Welcome to California
Where Whiskey is for Drinking and Water is for Fighting
by Red Smith
California law makers arrived to work Monday August, 20th to find the North steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento occupied by hundreds of opponents to The State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) plan to implement Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan update (Revised Plan).
The plan calls for increased water flows in the San Joaquin water shed in support of Salmon restoral, a policy opponents claim would devastate local agriculture. San Joaquin County and Delta officials and citizens have been engaged over 10 years fighting this portion of the Governor’s Twin Tunnels project, officially called “Water Fix” and say the State is yet again pursuing a destructive plan that is quietly making its way through the regulatory process.
The Revised Plan would also allow for increased San Joaquin River salinity in the South Delta creating significant impacts, to South Delta agriculture and complication of operations for the City of Stockton’s water and wastewater plants. The SWRCB summarily dismisses these facts despite San Joaquin County officials having presented expert testimony and evidence to support their claims.
A spirited crowd made up of a large cross section of Californians, including Farmers, Ranchers, Rural Citizens, and an increasingly endangered species in California, Bi-Partisan Law Makers were in attendance.
The Rally, labeled as “Stop the Water Grab”, was spearheaded by Adam Gray (D) of Merced, California District 21. Gray urged the crowd to write lawmakers, make phone calls and urge a stop to the Water Boards plans and in conclusion led the crowd in a chant of “fight, fight, fight”.
Also attracted by the rally were several Republican Lawmakers from Northern California who spoke out against the SWRCB. These included State Representatives James Gallagher (R) California 3rd District, Jim Nielsen (R) California 4th Senate District and Congressmen Tom Mcclintock (R) of California’s 4th House District and Doug LaMalfa (R) California 1st House District and member of the House’s Natural Resource Committee.
The legislators vehemently spoke against what they called the Water Boards policy of “Fish over Farmers” and urged the crowd to resist the State’s “water grab”. Opponents of the SWRCB plan claim the Revised Plan’s required flow increases for the San Joaquin River System will cause multi-billion-dollar annual losses to the region’s economy. Regional Representatives estimate the water transfer plans impact could exceed $20+ billion dollars to disastrous effect on the agricultural industry in the region.
However proponents of the plan urge the necessity of the Revised plan to increase river flows in order to restore Salmon Spawning by reducing water temperatures, preventing toxic algae blooms and mitigating sediment build up.
At a counter Rally on the Capitols West steps Morning Star Gali, Tribal Organizer for Save California Salmon and Pit River tribal member spoke out stating “We must restore our rivers if we are going to have clean water and fish into the future.” She went on further to say “Large fires and lack of water supply are caused by climate change and wasteful water use practices, not environmental laws. Appropriate flows are needed for the health of our sacred rivers, to restore the health of our communities, and to protect the quality of California’s water supply.”
Her sentiments seemed to be echoed by Jonas Minton, Senior Water Policy Advisory for the Planning and Conservation League. ”The truth is the truth. Fish need water,” said Minton at rally held by a coalition of environmental organizations, Northern California Indian tribal members, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations.
These included representatives of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Pit River Tribe, Water for Fish, Sierra Club California, San Francisco Bay keeper, Restore the Delta and the Tuolumne River Trust who claim it is crucial the State plan to increase flows for the San Joaquin River and its three lower tributaries pass the legislative process.
“In the 23 years since the Plan was last updated the fisheries of the Sacramento – San Joaquin watershed have been decimated, some to the very edge of extinction,” said Minton. “Californians cannot afford further delays in the adoption of strong standards that protect our rivers for current and future generations.”
While the opponents of the Revised plan acknowledge balancing the water needs of fish and the needs of local agriculture is a difficult yet necessary exercise, they feel little consideration of balance is reflected in the current plan.
The SWRCB’s own analysis concluded that increased flows would only benefit the annual salmon count on the order of hundreds per year. To many this ratio is disproportionately small when compared to the potential catastrophic impact to regional water supplies and agricultural production leading to economic collapse.
The SWRCB is expected to render a decision to move forward or not later this month.
Aug. 20, 2018 Protest to stop Sacramento from seizing water
from Ranchers and Farmers in the valley
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