14 con­gress­men push for lan­guage in fed­eral bill to stop state plan

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By JA­SON CAMP­BELL

North­ern San Joaquin Val­ley farm­ers — frus­trated with their in­put be­ing com­pletely ig­nored in a state plan to com­man­deer wa­ter from the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers in a bid to boost en­dan­gered Chi­nook salmon by 1,103 fish — are laud­ing a push by 14 con­gress­men to pull the plug on what has been char­ac­ter­ized as a mas­sive state wa­ter grab.

A plan for the in­creased di­ver­sion of wa­ter from ur­ban and farm uses from the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers ad­vanced by the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board has been her­alded as a way to pos­si­bly save salmon and other native fish.

But farm­ers — as well as cities in the 209 — say the cost as struc­tured is overtly ex­ces­sive as they point to state­ments in the pro­posed state plan that in­di­cate dou­bling unim­paired flows on the three Lower San Joaquin River trib­u­taries to 40 per­cent should in­crease Chi-

nook salmon pop­u­la­tion on the three rivers should in­crease by 1,103 fish. That is the best case sce­nario based on state pro­jec­tions of what would hap­pen af­ter send­ing 350,000 more acre feet of wa­ter into the Delta and out to the Pa­cific Ocean. That is the loss of enough wa­ter to meet the needs of 1 mil­lion Cal­i­for­ni­ans for a year.

Given the Bureau of Recla­ma­tion is a key player on the var­i­ous wa­ter­sheds in­volved, Con­gress­man Jeff Den­ham – with the back­ing of 13 other Cal­i­for­nia con­gress­men – an­nounced last week that he has sent a let­ter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to make sure that his House-passed amend­ment to stop the plan is in­cluded in the next spend­ing bill that is signed into law.

Call­ing the ef­fort by the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board “Sacra­mento’s wa­ter grab,” Den­ham – who will have his oc­cu­pa­tion listed as “farmer” on the bal­lot in Novem­ber – echoed the sen­ti­ments by many Cal­i­for­nia grow­ers who are wary of the plan that they say is weak on sci­en­tific con­sen­sus at best, and detri­men­tal to the heart of Cal­i­for­nia’s multi- bil­lion- dol­lar agri­cul­tural in­dus­try at worst.

“My amend­ment halts the dis­as­trous BayDelta Plan that would see 40 per­cent of our wa­ter flushed out in to the ocean,” Den­ham said in the release. “Congress must act to pro­tect the Val­ley.”

Den­ham has been us­ing his clout in Washington, D.C., to en­sure that those with the power to af­fect such de­ci­sions are aware of what is hap­pen­ing in the heart of Cal­i­for­nia’s vi­tal San Joaquin Val­ley.

Ear­lier this sum­mer Den­ham wel­comed In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke to his dis­trict, and ac­com­pa­nied him on trips to both New Melones and Don Pe­dro reser­voirs – vi­tal pieces of the Cen­tral Val­ley’s wa­ter sup­ply that would be di­rectly af­fected by the Bay-Delta plan that would up the re­quired amount of “unim­paired flows” to dou­ble what they are right now.

And Den­ham said in a release last month that Zinke shares his con­cerns about the plan and the po­ten­tial detri­men­tal ef­fects of its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“Af­ter our tour of lo­cal reser­voirs, Sec­re­tary Zinke rec­og­nizes that Sacra­mento’s wa­ter grab would crip­ple our com­mu­ni­ties, farms and wa­ter stor­age in­fra­struc­ture,” Den­ham said in a press release. “Our wa­ter, our wa­ter rights, and our fu­ture de­pend on stop­ping this waste­ful plan.”

For lo­cal almond grower Dave Phip­pen, who has tracked the plan since its in­cep­tion and at­tended many of the meet­ings that the State Wa­ter Board held to hear from con­stituents in the val­ley, the an­nounce­ment of help from Washington, D.C,. against what many feel was a fixed fight is re­as­sur­ing.

“This is some­thing that is af­fect­ing peo­ple’s lives,” said Phip­pen – who is right in the mid­dle of the an­nual almond har­vest. “We’re talk­ing about some­thing that my fa­ther and my grand­fa­ther in­vested in by float­ing bonds against our land so that the Tri-Dam project could be built, and we could en­sure that we had ac­cess to wa­ter.

“We feel like there’s a sweat eq­uity in­vest­ment in the wa­ter that flows to us, and hav­ing some­body that is will­ing to fight for that means ev­ery­thing.”

Den­ham’s let­ter to Ryan was also signed by thir­teen other mem­bers of the Cal­i­for­nia Con­gres­sional Del­e­ga­tion: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives David Valadeo, Doug LaMalfa, Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, Paul Cook, Tom McClin­tock, Steve Knight, Ed Royce, Ken Calvert, Mimi Wal­ters, Dana Rohrabacher, Dun­can Hunter and Dar­rell Issa.

To con­tact re­porter Ja­son Camp­bell email jcamp­bell@ man­te­cab­ul­letin. com or call 209.249.3544.

The New Melones River on the Stanis­laus River is op­er­ated by the fed­eral Bureau of Recla­ma­tion.

Wa­ter is­sues STANIS­LAUS RIVER

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