Priority local land, water issues addressed for visiting tour group


A team of local educators gathered on the Spring Equinox on March 21, 2018, to sort out the complexities of land and water use in the North State for a professional network, the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild (

The visitors learned about the shift from horsepower to mechanization in farm equipment during a stopover at the California State Agricultural Museum in Woodland (, where docent Gene pointed out clever labor-saving devices invented by the Sacramento Valley farmers.

Next, Grimes farmer Tom Ellis, explained flood control measures developed throughout the North State over the past century, reflecting his longtime experience as a Board Commissioner on the Sacramento River West Side Levee District.

Using historical maps and images, Tom discussed the success of dredging to reroute overflows and thus protect the land for both settlers and farmers post Gold Rush. He detailed how water was directed to bypasses and how the investment in and operation of irrigation districts began and continues today.

Bill Vanderwaal, of Reclamation District 108, showed off the construction and operation of drainage pumps as well as fish screens near Knights Landing. The screens safeguard the salmon during their migration along the Sacramento River.

On site at Sites, Mary Wells, Maxwell Rancher, pointed out just where the overflows from the Sacramento River would be pumped in the future Sites Reservoir project, which is expected to flood her ranch. Mary was just named Agriculture Woman of the Year in California by State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) for her advocacy on the project.  She also pointed out the Sites Quarry. Its sandstone contributed construction materials to many famous San Francisco buildings such as the Ferry Building.

The tourists continued on to the Sacramento Valley Museum ( in Williams to hear an illuminating PowerPoint presentation by Kevin Spesert, Business and Communication Manager for the Sites Reservoir Project.

Representing the Cattlewomens Association, Lady Bug Doherty, whose ranch will also be affected by the proposed project,  impressed the group listing the byproducts of beef- from musical instrument strings to crochet needles, paint, fertilizer in addition to the familiar hide and hair.

Sacramento Valley Museum President, Arno Martini, shared his ‘Day in the Life as a Ditchtender’ for Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District thus offering the city-dwellers insight into the nitty gritty of water delivery to crops.  Samples of and general information about almonds, pecans, apricots and other commodities are produced locally were shared by Colusa County Grown growers.

Grindstone Winery offered a tasting of their excellent red wines.  Jeffrey Pina of Pina’s Fresh Juices of Williams  catered the tour group’s dinner of healthy juices, wraps and salads.

The tour group enjoyed their exploration of the museum’s fine exhibits and welcome they received by Williams Mayor Charles Bergson.

The group’s good questions during the tour highlighted the need for more thorough and in-depth explanations about private-public partnerships of California water delivery and about historic water rights. Prior to returning to San Francisco, the tour group received almonds to enjoy en-route back from the Vann Brothers of Williams and was able to fit in a glimpse of another important ag story related site, the Williams Migrant Labor Camp, managed by Ed Rios.

In addition to learning how to identify crops and livestock along the Highway 45 and I-5 routes, the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild finished the tour with greater insight into how water issues impact the popular farm-to-fork movement, benefiting from the personal touch of two SFTGG members aboard who had organized the tour, Carolyn Kilmer with roots in Orland and Dixie La Grande in Williams.■