Hundreds of Californians concerned about the state water board’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan assembled Monday in Sacramento to ensure their voices were heard. Coming together from throughout the state, and bridging the political spectrum, they were united by their conviction that the State Water Resources Control Board’s plan is a bad deal for California.

While some continue to try to oversimplify rural Californians’ concerns as part of a tired “farmer versus fish” narrative- the reality is, we all want healthy rivers. Farmers and communities want to see healthy native species, and they support practical, science-based, results-oriented solutions- not lazy “fish gotta swim” policies.

“Some may say this is blue against red, it isn’t. Some may say this is fish against farmers, it isn’t. Some may even say this is the north against the south, this isn’t. This is the State of California trying to fix 50 years of neglect to our statewide water infrastructure.” Mani Grewal, Modesto City Council

After years of effort by State Water Resources Control Board staff, and despite thousands of comments from engineers, biologists, scientists, economists, agricultural experts, water manager, community leaders, and local stakeholders advising them against it, the State Board persists with their ill-conceived plan. Their plan, virtually unchanged despite abundant and persistent criticism, will irrevocably harm our farms, and communities, while squandering precious water resources.

One bright spot during the public hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director, Chuck Bonham, provided the State Water Board with an alternate solution based on a modified base flow, pulse flows, and functional flows as an alternative to the proposed SWRCB staff plan. Finding a workable, balanced solution that protects the human water supply with the same zeal as environmental flows is essential to a successful outcome.

Monday’s rally drew people from across the state- from the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley- people from farms and cities, business owners, farmers, blue and white collar workers- Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike who see the State Water Resources Control Board Plan as the fundamental threat it is.   The frustration of Monday’s rally participants was palpable, but even as the State Board meets at the CalEPA building in Sacramento to consider comments on Phase One of their Plan, the communities most affected came together and will continue to work together through all Phases of the State’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan process.

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