Madam Chairwoman: Your plan does nothing for fish, plenty for LA

The Merced River during high flows near Snelling.
The Merced River during high flows near Snelling. Merced Sun-Star

Dear Chairwoman Marcus and members of the State Water Resources Control Board,

As a city councilman representing Atwater in Merced County, I have followed this issue (of unimpaired flows on the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers) closely and without rancor. But now it is time to get angry. I was ready to accept your Christmastime scheduling of hearings on the (state’s) plan because I knew there would be a tremendous community response. I did not support the oft-stated contention that it was set up to minimize our community’s contributions to the discussion. But I was wrong.

The hundreds of witnesses, the thousands of letters and petitions have all been dismissed by your board.

Our Merced Irrigation District submitted a fair and balanced proposal. You did not counter it, but simply rejected it.

You have not engaged in anything remotely like good faith negotiations. There is no way you can justify annually removing upwards of 300,000 acre feet of water from our rivers, stored in reservoirs built solely by local rate payers, not state or federal, when you admit your plan will not restore fish without several other actions also occurring. And then you refuse to become advocates of the predator suppression and habitat restoration you say is needed (to restore) the fisheries.

We know that millions of salmon smolts are grown in the hatchery on the Merced River. They are then trucked and released at a point where the (San Francisco) Bay meets the Pacific Ocean, because that is the only way they can survive the onslaught of predators awaiting them in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Time and time again at the hearings you interrupted testimony when people asked questions about the California WaterFix, which include a pair of tunnels beneath the Delta. You claimed it was an unrelated issue, even though the water take corresponds to the water needed to keep the Delta salt free once the tunnels are operational. You still have not fully explained what you must believe is simply a mere coincidence.

Your plan does nothing for fish on our rivers. It does a lot for Los Angeles.

However, it will destroy the Central Valley economy, environment and quality of life.

You are creating an economic cesspool in what is already a significantly challenged area. You are doing irreparable harm to thousands of people.

Don’t do it.

The promise of California used to be golden and green. Restore it, don’t kill it.

Brian Raymond is a member of the Atwater City Council. He wrote submitted this letter as a comment on the State Water Resources Control Board’s plan to require more water for environmental purposes from the three main tributaries to the San Joaquin River. The comment period closed July 27.