Wa­ter Rally Draws 1,500 To Capi­tol


Farm­ers, la­bor­ers, stu­dents, cit­i­zens and even law­mak­ers op­posed to a plan they be­lieve will dis­rupt North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s wa­ter sup­ply demon­strated on the steps of the State Capi­tol on Mon­day, urg­ing the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board to re­ject the pro­posal that would cut wa­ter use for the ben­e­fit of fish and wildlife.

Nearly 1,500 peo­ple from all walks of life stood shoul­der-toshoul­der at the steps of the capi­tol build­ing on Aug. 20 to fight for the Cen­tral Val­ley’s very lifeblood: Wa­ter. Cen­tral Val­ley lead­ers and can­di­dates from ev­ery level of gov­ern­ment at­tended re­gard­less of their party af­fil­i­a­tions. Repub­li­cans in­clud­ing Jeff Den­ham, Tom McClin­tock, Heath Flora, Vito Chiesa and Kristin Olsen stood in sol­i­dar­ity with Democrats like Jim Costa, Rudy Salas, Anna Caballero and Assem­bly­man Adam Gray, who or­ga­nized the rally.

“Fight­ing the state wa­ter grab has to be our num­ber one pri­or­ity. I’m proud of every­one who came to or sup­ported the rally that was for our re­gion, our econ­omy and our very way of life,” said Con­gress­man Jeff Den­ham, who rep­re­sents Escalon, Oak­dale and River­bank in the 10th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery city in the dis­trict was rep­re­sented. Whether it was lo­cal elected of­fi­cials, stu­dents from lo­cal FFA chap­ters or busi­ness own­ers, they all stood in sol­i­dar­ity with the growers, ranch­ers and dairy op­er­a­tors in at­ten­dance from all over the Cen­tral Val­ley.

De­spite ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion from a broad coali­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ments and or­ga­ni­za­tions,

the wa­ter board in July re­leased its third and fi­nal draft of the Bay-Delta Wa­ter Qual­ity Con­trol Plan up­date, which calls for al­lo­ca­tion of 40 per­cent of unim­paired flows along the lower San Joaquin River and its trib­u­taries – the Stanis­laus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers – to help re­ha­bil­i­tate the area’s na­tive fish species.

The plan is the re­sult of a nine-year process that has been met with re­sis­tance from wa­ter stake­hold­ers and their elected of­fi­cials ev­ery step of the way, with many famers and lo­cal wa­ter agen­cies feel­ing as if the Board has in­deed waged a wa­ter war on the San Joaquin Val­ley.

When the first draft of the plan was re­leased in Septem­ber 2016, hun­dreds of leg­is­la­tors, wa­ter and agri­cul­tural lead­ers, agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives and com­mu­nity mem­bers ad­dressed the Board three months later in Modesto, shar­ing the po­ten­tial im­pacts the wa­ter de­ci­sion could have on both farm­ers and the com­mu­nity at large.

“I would of­fer up to you to­day that no one in this room thinks 40 or 50 per­cent unim­paired flows is a bal­anced ap­proach,” Stanis­laus County Su­per­vi­sor Vito Chiesa told the Board at that 2016 pub­lic hear­ing. “Peo­ple are scared. They re­ally are with what this can do to them, what this can do to the Val­ley. Please lis­ten to the peo­ple.”

Mean­while, Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Ryan Zinke’s re­cent vis­its to Don Pedro and New Melones Reser­voirs at the re­quest of Rep. Den­ham seems poised to achieve re­sults for the Val­ley, with Sec­re­tary Zinke is­su­ing an in­ter­nal memo Fri­day declar­ing the state’s pro­posed wa­ter grab an “un­ac­cept­able re­stric­tion” that re­duces the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior’s abil­ity to de­liver wa­ter and di­rect­ing his agen­cies to pro­pose a plan within 25 days to max­i­mize wa­ter sup­ply, con­struct new wa­ter stor­age, and re­solve is­sues with the state, among other di­rec­tives.

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

The grass­roots ef­fort on Aug. 20 saw a uni­fied group storm the State Capi­tol to once again plead its case with the Board.

“We want the rest of the state to see how im­por­tant the Val­ley is,” Den­ham added. “Wa­ter af­fects more than just agri­cul­ture … it’s our recre­ation, it’s our power, it’s our drink­ing wa­ter. You take 40 per­cent of it, we’ll not only have less of it but the qual­ity of wa­ter will go down with it. We want the en­tire state to un­der­stand how this new de­ci­sion will im­pact us and that we’re go­ing to fight back.”

Along with the Mon­day rally, the pub­lic was en­cour­aged to at­tend and make com­ments at the State Wa­ter Board’s hear­ing for the Bay-Delta Plan up­date, which was sched­uled to be hosted Tues­day, Aug. 21 in the Cal EPA Build­ing, 1001 I St. in Sacra­mento.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.wor­thy­our­fight.org.

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