Re­gion Ral­lies For Fight Against State Wa­ter Grab

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What the Save The Stan or­ga­ni­za­tion has ad­vo­cated against for years oc­curred Fri­day, as the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board an­nounced plans to di­vert bil­lions of gal­lons of wa­ter a year from the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

“It is an un­for­tu­nate plan that ig­nores our re­gion’s eco­nomic con­cerns, ecosys­tem sci­ence and many good ideas we have pro­posed for re­spon­si­ble re­source man­age­ment,” Save The Stan of­fi­cials noted on their Face­book page. “De­spite united and wide­spread op­po­si­tion from the South San Joaquin and Oak­dale Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­tricts, other wa­ter agen­cies, lo­cal gov­ern­ments, farm­ing ex­perts, econ­o­mists and busi­ness lead­ers, and thou­sands of every­day cit­i­zens, the state in­sists on tak­ing wa­ter that it has no le­gal right to.

“The pur­pose, it con­tends, is to help re­store na­tive sal­mon pop­u­la­tions in the three rivers and im­prove wa­ter qual­ity in the Delta. We be­lieve there are other ways to ac­com­plish those goals with­out hi­jack­ing our wa­ter.”

Lo­cal leg­is­la­tors were also quick to re­spond, point­ing to the neg­a­tive im­pact they see as com­ing from the so-called ‘state wa­ter grab.’

“Un­der Sacra­mento’s new plan, res­i­dents and farm­ers alike will suf­fer sky­rock­et­ing rates that will crip­ple our lo­cal econ­omy, farms, and com­mu­ni­ties,” said Con­gress­man Jeff Den­ham. “The board has ig­nored sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and the in­put of Val­ley res­i­dents and we must fight back to pro­tect our Val­ley wa­ter rights and save our econ­omy, farms, and com­mu­ni­ties.”

Den­ham noted that the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board’s Bay-Delta plan would es­sen­tially flush away 40 per­cent or more of wa­ter for lo­cal farm­ers with dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts for the Cen­tral Val­ley econ­omy.

“The State Re­sources Con­trol Board’s Bay-Delta plan would man­date 40 per­cent of unim­paired flows along the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers from Fe­bru­ary 1 to June 30 an­nu­ally un­der the guise of im­prov­ing river con­di­tions for sal­mon. How­ever, it blindly fol­lows the more flow equals more fish mantra while fail­ing to rec­og­nize the true threats to en­dan­gered fish in our rivers – pre­da­tion and in­ad­e­quate habi­tat restoration. Th­ese are two is­sues our lo­cal com­mu­nity and Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­tricts are work­ing to ac­tu­ally ad­dress.”

The Save The Stan state­ment also in­di­cates how big a fi­nan­cial im­pact the de­ci­sion would have, not­ing “The rip­ple ef­fect could cause as much as $12.9 bil­lion in an­nual losses to agribusi­ness, food pro­cess­ing and re­lated in- dus­tries. If you live in the North­ern San Joaquin Val­ley, you will feel the pain.”

Assem­bly­man Heath Flora, rep­re­sent­ing this area in the 12th Assem­bly Dis­trict, said “The State Wa­ter Board thinks this plan will have a limited im­pact on Val­ley res­i­dents. But last year I joined the thou­sands of you who showed up to voice your con­cerns when the Wa­ter Board came look­ing for pub­lic com­ment.”

In March 2017 Modesto Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict (MID) and Tur­lock Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict ( TID) filed joint com­ments ad­dress­ing a num­ber of tech­ni­cal and le­gal is­sues sur­round­ing the State Wa­ter Board’s pro­posal. Dur­ing that same time, thou­sands of res­i­dents filed pub­lic com­ment at a num­ber of hear­ings held across the re­gion. MID and TID have asked for an ex­ten­sion of the 21day pub­lic com­ment pe­riod for the fi­nal ver­sion of the plan re­leased on July 6.

“It’s no co­in­ci­dence that the Wa­ter Board re­leased their out­ra­geous pro­posal on the first day of the Leg­is­la­ture’s sum­mer re­cess,” con­tin­ued Flora. “The Leg­is­la­ture does not re-con­vene again un­til after the 21-day pub­lic com­ment pe­riod is over, and there­fore can­not use the Leg­isla­tive process to bring aware­ness

to any of it.”

Den­ham, mean­while, said he strongly sup­ports the Tuolumne River Man­age­ment Plan de­vel­oped by Tur­lock and Modesto Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­tricts as a sci­ence-based plan that will meet the state’s eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment goals with­out sac­ri­fic­ing Cen­tral Val­ley wa­ter. The plan was con­structed us­ing the lat­est sci­ence con­ducted on the Tuolumne as part of the fed­eral re­li­cens­ing of the Don Pe­dro Hy­dropower Project and main­tains wa­ter sup­ply re­li­a­bil­ity for agri­cul­ture and ur­ban users, iden­ti­fies mea­sures to pro­tect fish pop­u­la­tions and sup­ports new re­cre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Fri­day’s re­lease of the third and fi­nal draft of the Bay-Delta Wa­ter Qual­ity Con­trol Plan up­date comes after a nine-year process which in­cluded pub­lic hear­ings in the area, re­view of more than 1,400 com­ment let­ters and the study and an­a­lyz­ing of op­tions by the board. Con­sid­er­a­tion of the fi­nal draft plan is due by the State Wa­ter Board in Au­gust.

“A pub­lic hear­ing is sched­uled for Aug. 21 in Sacra­mento,” said Save The Stan of­fi­cials. “We will keep you posted on how you can reg­is­ter your op­po­si­tion and let the wa­ter board know that what it is do­ing is wrong.”

A joint state­ment is­sued by the Tur­lock and Modesto ir­ri­ga­tion dis­tricts railed against the state as well.

“De­spite hav­ing well over a year to ad­e­quately ad­dress thou­sands of pub­lic com­ments from our re­gion – 6,589 from the Worth Your Fight cam­paign alone – the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board to­day (Fri­day) dou­bled down on its pro­posal to man­date 40 per­cent of unim­paired flows along the Tuolumne River from Fe­bru­ary 1 to June 30 an- nu­ally. The State Wa­ter Board thinks this plan will have limited harm­ful ef­fects. But we know this wa­ter grab will have dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts to our re­gion, which is why thou­sands showed up and voiced frus­tra­tions when the State Wa­ter Board came to our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Of­fi­cials added that they were “dis­ap­pointed, but un­for­tu­nately not sur­prised” when a new study they pre­pared with other vi­able op­tions was “ig­nored” by the State Wa­ter Board.

“Ap­par­ently after a year of re­view and ed­its, the State Wa­ter Board feels it only needs to give our re­gion 21 days to re­view and com­ment on the lat­est draft,” the joint state­ment reads.

“The Dis­tricts are join­ing other wa­ter agen­cies to pe­ti­tion the State Wa­ter Board to give us more time to com­ment on this pro­posal that will dras­ti­cally im­pact our com­mu­ni­ties.”

MARG JACK­SON/THE NEWS

Peo­ple en­joyed tak­ing to the cool, re­fresh­ing wa­ters of the Stanis­laus River at Ja­cob My­ers Park in River­bank re­cently, hop­ing to beat the triple digit heat. The Stanis­laus is one of three rivers that op­po­nents of a state wa­ter grab say would be harmed by the pro­posal.

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