River agreements stall amid focus on delta litigation

With state and federal administrations fighting in court about delta water operations—and with a pandemic and election year both underway—work has slowed on voluntary agreements meant to avoid severe cuts to northern San Joaquin Valley water supplies.

At issue is the first phase of a State Water Resources Control Board plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Adopted in 2018, the regulatory regime would require water users in San Joaquin River tributaries to leave 30% to 50% of unimpaired flows in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to benefit protected fish. Water users have pressed the state to pursue voluntary agreements that could achieve the same fisheries goals without the significant water-supply impacts.

California agency leaders say conversations on voluntary agreements continue, though slowly.

“Right now, we are in what has been a pause as far as implementing voluntary agreements,” California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot told the State Board of Food and Agriculture last month.

Early this year, state water and resource agencies released a framework for voluntary agreements among agencies and water users that rely on the San Joaquin River tributaries.

“We have to turn that framework into a legally enforceable agreement among a range of water users and third parties,” Crowfoot said, adding that the effort has become more challenging, given the dispute between state and federal governments over delta operations and how best to protect endangered species.

The two administrations have been in court regarding new federal biological opinions that determined the proposed long-term operations of the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project do not jeopardize continued existence of protected salmon and delta smelt. In response, the state issued an environmental permit for the SWP that could place its operation in conflict with that of the CVP.

California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said the effort to create voluntary agreements on delta tributaries has stalled in the meantime.

“We look at the voluntary agreements with so much hope, but now with some exasperation, because it’s a process that’s been hung up and the recent descent into litigation in the delta is not helpful,” Scheuring said. “We hope the state and the federal governments can reconcile delta operations, so that the Sacramento-San Joaquin system can go forward on a reasonable basis to find ways to distribute water under vested water rights, while doing good things for fish species.”

For the state’s part, Crowfoot said, “The goal, frankly, is to move beyond that legal process as quickly as possible to find a settlement with our federal partners on the biological opinions and to resolve legal disputes on our state permit. Settling out these legal issues will allow parties to get back to the table on the voluntary agreements.”

At a virtual meeting regarding the delta last week, state Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said the state continues to meet with tributary stakeholders.

“Specific to the incidental take permit and the voluntary agreements, there is a degree of potential interaction between those things, should the voluntary agreements be completed over the course of the next months or a year or so,” Nemeth said, adding that the state agency is “in communication with our federal colleagues around how we might bridge some differences between the biological opinions and the California ESA permit and the voluntary agreements.”

Speaking to the CFBF Board of Directors this spring, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said she would like “to see the state come to the table as far as looking for real long-term solutions,” and said state and federal agencies have continued to coordinate daily delta operations.

The Modesto Irrigation District, which with the Turlock Irrigation District owns the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project on the Tuolumne River, remains in discussions about voluntary agreements for the river, according to district spokeswoman Melissa Williams.

In addition, Williams reported progress in relicensing the facility through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which last week issued the final environmental impact statement for the project.

On the Merced River, the Merced Irrigation District concluded a years-long FERC process for the New Exchequer Dam this month.

Farm Bureau’s Scheuring noted that the FERC process gives government agencies and advocacy organizations additional opportunities to seek more water requirements or other concessions from reservoir operators. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state water board has qualified authority to review, condition and certify consistency of FERC relicensing decisions with state water quality law.

Should voluntary agreements on the San Joaquin tributaries eventually be reached, the process would include finalizing governance, policy and legal issues, and submitting a proposal to the state water board for review.

A second phase of the board’s bay-delta plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not yet been released.

California Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, said he and many stakeholders in his district, which includes Merced County and part of Stanislaus County, remain committed to finding voluntary agreements.

“Unfortunately, we’re not there yet,” Gray said, “and it seems like it’s been difficult to get people to the table in a meaningful way with the polarization and political posturing by both the state and federal government.”

Private water-rights attorney Tim O’Laughlin said he expects to have a better idea of progress for the voluntary agreements in two or three months.

“Right now, the agreements are just in limbo, hanging out there,” O’Laughlin said. “There are some preliminary discussions, but with COVID and litigation, they definitely got pushed back. They may get resurrected, but I just don’t see that any time soon.”

Article written by Christine Souza for the California Farm Bureau Federation.


A few months back I was asked to assist with an extremely special project: reuniting the family of Colonel Robert Lewis Howard, a Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War, with the Colonel’s medals, beret, and other belongings. This week, I received these photos, which were such a lovely surprise! 

Adam Gray – California Assembly-member for the 21st Assembly District

Colonel Robert Lewis Howard (July 11, 1939 – December 23, 2009) was a highly decorated United States Army Special Forces officer and Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War. He was wounded 14 times over 54 months of combat, was awarded the Medal of Honor, eight Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. He retired from the US Army the most highly decorated service member on active duty, after 36 years of service as a full colonel.

Mr. Hart owned a self-storage unit in Dos Palos, where Colonel Howard eventually placed many of his belongings. After several months had passed without receiving rent and unable to contact the Colonel or his family, Mr. Hart opened the storage unit and discovered the Colonel’s medals, beret, and many other items. Mr. Hart then found out the Colonel had passed away, and he was eventually able to reach the Colonel’s nephew (in Dos Palos) and the Colonel’s son (in Merced). They arranged for the return of most of the items, but Mr. Hart brought the beret to me and asked if I would have it framed, so he could present it to his son.

These photos are from the delivery of the beret.

State Budget Makes the Valley’s Dream of a UC Medical School a Reality

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement in response to the passage of the 2020 State Budget:

“Earlier this year, I said that a UC medical school in the Valley should be the legacy of this pandemic, not one of its victims. Today, that legacy became a reality. The 2020 State Budget provides $15 million per year every year to support a medical school at UCSF-Fresno and UC Merced. This represents the culmination of decades of tireless work and advocacy that will radically change the health care landscape in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Just as UC Merced has redefined who can go to college by enrolling more first-generation college students than any other campus in the UC system, this medical school will redefine who can be a doctor. It makes medical school a more realistic option for the thousands of Valley students who are qualified to become doctors but who cannot afford to move to places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Orange County.

“We know the best way to address the Valley’s shortage of medical providers is to recruit local students, train them close to home, and match them with local residencies. If we check all three of those boxes, they are nearly guaranteed to stay and practice medicine in the Valley. That dream scenario is no longer just a good idea. It is now something that will actually happen.

“When I requested that $1 million be included in the 2015 State Budget to study how to establish a UC medical school in the Valley, I could not have predicted we would be as far along as we are today. By leveraging the incredible resources already available at UCSF-Fresno and UC Merced, we found a path to a medical school in years instead of decades and for millions instead of billions.

“The incredibly talented faculty working at UCSF-Fresno are already graduating hundreds of medical residents every year. Very soon, they and their UC Merced counterparts will begin training our first wave of medical students who will make the promise of health care for all a reality.”

Assemblyman Gray Issues Call for Personal Protective Equipment and Blood Donations

(Merced) – To help meet the urgent need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the North Valley Labor Federation (NVLF), Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), and a bipartisan coalition of other Valley elected officials, are launching the “Central Valley PPE Initiative,” a centralized relief effort to collect medical supplies for first responders and health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. The tri-county effort encourages individuals, schools, and businesses to donate essential supplies, such as masks, protective eyewear, surgical gowns, and gloves.

“First responders and trained healthcare workers like nurses and respiratory therapists are critical to containing COVID-19,” said Tim Robertson, Executive Director of the NVLF. “This campaign will ensure they have the equipment they need to protect themselves and prevent further spread.”

“During times like this, we have a responsibility to support those risking their lives and their safety to protect our community,” said Gray. “At a time when many Americans have been told to stay home, our healthcare workers and first responders are showing up every single day to make sure patients receive the care, the support, and the services they need. These individuals are among the true heroes of this historic moment.”

The local effort is inspired by a nationwide campaign of the Service Employees International Union – United Health Workers (SEIU UHW) that has recently uncovered 39 million N95 masks for distribution. Assemblyman Gray is spearheading the drive in Merced County, and Rep. Harder is coordinating efforts in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is supporting the effort, including U.S. Representatives Costa and McNerney, State Senators Galgiani and Caballero, and State Assemblymembers Flora and Eggman.

The group will work to build public awareness of the need for supplies and assist in collecting supplies for distribution by county public health agencies based on capacity and need.

Items needed the most include (donated items must be new or unused):

  •  Masks (Especially N95 Respirators)
  • Eye Protection (Plastic Face Shields and Especially Non-Ventilated Goggles)
  • Surgical Gowns, Shoe Covers, and Caps (Disposable)
  • Surgical Gloves (Disposable)
  • Ventilators
  • Medical thermometers
  • Antibacterial cleaning wipes

Donations can be dropped off at any of the times and locations below. Pick-up is available for bulk donations from businesses or upon request for individuals who are unable to drop off their items. (Geographic restrictions may apply). To schedule a pickup, drop-off, or if you have any questions, you can email cv.ppe.drive@gmail.com or call or text (209) 259-3856

MERCED – Salvation Army Merced, 1440 W. 12th Street, Merced, Mon. through Thurs. from 9am to 1pm.

MODESTO – Crosspoint Community Church, 1325 12th Street, Modesto Tues. & Thurs. from 2pm to 4pm, and Sat. 1pm to 4pm.

TURLOCK – Monte Vista Chapel, 1619 E. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, Weds. from 1pm to 5pm, and Sat. from 10am to 2pm.

STOCKTON – Laborers Local 73, 3984 Cherokee Road, Stockton, Weds. & Fri. from 11am to 1pm.

Additionally, and to help meet the urgent need for blood donations, Assemblyman Adam Gray will host the Merced Community Blood Drive on April 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Italo-American Lodge at 1351 West 18th Street in Merced. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic began, some 2,700 blood drives across America have been canceled as schools, churches and other public spaces that have been shuttered. After listening to officials with the American Red Cross reiterate that these closures have resulted in the collection of roughly 86,000 fewer units of blood, Assemblyman Gray immediately reached out to the Red Cross.

All eligible individuals are invited to participate in the drive, but appointment slots are limited to maintain social distancing guidelines. To reserve a donation appointment, please call (800) 733-2767 or visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter “95340.” Any questions regarding your eligibility to donate blood can be answered by calling (866) 236-3276.

Honoring Women In Merced And Stanislaus County

Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2020 Latina Women's Award Luncheon

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the amendment which granted American women the right to vote and The Merced County Courthouse Museum has organized a fantastic exhibit spotlighting 40 admirable women from Merced County who, with courage and strength, led the effort for social, political, and gender equity. The exhibit will run from March 12 to June 14 at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

March is #WomensHistoryMonth, and the Legislature will celebrate the accomplishments of women through California on March 23 at the 2020 Women of the Year Ceremony. Here is a highlight of women in our community who are a change makers, fighters, and who is pave the way for future generations. #AD21CommunityProfiles

Odessa Johnson

Odessa Johnson has lived in Modesto for more than 50 years, and she has made countless contributions to our community that will live on forever. In 1967, she became the first African-American educator at Modesto High School, and eventually she rose to become Dean of Modesto Junior College, a Modesto City Schools Board Member, and a U.C. Regent. She is a civil rights leader who has dedicated her life to improving the world for future generations.

Captain Becky Hagen

Captain Becky Hagen began her career with the California Highway Patrol twenty years ago, but she made history when she became the first female commander of CHP – Merced Area in March 2018. Throughout her career, she has been assigned to several CHP area offices, but as commander of our area, one of her top priorities is driving down the death and collision rates on the county’s roads and highways. Captain Hagen has dedicated her to career to keeping Californians safe.

Alicia Rodriguez

Alicia Rodriguez has been a cherished volunteer in and member of Planada for more than twenty years. Each day, she works to provide a safe and welcoming space for local families and to increase access to community resources for those who would otherwise be without. Her work as with our the St Vincent de Paul- Planada chapter has strengthened community ties.

Faye Lane

Ms. Faye Lane has selflessly dedicated herself to shaping the lives of Ceres Unified School District students for decades, working for thirty-two years as a classified employee. She was elected to the School Board in 2007, and she continues to serve with distinction today.

Patty Castillo Davis

With accolades including opening for Dwight Yoakum, playing alongside Grand Old Opry performers, and singing at the Vatican, Ceres’s very own Patty Castillo Davis has made her mark in our community. In addition to her musical talents, she regularly serves the community by providing food, shelter, and clothing to those in need. Through her music, she creates a greater awareness for the arts while also highlighting social justice and gender inequities.

Kendall Wesenberg

Modesto’s very own USA Olympian, Kendall Wesenberg, competed in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Though she played a variety of sports growing up, she didn’t pursue the sport that would make her an Olympian until she was in college at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In addition to her Olympic showing, Kendall is the first American woman to win the European Cup for skeleton.

Sue Emanivong

A business owner, volunteer, and community organizer, Sue Emanivong is one of Merced’s hardest working residents. A first-generation Laotian whose parents immigrated from a refugee camp in the 1980s, and she is a lead organizers of the local Laotian New Year celebration. She’s also behind the summer Street Faire, Red Nose Day, Kid’s Day, and Back-to-School Supply Drive. Sue helps to unite our community and ensure a healthy, well-informed community.

Katrina K. Hoyer

Dr. Katrina K. Hoyer is an Assistant Professor and researcher at UC Merced (Ph.D. from UCLA) and is one of the leading immunologists studying the immune system’s response to Valley Fever — a disease which, until recently, has been little understood. Dr. Hoyer organized and hosted last year’s inaugural Valley Fever Summit at UC Merced and is the recipient of a major grant for Valley Fever research.

Martha Nateras

Livingston’s Martha Nateras is the founder and president of the Young Women’s Conference, a nonprofit organization which seeks to to empower, enrich, and inspire our world’s future, women leaders. She also works as a counselor at Livingston High School and is a local rotarian.

Necola Adams

Necola Adams, a native of Merced and known locally as “the Cookie Lady,” is a successful small business owner that has been enriching lives and creating gourmet cookies for over 20 years. Serving freshly made cookies at two-dozen Hollywood sitcom sets doesn’t scratch the value she provides to our community. Necola is also a tremendous community activist, the founder of the Merced County Nut Festival, an active League of Women Voters member, and much more.

Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Awards Women That Help Their Community

The Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held it’s 2020 Latina Women’s Luncheon. Congratulations to the awardees: Lillian Sanchez-Ramos, Nereida Ochoa-Jantz, Nicole Lopez, and Sylvia Ruano. Their hard work uplifts not only other women and Latinas, but the whole community!

Assemblymember Adam Gray Fighting To Close Central Valley Healthcare Worker Gap

Expanding insurance coverage is important, but if there are no doctors in your community then there still isn’t reliable access to health care. Assemblymember Adam Gray had a discussion with #CentralValley educators about maximizing efforts not only to build a local medical school, but also about how we can strengthen the healthcare workforce by expanding pipeline programs, residency slots, and loan forgiveness programs.

Adam Gray went before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee to advocate for eliminating educational debt (think, scholarship and loan repayment programs) for physicians, behaviorists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in under-served healthcare areas. Attempting to close the healthcare workforce gap.

In The District 3/6/2020

Friends of the Merced County Fair Dinner

Friends of the Merced County Fair Dinner

Friends of the Merced County Fair put on a charity dinner. The event allowed the community to gather and support the work The Merced County Fair does for the area.

Merced County Recieves State Funding

Merced County receives money to upgrade Houlihan park in Planada and Pioneer Park in Gustine. The money will be used for maintaining and upgrading the community facilities.

Merced County Courthouse Museum to Display Womens’ Exhibit

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the amendment which granted American women the right to vote. The Merced County Courthouse Museum has organized an exhibit spotlighting 40 admirable women from Merced County who, with courage and strength, led the effort for social, political, and gender equity. The exhibit will run from March 12 to June 14 at the Merced County Courthouse Museum. #WomensHistoryMonth

Golden Valley Health Center Opens New Location

Golden Valley Health Centers formally celebrated the opening of its ELEVENTH Modesto location. Dedicated providers like Golden Valley ensure that all individuals, regardless of one’s ability to pay, have access to high-quality, judgment-free, safe healthcare services.

Gray Joins Merced Seniors’ Luncheon

The Merced Senior Community Center invited Assemblymember Adam Gray to join for lunch. They reminisced and shared stories about living in Merced through the years.

In The District 2/21/2020

New Western Dental Building Opens In The Valley

New Healthcare Provider Opens Doors In Valley

Another healthcare provider opened its doors in the Valley. With more than 300 locations in California, Western Dental is the leading provider of Medi-Cal dental services in our state. Assemblymember Adam Gray’s team participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony with the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce at the company’s newest location in Los Banos. These clinics are an important part of the efforts to expand meaningful access to healthcare throughout the Valley.

Gray Introduces Legislation to Strengthen California’s Firefighting Mutual Aid System

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) has introduced Assembly Bill 3198 to establish a grant program for local fire departments participating in California’s firefighting mutual aid system.

For nearly seven decades, fire departments have been part of a “neighbor helping neighbor” system of mutual aid.  Under the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid System, local jurisdictions experiencing an emergency incident likely to exceed, or has exceeded, their ability to control it may request the outside assistance of other jurisdictions.  

“Unprecedented wildfires have undoubtedly strained California’s firefighting mutual aid system and we are all too familiar with reports of mutual aid requests for fire suppression going unfilled due to lack of available resources,” said Assemblymember Gray. “It is time to ensure local fire departments have the mutual aid resources they need to quickly deploy at the onset of an emergency incident.”  

“As Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, I listened to fire officials from across the state communicate their frustrations with mutual aid as we know it this past month,” said Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita). “Through their testimony, it was clear this system we’ve relied on for decades requires significant updates to accommodate resource shortfalls and more pernicious fires. I commend my colleague Assemblymember Adam Gray for recognizing the urgency in supporting our brave firefighters and first responders in their important, lifesaving work.”  

“The Administration and the Legislature have been very proactive in addressing the challenges posed by these catastrophic wildfires,” continued Assemblymember Gray. “Working together, we have made significant progress in deploying technology to detect fires earlier, prioritizing mitigation work, prepositioning resources during extreme weather, and establishing a Wildfire Threat Center to improve forecasts and enhance alerts and warnings.  This grant program will be an additional tool for our first responders to keep Californians safe during any type of disaster.”  

Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee, and Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, are coauthoring the bill.    

“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with the fire service, local governments, the Administration and my colleagues in the Legislature to refine this proposal to craft a grant program that best meets the needs of the firefighting mutual aid system,” concluded Assemblymember Gray.

In The District 2/14/2020

United Way Cuts Ribbon For Merced County's "Little Free Library"

United Way of Merced County’s Little Free Library’s Ribbon Cutting

The ribbon was cut for the opening of the United Way of Merced County‘s Little Free Library! Little Free Library book-sharing boxes play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books (and encouraging a love of reading!) in areas where books are scarce.

The ability to secure a good job is tied directly to one’s ability to read and process information. Book-sharing improves literacy rates, grows children’s imaginations, and puts books in the hands of those who may not be able to afford them.

Meeting With The Coalition For Medical Education

Assemblymember Adam Gray reported a successful meeting of the Coalition for Medical Education. California Governor Gavin Newsom pledged $15 million in ongoing funding to provide more doctors, strengthen the medical education partnership between UC Merced and UCSF Fresno, and increase access to health care in the Central Valley.

Recognizing Officer Lorenzo Beltran

Congratulations to Ceres Police Department‘s Officer Lorenzo Beltran, who has been recognized nationally for his phenomenal work as a school resource officer at Central Valley High. Thank you for your dedication to keeping the school, its students, and our community safe.

Inspiring The Next Generation of Leaders

Assemblymember Adam Gray spoke with Atwater High School seniors about his job as a legislator, the role of government, and the importance of voting.

In The District 2/07/2020

Campus Parkway Buildout Cutting Of The Ribbon

Orestimba High Tours Capitol

Fifty students from Orestimba High School are visited the Capitol to learn about the legislative process and to participate in a mock hearing. Assemblymembers gave the students a tour and thanked their educators for helping the next generation of leaders be civically engaged.

Assemblymember Gray Authors Bill To Fund Merced County Fair

Fairs are vital component of our communities, local economies, and statewide emergency management planning. Assemblymember Adam Gray partnered with The Merced County Fair in authoring a funding bill for the event.

Click Here for more information

2020 Primary Election

The 2020 Primary Election is a few weeks from today. Ballots have already been mailed in some counties throughout California. A few dates to keep track of:
🇺🇸 Last day to register to vote online: FEB. 18
🇺🇸 Last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot: FEB. 25
🇺🇸 Election Day: MARCH 3

Click Here for a guide to your California Ballot

Super Bowl

On Super Bowl Sunday, Assemblymember Adam Gray talked with many constituents about retired Niner greats. Sharing who are some of his favorite players, past and present.
🏈 PAST: Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Ronnie Lott
🏈 PRESENT: George Kittle and Deebo Samuel

Composite Squadron 50 New Facility

Under the leadership of Major Jon Domke, the cadet corps at Lt Col Arthur King Composite Squadron 50 has grown from 8 cadets to 35. They opened a new facility!

Campus Parkway Buildout

Back in 2017, Senator Anthony Cannella and Assemblymember Adam Gray worked across party lines and secured $500 million for local transportation projects like Campus Parkway. They recently celebrated two crucial steps in the Campus Parkway buildout (Phase II completion and Phase III groundbreaking), a project that means a great deal to Merced County.

Go to Top