The Turlock Irrigation District is shouting from the proverbial rooftops about how devastating the new State Water Resources Control Board proposal would be to residents of the Valley.
The water board's proposal, which disregards historic water rights of local irrigation districts, would force local districts to give over 35 percent of unimpaired flows from Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers in order to preserve the Chinook salmon fish. That 35 percent would result in a deep loss of water supply, which in turn could lead to drops in agricultural commodities and the Valley economy.
"The proposal presents problems for everyone in our region, not just farmers," said TID spokesperson Herb Smart. "Ag income will drop in dry years, which hurts the region's economy in several ways, causing job losses. Hydropower operations become less efficient and delivering power becomes more costly, which will be to the detriment of electric customers.
"To make up for hydropower generation losses, power will need to be generated at or purchased from carbon-producing generation sources, which deals a setback to renewable energy. More groundwater will be pumped to supplement the lack of surface water, which poses big problems for providers of safe drinking water."
TID has launched a comprehensive outreach effort to inform as many people as they can to fight the proposal. TID has contacted customers, farmers, city and county officials, local, regional and national elected officials, and commercial and industrial businesses since the proposal was first brought up at a TID board meeting by the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority.
Though the State Water Resources Control Board will be taking public input before enacting the regulation, the amount of time to get the word out has been cut short, says TID Director of Water Resources and Regulatory Affairs Steve Boyd. Originally, the hearing was scheduled for today to Friday but changes have occurred to the original schedule just days before the hearing, and are currently pending.
"Our presentation was going to be on Friday, and the public would have a chance to speak. Now they are limiting the time to just two days, Wednesday (today) and Thursday only," said Boyd. "It is a state hearing and a state process. We don't have control over how they conduct the operation. It puts the public in a difficult position, and I believe there are people who want to be a part of the process and show up at the appropriate time."
TID has also been working with the Stanislaus Farm Bureau to provide transportation for those wishing to give their opinion at the hearing. Though presence speaks volumes, there is a way to get involved without having to leave to home.
"Community participation has always been a pillar of effective and transparent governance," said Smart. "The fastest and most effective way people can speak volumes is by submitting a letter to the State Water Board opposing this devastating proposal before March 29."
The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. today in the Coastal Hearing Room, Joe Serna, Jr./Cal EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, Sacramento. A live webcast of the hearing will be available online at http://www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/