlines, Ashley and I headed to Sacramento to attend a water rally at the State Capitol. Sponsored by the California Latino Water Coalition, farmers, farm workers, and other concerned Californians gathered at the rally to raise their voices in support of short-term water supply solutions for 2014 and legislation for water storage development. Several state legislators also called for a drought emergency declaration. Following the rally, many in attendance went door-to-door within the Capitol to tell their stories and express their concerns to legislators. One day later, Governor Jerry Brown formally declared a drought emergency.
All in all, my time with Family Water Alliance was quite enlightening. I can now say that I am more than familiar with the myriad water issues facing California. I have learned about everything from desalination to fish screens, levees to dams, and the DWR to the BDCP. Many thanks to Ashley Indrieri and the Family Water Alliance Board of Directors for providing me this excellent learning opportunity.
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