Reactions to the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal for San Joaquin River tributaries
Here are the reactions to the State Water Board’s proposal for the San Joaquin River tributaries:
(Listed in alphabetical order)
From the California Farm Bureau Federation
River-flow plan will cause needless suffering
Water supplies dedicated to fish should be subject to the same efficiency standards as those affecting California farmers and homeowners, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation, which criticized a proposal released today to require significant new amounts of water to be directed to the ocean.
CFBF President Paul Wenger said the proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board could idle as much as 240,000 acres of Central California farmland—with no guarantee the redirection of water will help the fish it’s intended to benefit.
“For years, regulators have been requiring increasingly more water in the name of environmental protection, but fish populations have continued to decline,” Wenger said. “Regulators have no idea how many more fish—if any—would result from dedicating even more water to environmental purposes. But we do know one thing: This will hurt people.”
Wenger said the board proposal would undermine drinking water supplies, sanitation needs, food production, the economy and jobs for people from the northern San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Farmers have consistently improved the efficiency with which they use water to grow food and farm crops,” he said. “It’s time to apply the same standards to water dedicated to environmental flows. Those flows must be reasonable, useful and effective.”
Wenger said Farm Bureau will urge the water board to reject the proposal and work with local water managers and communities to create “a balanced plan to help the environment without causing needless suffering” to people in the affected areas. He said the plan must also comply with the state’s longstanding system of water resource allocation.
“Forcing farmland to be fallowed—as this proposal would surely do—degrades the unique environmental resource represented by California farmland, and will hurt people and the economy throughout the region and state,” he said. “It would create another area of chronic water shortage and economic distress, without any apparent environmental benefit.”
From the California Farm Water Coalition
Response to the State Water Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan
The State Water Resources Control Board has released its Water Quality Control Plan which, if implemented, will cause significant harm to California residents without quantifying any specific environmental benefits.
In taking this step, Felicia Marcus, the Board’s Chairwoman noted that San Joaquin River flows have not been updated since 1995. We fully agree it’s time that state policy be aligned with current science which is why we find this proposal so wrongheaded. Science clearly shows that decades of releasing water to the ocean has failed to halt the decline of Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
And yet, the Board proposes to flush out to sea enough water to serve the domestic needs of 2 million Californians or produce almost 5.8 billion salads. If we know twenty years of failed efforts won’t do the job, why not try some of the proposed alternatives first?
Chairwoman Marcus goes on to say that “The issue is not about choosing one over the other. It is about sharing the river because Californians need and want healthy communities, healthy agriculture and a healthy natural environment.” We couldn’t agree more. The only way farmers survive is by being good stewards of the land, and we’re not alone. We hope that the Board will listen to the voices of education officials, health departments, farmers, Latinos, cities, economic development officials and more who have all spoken out about the need to find a solution that works for all instead of continuing to rely on failed strategies. It’s time we moved on to solutions that science tells us will help.
Below, some of the people that will be impacted by this new plan give their thoughts:
From Assemblymember Adam C. Gray
Water Board Declares Water War on Merced and Stanislaus Counties
“The new recommendation by the State Water Board to require 40% unimpaired flows on the Tuolumne, Merced, and Stanislaus rivers amounts to an economic death sentence.
Since the update to the Bay-Delta Plan began, the State Water Board has spent millions of dollars on staff and consultants rewriting the report. After all this time and expense, and during one of the worst droughts in California’s history, it appears that the Water Board’s only significant change was to demand even more water.
It is a report which does not reflect the realities of the world we live in and could only be written by a government agency operating behind closed doors which has turned a deaf ear to the communities which will ultimately pay the highest price. This callous disregard is unprecedented in California history. To this day, the State Water Board has not responded to the concerns raised by our local schools, businesses, and local governments.
In their report, the State Water Board expresses hope for settlement discussions. I have encouraged such discussions between the state and local stakeholders. But it takes both parties, acting in good faith, to conduct them. Instead, we have a situation where the State Water Board demands that the most economically challenged part of the state decimate its economy to restore salmon, while the California Fish and Game Commission refuses to reduce invasive predators like bass that are responsible for so much of the reduction in salmon populations in the first place.
For settlement discussions to be successful, Chairwoman Felicia Marcus needs to direct her staff and consultants to meet with local interests and discuss in detail their assumptions, data, and conclusions. There must be an acknowledgment of the significant adverse impacts removing so much water from our area will have on our economy, and there must be a willingness on behalf of the state to mitigate that impact. Nowhere else in California would a change of such magnitude and consequence be considered without extensive mitigation as part of the discussion.
Despite needing four years to rewrite this report themselves, the Water Board is giving us just over 60 days to respond by concluding the comment period on November 15th. It is highly unlikely that the local community can conduct an in-depth review of the report and its predecessor, reconcile the assumptions and data, and draft a thoughtful and thorough response if the lack communication and cooperation from the Water Board continues.
If the preference for a settlement is truly genuine, Chairwoman Marcus should address these problems.”
From Golden Gate Salmon Association
Statement of executive director John McManus regarding State Water Board San Joaquin action Thursday:
“After decades of getting it wrong and driving California’s salmon and fishing families into the dust by diverting the water needed by salmon, today the state water board staff took a historic step to right a wrong. Let’s hope the water board approves the staff’s recommendations or stronger standards, the Golden Gate Salmon Association sure hopes so.”
“Let’s be clear. Leaving a little bit more water in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries is absolutely benefiting humans since that water will translate into more salmon fishing and salmon for people to eat. No one should be surprised that salmon and salmon fishing families are being harmed when 80 percent of the San Joaquin River is diverted and never makes it to where nature intended it to go. The excessive water diversions have killed California’s salmon. California was a natural paradise until we killed much of it by unwise development and the extreme water diversions on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries are prime evidence.
Dam construction drove San Joaquin River spring run salmon into extinction with no thought at all to the thousands of Californians who rely on salmon to survive. Now we have a chance to at least save some of the salmon that still survive in the San Joaquin and its tributaries by leaving a little bit of water for them. Most Californians support leaving enough water in our rivers to keep salmon alive. Now it’s up to state water board to enforce the will of the majority over the deep pockets of a very few who would dam and divert all of our salmon rivers until salmon are gone forever.”
From the cities and County of Merced, the cities and County of Stanislaus, and Irrigation Districts
Broad coalition stands together against state water grab
Today, after much delay and with nominal input from or response to our communities, the State Water Resources Control Board released its revised Draft Substitute Environmental Document (SED) in support of Phase 1 of its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.
The broad coalition of local governments and organizations listed above is greatly disappointed that the State Water Board and its consultants have rejected numerous requests from our region to discuss the assumptions and data underlying the SED’s analyses and recommendations. No other agency would be permitted to conduct a multi-year study, at the cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and fail to even discuss its assumptions with those who stand to be impacted by its recommendations. The release of this new environmental document marks a failure to engage in serious technical analyses of environmental, social, economic, educational and cultural impacts with those to be affected in this region.
Our region has never been more united on this issue, and these coalition members stand together in opposition of the SED as currently drafted. We will continue to analyze the voluminous updated SED carefully in order to fully understand the depths that the State Water Board will go to harm our region on the whim of possibly benefitting the Delta and salmon.
Groundwater and Drinking Water
Despite a groundwater crisis that resulted in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, as well as continued drought impacts, the State Water Board desires even more water from one of California’s most challenged regions. Groundwater is the drinking water source for most of the 800,000 residents of this multi-county region. The 2012 SED ignored the well-documented recharge value of irrigation water, and was unable to account for the state’s new groundwater laws and groundwater pumping increases resulting from the drought. If this proposal is implemented, this region will be severely vulnerable in the effort to achieve state-mandated groundwater sustainability.
Many of our communities already face significant drinking water quality and quantity issues. These were ignored in the 2012 SED. The regulatory taking that’s recommended in the SED will threaten the ability to provide surface water for drinking to the cities of Turlock, Ceres and other communities. It also directly undermines efforts to maintain groundwater quality in disadvantaged communities that don’t have surface water.
If implemented, the proposal shuts down any hope of economic growth in this multi-county region, eliminates swaths of agricultural employment, thwarts job creation and creates enormous funding challenges for schools, cities, public health, law enforcement and other essential public services.
Our region is among the most economically challenged in the entire state. We have some of the highest unemployment rates, a multitude of health challenges, and the lowest educational achievement rates in all of California.
This water grab by the state of California, without mitigation or due analysis of impacts, will be vigorously opposed by this coalition. Our organizations will continue to review the updated SED carefully. We resolve to strongly oppose the SED in every possible venue unless its impacts are fully mitigated.
In Stanislaus County: Cities of Ceres, Hughson, Modesto, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Turlock, Waterford, County of Stanislaus, El Concilio, Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Modesto Irrigation District, Oakdale Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District, Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, Stanislaus County Office of Education
In Merced County: Cities of Atwater, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced, County of Merced, Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, Merced County Farm Bureau, Merced County Office of Education, Merced Irrigation District
From Doug Obegi at the NRDC
Today, the State Water Resources Control Board is releasing its long awaited analysis of proposed changes to instream flows in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers. As the Board recognizes, these rivers are critically impaired by unsustainable water diversions that have harmed native salmon, fishing jobs, and the health of the Bay-Delta estuary.
This morning the Board released a summary of its proposal, which recommends that 40% of the unimpaired flow remain instream during the February to June period, within an adaptive management range of 30-50% of the unimpaired flow (for more background on this proceeding and what “unimpaired flow” means, see this fact sheet). The full analysis will be available later this afternoon. In the coming weeks, we will be digging into the details with several of our colleagues, and preparing comments on both the scientific basis for this flow proposal and potential means to reduce water supply impacts of balancing instream flows with water use for farms and cities. Below are some initial reactions:
The Board’s proposal of 40% of the unimpaired flow as a starting point falls short of what scientists, state and federal agencies, and conservation and fishing groups have concluded is necessary to restore and sustain salmon and the health of these rivers. For instance, in 2013 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife concluded that 50-60% of the unimpaired flow must remain instream to protect salmon.
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