grows as state plans to grab water from the valley
By BEVERLY BARELA
July 12, 2018
The Merced County Board of Supervisors
this week joined a chorus of valley leaders and regional
agencies who are denouncing the State Water Resources Control
Board’s decision to demand twice as much water flow
down the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers in a purported
effort “to prevent an ecological crisis” and
Local leaders consider key elements of
the final draft of the Bay-Delta plan as pure hogwash, and
an attack on the economic well-being of the San Joaquin
“The economy won’t get any better if we don’t
have water,” McDaniel stressed.
Merced County, Stanislaus County and Madera County governments
are in the process of organizing a rally to be held on the
steps of the State Capitol on Aug. 16 to protest the Water
Board’s revised version of a draft plan on how to
treat unimpaired flows from local rivers.
The latest update, released on June 29, continues to push
a 40 percent unimpaired flow requirement, February through
June, on the three regional rivers through to the San Joaquin
River. The flow would significantly reduce water available
to water users in the Lower San Joaquin River Watershed.
McDaniel is hoping that jointly, the three counties can
put together an educational tool to allow the public to
better understand the issues.
Supervisor Lloyd Pareira agreed with McDaniel, saying, "SIGMA,
passed in 2014, requires our sub-basins to become sustainable.
The state is requiring us to make things better, but at
the same time taking away the main tool to do that. The
hope for the water was making the sub-basin sustainable
by recharging the groundwater."
He added, "Our Castle projects have the potential to
die without water to support them.”
Meanwhile, the Merced Irrigation District continues to challenge
the science behind the Bay Delta Plan update.
“The District has maintained for years that simply
diverting senior water rights away from our community for
the benefit of others solves nothing,” said John Sweigard,
MID’s general manager. “It devastates one of
the most disadvantaged regions of the state and does nothing
to benefit salmon or other wildlife.”
MID has continued to advocate its proposed alternative to
the state’s water grab: The Merced River S.A.F.E.
Plan (Salmon, Agriculture, Flows and Environment). The plan
represents a comprehensive alternative proposal aimed directly
at supporting sustainable agriculture, fisheries and the
environment. MID officials say the S.A.F.E. Plan would put
decades of river science into immediate action.
According to MID, the state’s water plan will cost
the Merced-area economy more than $230 million in economic
activity and nearly 1,000 lost jobs. At the same time, MID
contends, the water grab will do nothing to improve conditions
or salmon populations in the Delta or elsewhere: the State
Water Board’s initial assessment purported that 1,200
salmon per year would be saved. This new document claims
the state does not know if it will result in more salmon.
MID officials also point out that no compromise is being
seriously considered by the state.
“We have reached a critical point,” Sweigard
said. “Everything – and anything – is
on the table at this point to protect our community’s
senior water rights.”
This week, the Association of California Water Agencies
released the following statement: “The State Water
Board’s approach fails to ensure adequate habitat
and other important functions critical to species survival.
Instead, it will lead to widespread fallowing of vital agriculture
land, affect drinking water supplies and hydro power generation,
undercut groundwater sustainability goals and make more
difficult the implementation of other priority water issues.
A press release from the state’s Almond Alliance stated:
“This proposal by the state water board will not save
salmon but it will have devastating consequences on not
just almond growers but all San Joaquin Valley farmers and
countless other workers who benefit from the ripple effect
of its economic activity.”
The Alliance highlighted that the almond industry creates
over 104,000 jobs throughout the state with 97,000 jobs
in the Central Valley.
Said State Assemblyman Adam Gray, “The State Water
Resources Control Board’s decision is the first shot
fired in the next chapter of California’s water wars.
The board has chosen to create, in their own words, ‘a
permanent regulatory drought’ and shrugged off our
concerns as ‘significant but unavoidable.’ …
They have left us no alternative. We will continue to negotiate
with the best interests of the valley at heart, but, if
the state continues to violate the principles of good faith,
a decades worth of lawsuits are about to begin.”
The final public comment period is now open until July
27, with final adoption scheduled for Aug. 21. To find out
how to submit a comment, and more information about the
plan, go online to: waterboards.ca.gov. Click on “water
rights” on top of the home page, then click on Bay-Delta
Plan in next menu, then click on “new press release.”