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Despite dry January ground is still moist

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POSTED February 4, 2013 12:44 a.m.

The dry January last year forced the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to make an emergency water delivery in mid-January to make sure crops weren’t imperiled including almond trees.

This year January was even drier. It ranked as the fourth driest January on record.

The SSJID, though, has no plans on making an emergency irrigation run.

That’s because December of 2012 had above average rainfall and snowfall unlike a year previously where December went down as one of the direst on record.

The snowpack and precipitation was 140 percent of normal at the end of December. It dropped to 95 percent of normal as of the first of this month

“The ground is still pretty moist,” noted South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields.

That means the first irrigation run in all likelihood won’t happen until about mid-March which is normal for the district.

That also allows for ample time to finish repairs to the main canal below Goodwin where what geologists are calling a “tumbler” sent part of the hillside into the canal including pieces of rock the size of a bus last month. The 200-foot long stretch is now being cleaned up and repaired.

Shields noted that even if the rest of the water year is dry, SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District are in good shape as they have legal rights to the first 600,000 acre feet that flows into New Melones Reservoir. Based on current conditions tempered by continued dry weather, there is ample snow to meet the needs of the two districts.

Besides being able to meet irrigation needs, the SSJID will have no problem meeting treated water deliveries for Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.

The forecast for a chance of rain Thursday afternoon and a chance of a shower on Friday will help keep the ground moist. A chance of light rain is expected on Feb. 12 with the next chance of showers Feb. 22-26.

Almond growers can ill-afford heavy rain or cold when the pollination for the almond blossoms start in the next few weeks. The forecast - if it holds - may work to the advantage of farmers especially if only light showers materialize.

Almonds are the third largest crop in San Joaquin County with almost all of the 48,800 acres being grown around Ripon, Manteca and Escalon. The 2011 crop was valued at $187 million.

More than two thirds of all almonds now grown in California are destined for overseas markets. Almonds have surpassed grapes as the No. 1 agricultural export. Almonds have also topped grapes in overall value in California with the pecking order now being dairy at No. 1 followed by almonds and grapes.

The state - which grows 100 percent of the domestic supply and almost 80 percent of the global supply -- has 760,000 almond bearing acres. That’s up 100,000 acres since 2008.

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