Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, has secured a $40 million budget allocation for river restoration projects within his district and throughout the state, his office announced Wednesday.
The allocation will further the efforts of River Partners, a conservation group that played a key role in creating Dos Rios Ranch Preserve, the first state park located entirely within the borders of Stanislaus County.
The Merced, Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers all flow through Gray’s 21st assembly district — the Tuolumne River sits about 10 miles to the north of Turlock, while the Merced River is about 15 miles south — and is one reason water policy has been a core issue for Gray.
“These rivers are not only the lifeblood of my district, providing the foundation for every farm, every job, and every bite of the food we eat, they also are vibrant, living wildlife habitats that need to be protected and improved,” Gray said in a press release. “River Partners has been a leader in helping us preserve our rivers. Now, we can concentrate on making them better for both wildlife and people.”
Gray, who is running against Hughson Republican John Duarte to represent the 13th District in Congress, said he is especially proud of the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve, which has been designated as California’s next state park. With the help of local farmers, farmworkers and volunteers, River Partners acquired roughly 2,100 acres near Grayson and has turned them into oases for fish, water fowl and native plants.
Atmospheric rivers — think off them as rivers in the sky that carry water vapor, and when these rivers make landfall, they often release the vapor as rain or snow — will become much larger and more frequent in coming years, threatening virtually every Valley community with flooding, according to models created by University of California scientists.
In restored flood plains like Dos Rios, those fast-moving flood waters have a place to spread out and settle down, lessening the pressure on levees and, in turn, protecting downstream communities.
As that water soaks into the ground, it will replenish the aquifers that provide drinking water and irrigation for dozens of Valley communities. Already, forests of valley oak and cottonwoods are growing in the restored floodplains, trapping greenhouse gasses as they expand.
Julie Rentner, president of River Partners, envisions similar refuges and parks along many of the San Joaquin Valley’s rivers.
“The science couldn’t be clearer,” Rentner said in the press release. “The San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for both more intense and frequent climate-driven floods and droughts on the horizon. Expanding and restoring the Valley’s floodplains provides significant benefits on both fronts.”
The legislation is earmarked for the San Joaquin and Tulare basins, and directs River Partners to use it for research, planning and restoration projects.