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Wildlife to benefit from rice incentive programWildlife to benefit from rice incentive program

Bidding runs from Sept. 8 through Sept. 20 at 5 p.m.

Todd Fitchette

September 7, 2021

2 Min Read
A partnership between the California Rice Commission and State of California seeks to provide limited bird habitat for migratory birds this winter by covering the cost to pump groundwater to flood rice fields. Online applications are available with a Sept. 20 deadline.Todd Fitchette

A partnership between the California Rice Commission (CRC) and state Department of Water Resources (DWR) seeks to help provide waterbird habitat by incentivizing rice field flooding from November through January.

The program has specific rules for growers they’ll need to consider immediately following harvest.

Water for the program must come from groundwater wells; no surface water is allowed under the program. To do this, growers can bid to have their pumping costs covered. Bids must be made to the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation. Bidding runs from Sept. 8 through Sept. 20 at 5 p.m.

Notifications of successful bids will be made by Oct. 4.

The program is being funded through an $8 million drought relief waterbird program. It seeks to create winter bird habitat for migratory birds.

Luke Matthews, wildlife programs manager for the CRC, says the requirement to use groundwater to flood rice fields considers concerns surrounding aquifer sustainability in the Sacramento Valley during a period of epic drought.

"We're being very cognizant of the water situation," he said.

Growers without groundwater wells may want to inquire with their water districts to see if they are willing to use their wells and apply for the program, Matthews said.

Growers must abide by the following rules to comply with the program:

  • Growers are allowed to perform light tillage only in fields to be eligible. Waste grain is an important food source for waterfowl and deep tillage can bury a significant amount of grain left after harvest. Heavy tillage is not allowed under the program. Under the program, acceptable post-harvest treatments include bale, burn, chop, no treatment, roll, single disc or chisel pass, and stomp.

  • Flooding will take place Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.

  • Growers must maintain water depths from 2-8 inches.

  • According to Matthews, the idea behind the water depths is to flood up the fields, then allow the water to drain into the soil or evaporate by the end of the season, rather than store the water and drain it to the rivers. The goal is to allow as much water as possible to leach back into the aquifers.

  • Compliance will be monitored by the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation, a non-profit organization.

  • Areas within a five-mile radius of Sacramento International Airport and the airport at Beale Air Force Base are not eligible for the program.

Program information and application is available online.

For more information on the program, contact Luke Matthews with the CRC at [email protected], or (916) 607-8988.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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