SACRAMENTO — Water districts in Stanislaus and Merced counties are objecting to proposed changes to increase the amount water from the Tuolumne, Merced, and Stanislaus rivers that will flow into the Delta.
The State Water Board released its new objectives Thursday. The goal is to reduce the salinity of the Delta by increasing the flow from the three rivers to 40 percent. That comes to 350,000 acre-feet of water a year, enough to serve 1 million households.
The South San Joaquin, Modesto, Turlock and Oakdale irrigation districts oppose the changes because it would reduce the amount of river water available to farmers and Central Valley communities.
Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, said the proposal amounts to an “economic death sentence.”
“It is a report which does not reflect the realities of the world we live in and could only be written by a government agency operating behind closed doors which has turned a deaf ear to the communities which will ultimately pay the highest price,” Gray said in a press release.
The water board’s report calls for increasing the water flow from the rivers to 40 percent to benefit fish and wildlife habitat.
“Flow objectives on the San Joaquin River have not been updated since 1995,” the report’s summary reads. “Since that time salmon and steelhead, including those that spawn and rear in the San Joaquin’s tributaries and migrate through the Delta to the Pacific Ocean, have steeply declined. Scientific studies show that flow is a major factor in the survival of fish like salmon.”
Local agencies accuse the state of not listening to Central Valley interests.
“Not a single public meeting ever was held in San Joaquin, Stanislaus or Merced counties,” said Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell. “In addition, these plans fail to consider new science that is pointing to holistic approaches to addressing multiple stressors that affect fish populations, not just flow.”
Comments on the draft report are due on Nov. 15. A public hearing will be held over three days beginning on Nov. 2 in Sacramento. It will continue Nov. 4 in the Modesto area, and conclude Nov. 10 in Sacramento.