This test tells you what hap­pens if water board OK’s Delta water qual­ity plan

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Issues& Ideas - BY MIKE DUN­BAR mdun­bar@mod­bee.com

Time for a water test. Ques­tion 1: Af­ter nine years of jus­ti­fy­ing it­self through sham hear­ings, out­dated stud­ies and end­less hand-wring­ing, will the State Water Board fi­nally vote Nov. 7 to send bil­lions of gal­lons of water from our rivers into the Delta?

2) What hap­pens on Nov. 8, the day af­ter the water board votes?

3) Who gets hurt? (Warn­ing: Trick ques­tion.)

4) Will Don­ald Trump swoop in to save us?

Ex­tra Credit: Has any­one seen San Fran­cisco’s nose?

If you don’t have all the an- swers, here’s a cheat sheet:

Will the board vote? It ● ap­pears en­tirely likely the five-mem­ber water board will vote on Phase 1 of the Delta water qual­ity plan – the part that dou­bles flows from the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. With three mem­bers hav­ing said last Au­gust they would pass it then, ex­pect a 4-1 vote.

The dis­senter will be board mem­ber Dorene D’Adamo, a water ex­pert and only board mem­ber who lives in the Val­ley. She’s got a plan – sim­i­lar to ones de­vel­oped by the Tur­lock, Modesto and Merced ir­ri­ga­tion dis­tricts – that would ac­tu­ally ac­com­plish the board’s goals with­out ru­in­ing our farms and food in­dus­try.

●What’s next? If the board votes, all “vol­un­tary agree­ments” ne­go­ti­a­tions will come to a screech­ing halt. The board’s ac­tion will be the law, and those agree­ments will be foot­notes. Any ir­ri­ga­tion district board mem­ber who signs onto such an ar­range­ment would be hounded out of of­fice.

Within 24 hours, we pre­dict a law­suit will be filed on be­half of the San Joaquin Tributaries As­so­ci­a­tion. It’s likely to point out that the state’s de­mands have evolved. Why? Be­cause the state knows its sci­ence is out­dated and mostly wrong.

In 2012 the state de­manded 35 per­cent of unim­paired flows – a 75 per­cent in­crease over cur­rent out­flows. Af­ter be­ing told that was im­pos­si­ble with­out dev­as­tat­ing our econ­omy, killing jobs and ru­in­ing lives, the state re­con­sid­ered. In 2016, it dou­bled down – de­mand­ing 40 to 50 per­cent unim­paired flows. Why did it sud­denly need more water?

Be­cause, as any law­suit likely will point out, not all the water is for sal­mon mi­gra­tion. The state now en­vi­sions keep­ing part of the water be­hind our dams to use at dif­fer­ent times. They call it “flow shift­ing” – us­ing some dur­ing mi­gra­tion, but shift­ing some to other times.

Isn’t that an ad­mis­sion that the state’s peer-re­viewed stud­ies, in­sist­ing high-vol­ume flows are nec­es­sary for mi­gra­tion, are faulty?

●Who gets hurt? The ob­vi­ous an­swer is vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one liv­ing from Man­teca to Merced. But there are oth­ers – like Jerry Brown.

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s share of the Colorado River is dwin­dling, so it needs more water. Cal­i­for­nia’s gov­er­nor has staked his legacy on de­liv­er­ing it. We’ve heard that Brown has been call­ing key in­di­vid­u­als, push­ing them to­ward those “vol­un­tary agree­ments” and he’s will­ing to take less water.

It might work – but only if agree­ments are reached be­fore a board vote. If not, this is­sue will be tied up in court for a gen­er­a­tion. Such de­lays could doom Brown’s dreams of twin tun­nels.

Then there’s water board chair­woman Feli­cia Mar­cus. A few months ago, the ru­mor mill said she was fed up and would exit when her term ends in Jan­uary. Now, we’re hear­ing she’s changed her mind and has been ask­ing folks to rec­om­mend her to the new gov­er­nor for reap­point­ment. That’s al­most cer­tain to be Gavin New­som, who was raised in San Fran­cisco where Tuolumne River water flows from the taps.

He vis­ited Modesto last sum­mer and told a group of po­ten­tial con­trib­u­tors he didn’t think the fate of our rivers should be left up to an un­elected board. But he’s also said he wants one tun­nel, not two. ●Will Trump save the

day? It’s a shame that this is­sue had to be­come po­lit­i­cal, red vs. blue, but that was likely un­avoid­able. Mar­cus got a let­ter, dated Oct. 31, from An­drew Wheeler, the act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor of the U.S. EPA. The “breadth and com­plex­ity” of the re­vised Bay-Delta Plan, he wrote, could con­flict with fed­eral law. He wants his com­ments con­sid­ered

be­fore the board votes and a “care­ful fed­eral review” if it passes. This could mean more de­lays. Or, it could mean the state will pass the plan twice just to ir­ri­tate the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Which brings us to …

Ex­tra credit: Last ●

week, City and County of San Fran­cisco su­per­vi­sors did some­thing en­tirely, well, self-de­fac­ing. So deep is their ha­tred of Trump and pals, they voted 11- 0 to en­dorse the state water board’s plan. That showed ’em.

Never mind that it will re­duce water to 23 Bay Area cities. Or that their own Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion (and staff) is fight­ing the water grab. Or all the out­dated sci­ence, or the fact the water will go south (not west) or that hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bay Area res­i­dents will pay more for water. And did they for­get that San Fran­cis­cans once voted down a hare­brained scheme to re­move O’Shaugh­nessy Dam, the Tuolumne’s first stop­ping point?

Talk about cut­ting off your nose to spite, well, Don­ald Trump.

Bot­tom line: The ●

state’s plan is in­de­fen­si­ble. The state knows 95 per­cent of sal­mon die in the Delta, not on our rivers, yet con­tin­ues to pre­tend this is about fish. It isn’t. It’s about water and who gets to use it.

If the water board pro­ceeds with its vote, we’re not go­ing away. We’re just go­ing to court.

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