We hope the state water board left Modesto having heard one message: It won’t be easy taking the water the San Joaquin Valley depends on.
Similar messages had already been delivered in hearings in Stockton and Merced. Tuesday, more than 1,000 people were in Modesto’s Centre Plaza just five days before Christmas to either convince the State Water Resources Control Board of its folly or confront it with defiance.
Several speakers pointed out that our region has more poverty, worse health, lower educational attainment, more unemployment and lower wages than virtually any other California region. We have been called the Appalachia of the West. All insisted the state’s plan – detailed in its Substitute Environmental Document – calling for fallowing tens of thousands of acres will make each of those conditions worse. Much worse.
“The one plus we have,” said incoming Stanislaus County Supervisor and former Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, “is water. And you cannot take that away from us.”
“To create a permanent regulatory drought is absolutely unacceptable to us,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray, who represents all of Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.
The state’s latest document calls for doubling the amount of water flowing unimpaired down the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The state would also control much more “cold pool” water stored behind dams to increase flows when fish are migrating. Many scientists believe greater flows are essential for creating a viable native salmon population. It also would help Delta farmers by pushing back saltwater intrusion.