WINTER RICE HABITAT INCENTIVE PROGRAM

California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program

Program Overview

In response to the recent decline of winter-flooded rice fields in the Central Valley and the ecological importance of this habitat base for wildlife, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2348 in September of 2018. AB 2348 established the California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program, which is designed to continue, and further encourage the winter-flooding of harvested rice fields in the Central Valley of California. Approximately 75% of the energetic needs of dabbling ducks, and a significant portion of the energetic needs of migrating shorebirds utilizing the Sacramento Valley are provided by winter-flooded rice fields. 

 

The California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program (CWRHIP) provides economic incentives to landowners or lessees who agree to manage their properties to provide waterfowl habitat. Participants will be required to flood harvested rice fields for a minimum of 70 continuous days during the winter months (October-March). Properties that can maintain water during critical months (January through middle of March) will be given additional points in the ranking process. Properties located within five miles of an active airstrip on a military base or international airport will not be considered for enrollment under this program (see maps of closure boundaries). 

 

The program pays participants an annual incentive for the winter-flooding of harvested rice fields. Payment rates vary based on location within the Sacramento Valley. Producers on the East side of the Valley will be eligible to receive $20/acre while producers on the West side of the Valley will receive $40/acre. The enhanced payment on the West side of the valley is to address increased water costs and a significant reduction of winter flooding activities in that area. 

Front Image (Pintail)

Program Details

  • Enrollment opens: August 15, 2022
  • Application Deadline: Tuesday, September 6, 2022
  • Payments Rates: Variable based on location $20/acre or $40/acre
  • Commitments: Flood and Maintenance for 70 continuous days
  • Flood Depth: 2 - 12 inches
  • Exclusion Zones: Properties within 5 miles of Sacramento International Airport and Beal Air-force Base (see exclusion area maps below)

Donations made to the Foundation

Many rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley of California use water to decompose their remaining rice straw after harvest. This post-harvest flooding creates over 300,000 acres of surrogate wetland habitat between October and February, the peak of migration season. While this flooding is key to the survival of millions of wintering waterbirds there are many species that migrate early or late and arrive in the Sacramento Valley to find little to no flooded habitat. By focusing on the shoulder season, both before and after the typical post-harvest flooding period, the Foundation can provide a critical source of flooded habitat when it is most scarce and therefore most needed. Furthermore, many of these shoulder season migrants are shorebirds which require shallower water than is typically provided during the normal post-harvest flooding periods.

Schroeder Road, east of Buttes during trip around the Sutter Buttes, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
Photo Brian Baer
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