Slam State Plan For Water Control
October 20, 2016
man came to Merced County this week to represent the State
Water Control Board, but they should have sent an army,
because the crowd that packed the Board of Supervisors chamber
were out for war.
Tom Howard, the executive director of Water Board, gave
a presentation on the plan to increase flows from valley
rivers to the Delta, from under 20 percent to about 40 percent.
Some of the two dozen speakers in opposition to the plan,
called it a “conspiracy” to take more water
from the valley and divert it to Governor Jerry Brown’s
water tunnel plan.
Other speakers said the economics of the plan are flawed,
while others said the scientific research done by UC Berkeley
and UC Davis is neither correct nor balanced.
In theory, the plan is to balance the needs of people against
the needs of the environment, but by environment, the scientists
are mainly looking at salmon and perhaps the smelt.
For starters, Tom Howard said the Water Board would be giving
the communities more time to evaluate the plan, and to publicly
comment on it.
Meetings have been set for Nov. 29 in Sacramento, Dec. 16
in Stockton, Dec. 19 in Merced, at 9 a.m., in the Multicultural
Arts Center (645 W. Main Street); and Dec. 20 at the Modesto
Centre Plaza, 9 a.m.
Many people attending this week’s meeting assumed
it would include the attendance of the whole State Water
Control Board, which is not elected but appointed by Governor
Jerry Brown, and answerable to him.
Howard spoke of the failure of the last general plan in
1995, and said that was the reason for the decline in salmon
runs. He said it was clearly outdated.
Since that last plan was adopted, there have been several
years of drought, and as a result, the State Water Control
Board has been using its resources to solve problems which
needed immediate attention.
Work on the water plan was in the dark for two and a half
years, but now it has come to the fore. Speakers were unhappy
that the state had not had a new plan for 20 years, and
now wants to complete one in such a short time. The plan
is scheduled for completion in July of 2017, and the time
for all comments to be in is set for noon on Jan. 17, 2017.
Howard said the Water Board is interested in settlements,
and feels it is actually cutting the amount of flow to the
Delta from 75 percent needed for the salmon to 40 percent.
Not one Merced County Supervisor was in agreement with the
State Water Control Plan.
Supervisor Daron McDaniel was opposed to the necessary flow,
the scientific research, the possible effects of improved
stream beds and the effects of restoration on the salmon.
Supervisor John Pedrozo wanted the governor to tell the
other agencies they had to control the predators if they
really wanted more salmon to reach the ocean. He also said
the choice of dates for meetings was bad because they were
being held in the thick of the holidays.
Supervisor Deidre Kelsey wanted to know what was meant by
“unimpaired flow.” Was that going back to before
the dams were built? Also was the state taking into account
the housing which the valley was providing, and the need
for water for those people. Where does the water come from
to recharge the underground water supply?
Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said at the rate the state
is going this valley could become another Owen’s Valley.
It would seem like the Water Board is trying to take care
of the environment and not the people or the farms.
Supervisor Hub Walsh wanted to know how much of the increased
flow would end up in Brown’s twin tunnels heading
Howard assured Walsh there was no conspiracy. The water
was for the environment, he said.
Congressman Jim Costa had a lot to say about the water plan
calling it “Incredibly Imbalanced” and full
of false choices. He said the state of California has a
failed water plan and it is because of politics, not the
lack of water.
He said California produces half the fruit and vegetables
eaten by the whole nation, however, the valley of that product
has declined from $58 billion to $47 billion in the past
year. It still leads the nation in citrus, dairy, almonds
and grapes for wine.
The problem he said is that most of the nation feels that
food comes from the grocery store. “Food grows where
water flows,” he said repeating a statement which
is very visible in the valley.
A battery of speakers came to the podium hammering home
the plight of the valley and its farms, if the state continues
to take its water.
District Attorney Larry Morse said the loss of water even
affects law enforcement, jobs, the drinking water in our
towns and the safety of the community.
Councilman Mike Murphy said the City of Merced had been
a good steward of its water cutting use by 36 percent but
there was a limit to what it could afford to lose, and the
loss from the local sources could cause a major problem
with the underground water supply.
Agriculture activist Diane Westmoreland Pedrozo said her’s
was an emotional response, and wants to know what the state
plans to do if the growers stop planting because of the
lack of water.
Mike Jensen from the Merced Irrigation District said that
it has been working on a plan called the “Safe Plan”
which will be available later this week.
A man from Chowchilla encouraged Merced County by saying,
“We are behind you and I hope you don’t fold.”
Bryan Raymond, an Atwater city councilman, said: ‘You
are like the Grinch who stole Christmas,” and added
he was just a simple man, and was worried when the “Scientific
Community” was making decisions which will affect
the whole state.
Tim Robins, a water attorney, said he was not here to represent
anyone, but felt the plan which he had read was strictly
out of balance. He said if the state is trying to save fish
then why release water when there are only 1 percent of
the juvenile fish in the rivers. “No fish are moving
out to the ocean in February.”
Merced City Councilman Josh Pedrozo called the State Water
Control Plan a devastation to the valley and Merced County.
“ It is an incredibly flawed plan.”
Maxwell Norton, a former farm advisor for Merced County
pointed out some economic facts. He had his colleagues calculate
the impact on losing an acre of five local crops: Almonds
— $24,000, Tomatoes — $20,640, Peaches —
$52,440 and Sweet Potatoes — $29,250.
Agriculture generates a quarter of all private sector employment
in the valley. That is because for every job in Agriculture,
2.2 additional jobs are created in other parts of the economy.