MID wants business owners, farmers and residents to attend a series of public meetings to comment on the State Water Quality Control Board’s report.
The board’s proposal calls for increasing the rivers’ flows by 40 percent, which means the irrigation district’s customers would get less water.
The board’s goal is to improve the salmon count by reducing salinity in the Delta, and it says an adjustment is long overdue.
“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.”
MID agrees something needs to be done to save the salmon, but it says its own studies show there are other options.
“We don’t believe it’s all about flow to get fish numbers back up,” said MID Public Affairs Manager Melissa Williams.
MID suggests that reducing predators, such as striped bass, would be as effective at increasing salmon population.
“More than 90 percent of out-migrating juvenile salmon are consumed by predatory fish,” Williams said. “We think a 10 percent reduction in predation could achieve the same improvements as increased flows.”
MID also argues a drastic cut in water allocation would hurt the economy. It says that if the water board’s proposal had been in effect in 2015, the local economic output would have taken a $1.6 billion hit.
Five public hearings are scheduled, including hearings in Stockton on Dec. 16, Merced on Dec. 19 and Modesto on Dec. 20.