County leaders preparing for big water rally in Sacramento

July 26, 2018

Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel announced the need for as many people as possible to attend the upcoming Aug. 20 water rally organized by State Assemblyman Adam Gray.

It is to be held on the steps of the State Capitol to protest Phase 1 of the State Water Resources Control Board’s Bay Delta Plan.

"We will get you there," McDaniel exclaimed during a Tuesday meeting in Merced. "The Merced County Farm Bureau has a plan to haul people up there to a rally to stop the state water grab."

The water grab he was referring to involves the July 6 release by the state's water board of its final draft plan to increase by 40 percent, within a range of 30 to 50 percent, unimpaired flows through the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries, the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers.

This move is being hailed by environmentalists and fishery representatives as a fair way to allow those downstream to be able to rely on the state’s natural resources, but is being criticized by agribusiness representatives, who believe the insufficiency of water to the local area will devastate farming.

In support of its decision, the water board said the increased water flows would "prevent an ecological crisis, including the total collapse of fisheries".

The board further stated, "A dramatic decline in the populations of native fish species that migrate through and inhabit the Delta has brought some species to the brink of extinction."

It added: "While multiple factors are to blame for the decline, the magnitude of diversions out of the Sacramento, San Joaquin and other rivers feeding into the Bay-Delta is a major factor in the ecosystem decline."

The Merced Irrigation District and the California Farm Water Coalition voiced strong opposition to the water board’s decision.

The Farm Water Coalition’s response to the decision was that it will "leave thousands of acres of farmland with zero surface supply in certain water year types, stripping the Central Valley of over 6,500 jobs and over $6 billion in economic output."

Board Chairman Jerry O’Banion said during the meeting that the counties of Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin are networking to convince the state water board to consider its recent decision from the standpoint of its impacts on humans, "not just fish."

Supervisors Pareira and McDaniel are involved in the three-county networking effort, he said.

Describing the networking effort, Pareira explained, "We met at the Stanislaus County administration building. There were several supervisors present from the three counties. Water staff from each of the counties were there, and representatives from the local irrigation districts. It was a strategic planning session on what to do in regard to the Water Board acknowledging that they are going to approve the supplemental environmental document that plans to take 30 to 50 percent of the unimpaired flows from the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers. Last week, Stanislaus County voted to put $50,000 into a fund, and today the Supervisors voted to put $50,000 into the fund, and there is an expectation that San Joaquin County will do something similar. That money would be used to educate the public on what’s happening and stimulate push back against the plan."

Assistance at the Federal level may be on the way.

On July 20, Congressmen Jeff Denham and Tom McClintock invited Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to tour Don Pedro Reservoir and New Melones Lake. Zinke was interested in mobilizing the Trump Administration to help solve the problem at the Federal level and thought water storage was an important factor in the solution. He felt the problem could be solved by bringing all the interested parties together and making sure all the stakeholders have a say.

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