MID poised to step up fight to protect
our water supply
By DAVE LONG & SCOTT KOEHN
October 5, 2017
Irrigation District and our community have a strong track
record of environmental stewardship. Collectively, from
MID staff, to our community, to our local legislators, we
have put our best foot forward toward solving complex water
and environmental issues related to the Merced River. After
years of promoting compromises on Merced River fishery and
flow requirements, it has become apparent that there is
no compromise to be found.
We commend MID staff for developing and promoting the Merced
River S.A.F.E. (Salmon, Agriculture, Flows and Environment)
Plan as an alternative to the state’s severely flawed
Bay Delta Plan or SED. The S.A.F.E. Plan is a comprehensive
plan and solution for Merced River salmon. Merced ID along
with other parties have been discussing a settlement as
it relates to future San Joaquin River tributary river flows,
including the Merced River, to the Bay Delta. We have seen
zero evidence the state or environmental groups are receptive
to the MID’s S.A.F.E. Plan proposal. If the state
were receptive to the S.A.F.E. Plan, Merced River Salmon
would see improvements in their life cycle habitat immediately
through river restoration and immediate increases in flows.
The fact that the state has not embraced the S.A.F.E. Plan
and stubbornly continues to pursue its own flawed plan of
taking vast amounts of water from senior water rights holders
shows this is not about salmon — this is about something
far greater. This is about circumventing the water rights
priority system in California and taking our senior storage
and water rights to give to other junior water rights holders
in the name of fish and delta outflow. Coincidentally, the
state is pursuing its twin tunnels proposal to divert more
water from the Sacramento River before that water reaches
the delta, all the while telling San Joaquin River senior
water rights holders the state needs our water for the “delta.”
Forgive the pun - but “something smells fishy.”
We hear echoes of “save the delta,” “restore
the delta,” etc. Folks, we have news for you —
the natural, historical delta is no more. The delta is a
forever-altered, man-made and developed water system. What
was once a natural environmental system is now farms, cities
and towns protected by man-made levees, all with the blessings
of the state. The state allowed the delta to be developed
for agriculture, towns and cities. Given those facts, why
are Merced ID’s water rights being targeted as the
solution to mitigate for the development of the delta?
We know that some amount of river flow will be part of a
solution for improved native fish populations. However,
the Merced River is only 3 percent of the delta inflow —
yet we are being told our water is 100 percent of the solution.
The main stem of the San Joaquin River, located upstream
of the Merced River confluence, yields nearly twice the
flow of the Merced River. And still this vital section of
river has been left out of the SED’s call for more
water flows to the delta.
MID is willing to be part of the solution for Merced River
salmon moving forward. We will not, however, stand idly
by while the state looks only to our water rights as the
way to mitigate for other’s actions, including those
who have directly benefitted from the development of the
Merced ID has tried to do the right thing with the S.A.F.E.
Plan and settlement efforts. We now urge MID’s stakeholders
to support our refocused efforts as we gear up for the impending
regulatory and legal battles that await as we continue to
work to protect our community’s water supply.
Dave Long is the president of the Merced Irrigation
District Board of Directors.
Scott Koehn is the vice president of the Merced Irrigation
District Board of Directors.