It is hard to go anywhere in Stanislaus County or Merced County without seeing one of Worth Your Fight’s yard signs posted in front of a business, staked in the yard of a residence or tethered to a fence — and with less than a week until the State Water Resources Control Board’s highly anticipated public hearing in Modesto, that is exactly what the joint Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District campaign wants.
Nearly 10,000 of these Worth Your Fight signs can be seen sprinkled across the region thanks to the irrigation districts’ awareness campaign, which aims to inform customers about the potential negative impacts associated with a controversial State Water Board document that proposes to allocate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River for fish and wildlife.
“A lot of people around here know that it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that water in the Turlock and Modesto areas and throughout Stanislaus and Merced counties is what makes our community tick, what makes our economy tick,” said TID Communications Division Manager Herb Smart. “People know that water is the lifeblood of the region and part of our socio economic fabric. If any significant part of that is taken away, there is a litany of problems that affect everybody — not just farmers.
“So It’s not just MID and TID’s fight. It’s everybody’s fight,” continued Smart.
Long before the State Water Board released the Substitute Environmental Document in September, Smart said that TID and MID have been “mentally preparing” since January by creating the Worth Your Fight website and social media accounts, composing the online petition and compiling media releases in conjunction with Stanislaus County and Merced County.
“Worth Your Fight has been extremely successful because we have been able to use new tools such as a website and social media to get the message out there,” said Smart. “The main goal is to provide a more robust customer awareness campaign to inform our customers about the possible negative impacts that would be associated with the SED and the State Water Board’s proposal. We want to inform them that this is a legitimate threat with significant impacts.”
In addition to the thousands of Worth Your Fight yard signs seen throughout the region, TID and MID have submitted several opinion pieces and letters to the editors of local print media outlets, as well as conducted both recorded and live radio interviews to talk about the campaign. Campaign members have also distributed fact sheets and thousands of window decals, presented the proposal and its possible negative impacts to various community organizations throughout the TID and MID service areas, informed local, state and federal officials of their concerns, purchased a billboard advertisement in Ceres, and created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media accounts. Worth Your Fight has also partnered with Save The Stan, which is a similar joint consumer awareness campaign between the South San Joaquin, Oakdale Irrigation District and Tri-Dam Project.
“We are still working on a lot of advertisements and have communicated to a lot of our internal employees and encouraged them to help join the effort as well,” said Smart. “I know MID is doing the same.”
The campaign also sends out a weekly newsletter to the nearly 5,000 people who have signed the online petition to oppose the proposal and urge the State Water Board to consider other non-flow measures. Additionally, Smart said that TID and MID concerns are backed by over $25 million worth of scientific studies they have conducted as part of the relicensing of Don Pedro.
“We have some pretty good solutions that we think could solve the problems and that need to be heard,” said Smart. “We’re not just saying, ‘no, this is bad,’ we’re saying that there is a better way. Our science that we’ve conducted through FERC relicensing has given us a lot of information, so we need to discuss other options before a flow-only approach is dictated to us.”
State Water Board officials already conducted a public hearing in Sacramento, and they are slated to host two more public hearings in Stockton and Merced on Friday and Monday, respectively, before making a stop in Modesto on Tuesday. The Modesto public hearing regarding the SED is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 20 in the Tuolumne River Room of Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 K Street in Modesto.
“TID and MID have been really clear in saying that we certainly support the State Water Board’s intent for better water quality in the Delta and for a healthy salmon fishery,” said Smart. “We just don’t agree that increased river flows are the sole solution.”
For more information on Worth Your Fight, visit worthyourfight.org.