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By Sharan Street
Published Aug 28, 2023

Four years before the era of reclamation districts began, the city of Sacramento saw the Great Flood of 1862. Four years before the era of reclamation districts began, the city of Sacramento saw the Great Flood of 1862. Image credit: Public Domain   Online Archive of California

There’s Gold in Them Thar Wetlands

This month, for the first time since the launch of California Local, we expanded our digital footprint into new territory, moving west of Sacramento into Yolo County. From the new Yolo County overview page you can find links to information about Yolo’s traffic and weather, its county and city governments, and its community groups. We also list some of the county’s biggest special districts—government entities like the Knights Landing Community Services District and the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, which exist to provide specific functions to residents.

When researching Yolo County, we became interested in reclamation districts, which are the oldest type of special district in California. These districts, created to “reclaim” wetlands and turn the acreage into arable—and monetizable—land, are a fixture in the Delta and the Central Valley. Reclamation districts made possible California’s second Gold Rush, enriching immigrants who got here early enough to benefit from this land grab. (To see the breadth of land managed by these districts, check out this detailed map.)

Draining the Swamps

In his most recent series, California Local’s Jonathan Vankin digs into the history and machinations of reclamation districts and the changes they’ve wrought to the natural environment. As he notes, it took about 70 years, but reclamation transformed the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into one of California’s most fertile agricultural regions, with 1,100 miles of levees creating islands of farmland amid the tidal marshes.

But is there a downside to decimating one of nature’s most biological productive ecosystems? In short, naturally.

Reclamation Districts: Turning ‘Swamps’ Into Farmland

How California reclamation districts turned millions of acres of wetlands into fertile agricultural land, starting in the earliest days of the Gold Rush.
California has used reclamation districts to turn millions of acres of unusable swamps into fertile agricultural land, starting in the earliest days of the Gold Rush. Here’s how it happened.

How Land Reclamation Hurts California’s Environment

Since the Gold Rush era, land reclamation has cost California 90 percent of its wetlands.
Since the Gold Rush era, land reclamation projects have helped to build California, but they are also damaging the state’s environment for people, plants and animals by eliminating essential wetlands.

Raging Waters

We’ve got four months still to go on the 2023 calendar, but already it’s been a wild ride. The year began with storms propulsed by atmospheric rivers that ultimately took back some of the land that humans tried to reclaim—specifically along the Pajaro River, on the border of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, and across agricultural land that’s now covered with a resurgent Tulare Lake in Kings County. And this month came Hilary, an almost unprecedented tropical storm that blew further north due to warming ocean temperatures. Vankin takes a look at whether the levee systems will hold as large-scale rainstorms get more frequent.

Is California Ready for More Extreme Weather Driven by Climate Change?

The Pajaro River levee broke during the 2023 atmospheric river storms, flooding the town of Pajaro.
This year, a series of extreme events in California and around the country have wreaked havoc, driven by climate change. How prepared are we for things to get worse?

Impact Report Image for decorative use

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Yolo County's Homepage

Our overview page for Yolo County is updated daily with the latest state and local news, weather alerts, local government announcements and local blog posts and news snippets from community groups and individuals.
Direct your browser to to catch up on the latest news in California and Yolo County. Bookmark the link and visit often, there's a lot happening in your community!

Get to Know a Group

Big Brothers Big Sisters logo Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brother Big Sisters provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported mentorship. The chapter serves Sacramento and Yolo counties, as well as southern Placer County.

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Recent Local News

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• Which Vegetable was Deemed the Top Superfood?

The top fruit on the list include tomatoes, lemons, strawberries, oranges and blackberries.

(08/25/2023) → Daily Democrat

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Housing co-ops—or democratically controlled corporations that are established to provide affordable housing for its members—are popular in Davis, with Turtle House being a notable example.

(08/25/2023) → The California Aggie

• Yolo County Confirms First Death Due to West Nile Virus in 2023

The first West Nile virus death of 2023 in Yolo County was announced Aug. 23 by the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency's public health branch. This marks the first reported death in Yolo County since 2018.

(08/24/2023) → Read the full KCRA NBC 3 report

• Performing Arts Returns to Winters Opera House

December 2023 will mark a momentous occasion for the Winters Theatre Company as it takes over the lease for the historic Winters Opera House in downtown Winters.

(08/24/2023) → Winters Express

• San Joaquin County Jail Scheduled for 1st Ever Audit after Grand Jury Report

The San Joaquin County Jail houses about 1,300 people, but has never undergone a single audit, a grand jury noted this year—but now, for the first time, “the jail will be audited under the Prison Rape Elimination Act this October.”

(08/23/2023) → Davis Vanguard

• Theme Parks Blame ‘Extreme Weather’ for Attendance Drops and Financial Loses

The owners of Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain and SeaWorld are blaming “challenging” and “adverse” weather for their most recent attendance and revenue woes.

(08/23/2023) → Daily Democrat
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Recent Statewide News

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• Hotter Climate Means a Never-Ending Fire Season for the National Guard

After California lost over 4 million acres to fire in 2020, the state funded Task Force Rattlesnake, with National Guardsmen to assist Cal Fire.

(08/26/2023) → CapPublicRadio
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Upcoming Government Meetings

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Event sponsor logo City of Winters / City of Winters/WJUSD 2×2 Meeting
Thursday August 31 2023   4:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Davis / SPECIAL MEETING: City Council
Tuesday September 5 2023   5:30 PM
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Tuesday September 5 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Davis / City Council
Tuesday September 5 2023   6:30 PM
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Wednesday September 6 2023   5:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Winters / Hispanic Advisory Committee
Thursday September 7 2023   9:00 AM