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Grower’s Corner: Richard Matoian Selected for NRCS Recharge Pilot Program

Richard Matoian, a grower within North Kings GSA, was selected as part of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Groundwater Recharge Pilot Program. He will start groundwater recharge this winter as part of the program.

Richard is a grower within the North Kings GSA boundary who farms table grapes and pistachios with his brother on 130 acres, where he will perform the recharge for the pilot program.

His motivation for being part of the program is to be part of the solution for long-term groundwater sustainability.

“We hope to be an example to others to replenish the groundwater,” Matoian said.

The Groundwater Recharge pilot program was launched by the NRCS as part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The NRCS started the program after it recognized groundwater depletion as a significant resource concern.

To prepare, Matoian has mapped out his fields and coordinated with Fresno Irrigation District (FID) to use surface water for flood irrigation.  He says that for future growers who participate in the program, it would be helpful to have a meter to understand how much water they put on their fields.

The fields where on-farm recharge will take place.

He applied for the NRCS grant because he was willing to venture to see firsthand how the program would work, while having guidance from NRCS when needed.

“I hope to show others in our area that this can be done during dormant season and we can all be beneficiaries of the program,” Matoian said.

The pilot program criteria requires the grapes to have no leaves on vines or trees, so December or January will be an opportune time for recharge.

The grant money will help Matoian fund the labor and time investments needed to perform and monitor the recharge.

“Water is scarce and I want to be part of the solution,” he said.

Still in its early days, eligibility to receive funding under the pilot program is limited to five locations, including within FID. Applications for the next round of NRCS funds are due November 3 for recharge to be completed in fall and winter of 2024 and 2025. If you’re an FID grower, visit fresnoirrigation.com/nrcspilot for more information on eligibility and how you could receive funding for groundwater recharge.

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