The following is an excerpt from the article “Resource issues dominate annual California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference”.
Putting added strain on the water supply is the State Water Resources Control Board Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta. The first phase of the plan affects San Joaquin River tributaries—the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Adopted last December, the plan calls for redirecting 30 to 50 percent of “unimpaired flows” in the rivers, in the name of increasing fish populations.
State water board member Dorene D’Adamo, the only board member who voted against the plan’s adoption, updated the conference about the bay-delta plan and the status of voluntary agreements intended to replace the board’s order.
“We’re going to have water districts making very tough decisions,” D’Adamo said, adding that based on what she has seen so far, the voluntary agreements represent “a good deal, much better than prolonged fighting and uncertainty.”
Farmer Joe Scoto, a past president of the Merced County Farm Bureau, noted that the Merced Irrigation District produced a plan for the Merced River to provide certainty for the environment and the local water supply, but the plan was rejected. Now, the irrigation district is among a variety of entities—including CFBF—that have filed suit to block the board plan.
“I think that these agreements will be very positive for the agricultural community in terms of certainty going forward,” D’Adamo said.
“These voluntary agreements that you are putting out, if your staff does not compromise like we’re trying to compromise, it’s not going to work,” Scoto said. “We’re going to all end up in court and we’re going that way.”
“We need to be flexible and we need to figure out a way to make this work,” D’Adamo said.
Noting that voluntary agreements would require significant investment from water districts, Vereschagin asked, “What assurances do we have, after all of this money is spent, if we find it is not doing what we planned and there are less fish than we hoped for, will the state come back and say, ‘We need more money?'”
D’Adamo said, “There is a possibility that more could be asked of agriculture at a future point, which is why we have to be really serious when we put these agreements together.”
She noted that Gov. Newsom is directing the state to work on voluntary agreements, even though lawsuits have already been filed. By entering into voluntary agreements, D’Adamo said, projects that could be helpful for fish could be implemented right away, as opposed to litigation that would likely take years.
The water board must work on the plan’s implementation, which could include a water-rights proceeding or adjudication or other options she said would be very controversial.
D’Adamo also discussed the board’s plan to develop a revised state definition of wetlands, and procedures to protect them from dredge-and-fill activities.
Excerpt from article written by Christine Souza of Ag Alert http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=12824