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'I'm Pretty Much Out Of Business': Water Crisis In Yuba County Has Farmers Crying Foul Over Water District

OREGON HOUSE (CBS13) — A local community is crying out for water, but they're not blaming the drought. Ranchers say their farms are drying up and they're getting driven out.

"It's very sad because in the morning, I would get up and my cattle would be right here," said rancher Jenny Cavaliere. "It's empty. You know I've sold a lot of my livestock equipment now. I'm pretty much out of business."

Cavaliere looks out into her pasture that once thrived with cattle but now sits empty. Multiple vintage oak trees are dead. Her High Sierra Beef company is barely hanging on due to a lack of irrigation water.

She's not the only local business owner struggling to stay afloat.

"We lost here roughly three-quarters to 80% of what we planted initially. They just died," said Gideon Beinstock.

Beinstock owns the local winery, Clos Saron, which is another business drying up.

Dr. Gretchen Flohr earned her Ph.D. in environmental biology. She doesn't blame the drought. She blames the North Yuba Water district for the mismanagement of irrigation water.

"You can tie your caboose to the drought theory and you can sell that to a lot of people, but I'm a scientist and I deal in data and when you start putting the data on the table, the story doesn't add up. It doesn't hold water so to speak," said Dr. Flohr.

"How many farmers do you want to have on your conscience that you drove out of town? Just how can you live with yourself?" said Marieke Furnee.

Furnee is a founding member of the Foothill Water Coalition (FWC). She showed CBS13 a letter to the FWC from the South Feather Water and Power Agency in mid-March agreeing to sell them bulk water this season. But they still haven't gotten permission for the transfer from the North Yuba Water District.

"These are your neighbors. This is your community, and it's amazing what we could look like, what we could be. Instead, people are selling up and they're leaving. We're drying up," said Dr. Flohr.

"I've not only shed tears, I've actually been sick. I've had issues with illness, stress, you know, loss of income," said Cavaliere.

The FWC is taking their water concerns to yet another local water district next week. They say the Yuba Water Agency has also agreed to help them find a solution.

CBS13 reached out to the North Yuba Water District over the last two days, but as of the writing of this story, we have not heard back.

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