David J. Silva: Why so much water for ducks?

December 15, 2013 

I am a retired dairy farmer. I read that in spite of the drought the last two years, game refuges in Los Banos and in other parts of the state have been getting their full allotments of water.

In 1992, the Bureau of Reclamation ruled that California game refuges do not have to pay for their water. What most people don’t know is that the duck clubs also are in that category. There are more than 100,000 acres devoted to duck hunting in California, and they are pretty much guaranteed 3 acre-feet of free water. In Los Banos alone, there are at least four areas where, for a fee, hunters can shoot ducks. Hunters claim they’re preserving the duck population, but it is only so that they can kill them.

The refuges and duck clubs pay less than $15 per acre-foot to the canal company for water delivery. Because of the drought, the San Luis and Westlands water districts that furnish water for farmers in this area got only 20 percent of their allotment of two acre-feet. They pay $65 plus a $65 service charge per acre-foot. This means the farmers who produce our food pay from $130 to $500 per acre-foot for water (when they can get it). Compared to what the refuges and duck clubs pay, it makes no sense. It appears that killing ducks is more important than raising food.

If no one hunted ducks for two years, there would simply be more ducks. But if farmers quit farming for two years, it would be a national disaster. I believe growing food is more important than killing ducks, and farmers should get the same water rights as these other groups. That will ensure a plentiful and reasonably priced supply of food.


Los Banos

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