Watch CBS News

North Bay Ranchers Already Struggling With Drought Conditions Before Emergency Declaration

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) -- Governor Gavin Newsom was in Mendocino County declaring a drought emergency on Wednesday, and while it specifically applies to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, the entire North Bay is already struggling with drought conditions.

"I mean, when you look around you see green hills," said Sally Gale of Chileno Valley Ranch in Petaluma. "When I look around, I see hills that are starting to turn brown."

Gale has been watching the evidence mount for quite a while now. The hills that should be lush green are already starting to fade, and the grass that covers them is, in many places, barely six inches high. Knowing what is coming, Gale and her husband have been taking precautions.

"We were very fortunate that we were able to get it early," she said of her livestock feed supply. "Now it's so much more expensive."

But a stack of prime cattle feed is not going to be enough when the fields can't produce for their grass-fed livestock.

"We have to make adjustments," said Gale. "So this year, we've already sold 50 cows. We only had 100 cows."

Just a few hills away, there's another indication of how severe things have gotten and the challenges ahead.

"Where the land gets kind of close together you can see where there used to be an old bridge," says Elaine Dolcini. "We haven't seen that since the reservoir filled."

Dolcini says she has never seen Soulajule Reservoir this low, and it will soon get lower as the water district pumps what is left farther down the system.

"It's kind of scary to see, to witness it," Dolcini added. "This is only April, you know?"

"So 2014 was bad," said Gale. "This is going to be worse,"

Having been through this before, ranchers are already forecasting losses with no end ... and no rain in sight.

"We're going to buy enough hay so that we can keep the reduced number of cars that we have on the ground," said Gale. "But this year is not going to test but this year is not going to pencil out."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.