As he walks along his flooded grape vineyard near Thornton, Joe Valente has never seen it so bad.
“Here we’ve been dealing with this for about three months now," Valente said.
Of the 800 acres he manages for Kautz Farms, 300 acres are under water.
Why? A levee break from a neighboring property with the Mokelumne River just a few feet away.
“The clock is running out. After three months, at one point it’s going to start affecting the vineyard, maybe not only this year’s crop, but future crops down the road," Valente said.
The problem right now is getting into the vineyard to get the vines pruned.
If that doesn’t happen in two to three weeks, the crop could be lost.
On a ride around the property on an ATV, the vineyard supplying grapes for two wineries, is not the only victim of flooding.
Last year, 100 acres of almond trees were planted.
Since January, the young trees are still under water.
“They’re completely destroyed. They didn’t even push new leaves this year," Valente said.
For now, pumps sucking up as much water as possible dumping it back into the Mokelumne.
But county agriculture officials say the bigger fix is to build more reservoirs to capture more water and shore up and re-engineer private levees.
“We just came out of a drought, a five-year drought in California. And this is a good example of how we prepare and save our water for the years that we really, really need it,' Valente said.
Valente said because wine is such a global commodity, the flooding impact should not be felt by wine connoisseurs.
But he’s worried what the snow melt will bring in. It could spell even more disaster to a large portion of his crop.
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