Reactions to State Board Unimpaired Flows Action
On September 15, the State Water Resources Control Board released an updated proposal for the Bay Delta Water Quality Plan, expanding the pursuit of increased flow in it’s approach for addressing species decline in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system.
“If implemented, the State Water Board’s rule will have a devastating impact on drinking water, sanitation needs, food production, the economy and jobs for people stretching from the Northern San Joaquin Valley throughout the Bay Area. That’s why this regulation is opposed by schools, health departments, farmers, Latinos, cities, economic development officials and more,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.
Water Resource Control Board President Felicia Marcus in an Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee on September 15, 2016 remarked that-
“sometimes our rivers are asked to do too much. And then it is the State Water Board’s duty to balance water use among the many people and wildlife that are dependent on the rivers. This is now happening with the San Joaquin River. It is the longest river in California, the second largest in the state, and a critical piece of the Bay Delta puzzle. The San Joaquin is an overburdened river.”
Marcus goes on to say that the State Board will “be listening for people’s best thoughts and proposals in the coming weeks and months before making our decisions.”
But in a joint response by Modesto Irrigation District and South San Joaquin Irrigation District issued September 15, 2016, Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell noted that
“these plans fail to consider new science that is pointing to holistic approaches to addressing multiple stressors that affect fish populations, not just flow”
despite the numerous attempts by community leaders and water experts to ensure that the Board was aware of the multiple stressors affecting endangered fish and the Delta ecosystem, the Board continues to pursue an approach that has failed to achieve improvements in fish populations for over 20 years. The failure of flushing more and more water to the ocean is well documented, says Wade-
“The reason they cannot demonstrate benefit is because science clearly shows that decades of releasing water to the ocean has failed to halt the decline of Chinook salmon and Delta smelt. It is time to stop relying on failed strategies and move on to solutions that science tells us will help.”
Adding to the ire of affected communities, Knell noted that despite Board member commitments to listen to the public,
“Not a single public meeting ever was held in San Joaquin, Stanislaus or Merced counties.”
Representing 27 different cities, counties, school departments, chambers of commerce, water districts and farm bureaus, A Multi-County Coalition issued a response to the action calling for better analysis of available modern science, and demanded an improved process that incorporates feedback from impacted communities and stakeholders, as well as mitigation for the impacts on disadvantaged communities from any Water Resources Control Board action. The Coalition reports that the action-
“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.”
“It is unbelievable that our government would propose regulations that their own staff say will put farms out of business, reduce water supplies and have negative impacts on groundwater. Yet they can’t tell us what, if anything, this will do to protect the environment.” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.