Boswell-Poso Creek “stand off” continues as flood waters build

March 22, 2023
by Lois Henry
Poso Creek flood waters are pooling up against the banks of the Homeland Canal where J.G. Boswell Company has place heavy equipment to prevent cutting into the banks. A pump can be seen in the background. Two more were placed by the company to move Poso water into the canal. On the right is empty land owned by Boswell. Lois Henry / SJV Water
Lois Henry

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The stand off over draining Poso Creek flood waters into a canal owned by the powerful J.G. Boswell Company continued Wednesday, despite hopes of a detente.

“I think they worked it out and found a solution they could all live with,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, recounting a “back of the truck” meeting between the parties.

Not quite.

The Boswell company put three large pumps on the banks of the Homeland Canal to suck up Poso water and put it into the canal.

But it’s a pittance compared to what’s coming in, said Jack Mitchell, head of the Deer Creek Storm Water District, which manages portions of Poso and Deer creeks as well as a section of the White River.

Mitchell has cut trenches into the Poso channel south and east of where its waters are lapping up against the Homeland Canal in an effort to keep the water from moving east toward the towns of Alpaugh and Allensworth.

“I’ve flooded 8,000 acres but it’s not enough,” he said.

His crews, mostly volunteers, are digging in at Road 40, which runs south out of Alpaugh. They are building a levee to try to keep the water off the town.

Meanwhile, Boswell farmland as far as the eye can see just north of the Homeland Canal from Poso is empty and dry, as are most of Boswell’s smaller ditches and trenches. A Boswell company representative has not returned phone calls seeking comment on this story.

Mitchell would like to cut a channel into the Homeland to drain Poso water but Boswell has refused, even placing heavy equipment on the canal banks to prevent a cut. And Mitchell said he has been threatened with arrest if he moves the equipment or cuts into the Homeland.

“I don’t want to dump so much water it blows out their system,” Mitchell said. “I want to do it in a controlled way and they have the infrastructure to handle it.”

In an added wrinkle, Boswell is pumping water from Deer Creek into the Homeland Canal northeast of Alpaugh and routing it to a large flood cell.

That’s a big help on the Deer Creek, for which Mitchell is grateful. Deer Creek used to flow by gravity into the lakebed but excessive groundwater pumping in dry years caused the ground to sink so the water has to be pumped up to the lakebed now.

Mitchell said the Boswell Company has threatened to stop moving Deer Creek water if he forces Poso into the Homeland.

So Mitchell is stuck.

He’s trying to hold back the tide coming from Poso, which shepherding the other tide coming in from Deer Creek.

Considering the amount of water headed to the valley when the record snow pack melts, it may be impossible to keep water out of the old Tulare Lake bed no matter what.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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