Congressman Jeff Denham is fighting for local control of water, standing up to a federal water grab on the Tuolumne River through the release of a new video and by discussing the topic with Mayor Gary Soiseth live from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
As part of D.C.’s Water Week, Denham on Monday launched a video bringing attention to an effort underway by Sacramento-based federal agencies to spend $170 million on moving salmon to the Tuolumne River stretch just above Don Pedro Reservoir.
The plan is meant to increase spawning habitat for salmon, but in doing so “threatens our farms and our jobs,” Denham states in the video.
“As California faces an unprecedented need for improved water storage, bureaucrats in Sacramento are using every available tactic to take control of the water we need here in the Valley,” Denham said. “It’s a solution in search of a problem, and if we don’t stop it, residents and farmers alike will suffer skyrocketing rates that will cripple our local economy.”
Denham welcomed Soiseth to his D.C. office on Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of the plan, and to share steps the mayor has taken in order in increase water storage and infrastructure around Turlock.
“I don’t think people realize how important the Tuolumne River is to our local economy,” Soiseth said.
Once habitat restoration takes place above the Don Pedro dam instead of just below it, as is occurring currently, federal powers will have authority over the water in the reservoir as well, Denham’s video points out. The plan is also costly, he adds, because the fish spawn would have to be transported to the lower river by truck.
Locally, water and power customers would bear the cost of the plan.
“…it would interject salmon that we’re trying to save above the dam, and then truck them around right where the predators, the bass, are going to eat all of the fish that are spawning,” Denham said. “It’s a big challenge not only for the cost of electricity to our rate payers…but a big cost in their water bill as well.”
Preserving the Valley’s water in the Tuolumne River is critical in order to not only save the wallets of residents, but to support various projects that Soiseth has started locally, he said, like the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, which will provide 30,000 acre feet of irrigation water for the area per year, and the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority’s Regional Surface Water Supply Project, which will provide recycled, high quality drinking water for years to come.
The latter is expected to provide 14,000 jobs, Soiseth said, and legislation like Denham’s re-introduced New WATER Act of 2017, which provides innovative financing opportunities for water projects throughout the western United States.
“We’re not just using water, we’re re-using water to help our local economies stay strong,” Soiseth said. “Those jobs go away if we don’t have that water source…projects like (Denham’s) and trying to get more water and surface storage is really going to help our economy and make sure we keep jobs – high-paying jobs – in Turlock.”