State Water Resources Control Board representatives will provide a presentation during Stanislaus and Merced County Board of Supervisors meetings Tuesday regarding their proposal to cut water use for the benefit of fish and wildlife.
“If implemented, it will be devastating to our area and will hurt our economy, contaminate our water supply, destroy our farmland, drop our property values, and keep us from achieving groundwater sustainability,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced).
On Sept. 15, the State Water Board released its Substitute Environmental Document for public review and comment. At more than 3,500 pages, this controversial document was given to the public for a 60-day comment period.
The Phase 1 draft SED was originally issued by the State Water Board in December 2012. Public workshops were held in March 2013 and comments were submitted at the end of the month.
As detailed in the revised draft, which was released more than three years later, the State Water Board proposes increasing flows to provide habitats for fish and wildlife upstream of the Delta from Feb. 1 to June 30 from three tributaries of the lower San Joaquin River and adjusting the salinity requirements to a slightly high level to reflect updated scientific knowledge and protect farming in the Southern Delta.
While the original 2012 document called for a 35 percent release of unimpaired flows, the revised document now calls for a 40 percent release.
Earlier this month, the Turlock Irrigation District voted to oppose the proposal and request that the State Water Board “pursue a comprehensive solution that prioritizes non-flow measures to protect native fish species before requiring flow increases that would threaten the economic vitality of our region.”
“It’s a sham environmental document—it’s fake,” said Director Robert Santos during the Oct. 4 meeting. “It’s Governor Brown’s water grab from our area and he’s trying to force it down our throat.”
“This is an attack on our water rights,” added Director Ron Macedo. “The science they use is just ridiculous.”
Gray, along with fellow Assembly member Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank), delivered 3,100 petitions to the State Water Board last month to proclaim their firm opposition to the proposal.
“It is unfathomable how the Water Board could witness the harm caused by one of the worst droughts in California’s history and draw the conclusion that they need even more from us,” said Gray in September.
Gray and Olsen were not the only local legislators to publicly oppose the State Water Board’s proposal as Congressmen Jeff Denham (CA-10), Jim Costa (CA-16) and Tom McClintock (CA-4) released a joint statement in September also expressing their disapproval.
“It is completely unacceptable that the State Water Resources Control Board failed to hold public hearings in the communities most affected by this proposal,” wrote Denham, Costa and McClintock in the statement. “The people, the farmers and communities in the San Joaquin Valley have borne the brunt of the impacts of five years of drought conditions and this proposal, if adopted, would only result in further harm to the economy of the region.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Board Chambers in the basement, 1010 10th Street in Modesto. There will also be a meeting during the Merced County Board of Supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Board Chamber, 2222 M. St. in Merced.
The State Water Board will also hold public hearings on the proposal on Nov. 2 and Nov. 10 in the Byron Sher Auditorium of the Joe Serna Jr. — CalEPA Headquarters Building, 1001 I Street in Sacramento, and on Nov. 4 in the Tuolumne River Room of Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 L. Street.
The State Water Board will consider approving the proposed Bay-Delta Plan amendments at a public meeting that will be held in early 2017.