United States Files Lawsuit Against California State Water Resources Control Board for Failure to Comply With California Environmental Quality Act

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) filed civil actions, in both federal and state court, against the California State Water Resources Control Board for failing to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

On Dec. 12, 2018, the California State Water Resources Control Board (the Water Board) approved and adopted amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta Estuary (amended plan) and the related Substitute Environmental Document (SED).  According to the complaint, the Amended Plan fails to comply with CEQA and, once implemented, will impair DOI’s ability to operate the New Melones Dam consistent with Congressional directives for the project.

“The environmental analysis by the California State Water Resources Control Board hid the true impacts of their plan and could put substantial operational constraints on the Department of the Interior’s ability to effectively operate the New Melones Dam, which plays a critical role in flood control, irrigation, and power generation in the Sacramento region,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to advocate on behalf of our federal partners, especially when it comes to the proper application of federal and state environmental laws.”

Tam M. Doduc and Felicia Marcus voting to approve the Bay-Delta Plan; which fails to comply with CEQA, according to the DOJ.

“As stated in our letter to the Board on July 27, 2018, today’s lawsuit affirms the Bureau of Reclamation’s continued opposition to the State Water Board plan. The plan poses an unacceptable risk to Reclamation’s water storage and power generation capabilities at the New Melones Project in California and to local recreational opportunities,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “We pledge our commitment to environmentally and economically sound water management for California’s farms, families, business, and natural resources, and the American public as a whole.”

CEQA is a California statute which requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. The lawsuits filed today allege that in approving the amended plan and final SED, the Board failed to comply with the requirements of CEQA in a number of ways:

  • The Board failed to provide an accurate, stable and finite project description, because the Board analyzed a project materially different from the project described in the project description;
  • The Board improperly masked potential environmental impacts of the amended plan by including carryover storage targets and other reservoir controls – mitigation measures – in its impacts analysis and by not analyzing the impacts of the amended plan on the environment without reservoir controls; and
  • The Board failed to adequately analyze the impacts of the amended plan, including with respect to water temperature and related water quality conditions, and water supply.

As alleged in the lawsuits, the United States will be directly and substantially impacted by the Board’s actions, which impacts include, but are not limited to, operational constraints on the New Melones Project, loss of available surface water supplies for New Melones Project purposes, including Central Valley Project (CVP) water service contracts, and involuntary dedication of federal reservoir space for Board purposes.

New Melones Resevoir

The New Melones Dam is a federally owned Reclamation facility and a component of the federal CVP.  The Dam stores water under permits issued by the State of California, and delivers water from storage to irrigation and water districts under contracts entered into under federal reclamation law.  The lawsuits further allege that the new flow objectives will significantly reduce the amount of water available in New Melones reservoir for meeting congressionally authorized purposes of the New Melones Project, including irrigation, municipal and industrial purposes, power generation, and recreational opportunities at New Melones.  The reduced water available for New Melones Project purposes would also impair Reclamation’s delivery of water under contracts it presently holds with irrigation and water districts.

Department of Justice, Washington DC

The United States is represented in this action by Assistant Attorney General Clark and United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott; with lead counsel Stephen M. Macfarlane, Romney Philpott, Erika Norman of the Natural Resources Section; and Kelli L. Taylor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

Featured image by Bureau of Reclamation from New Melones Dam and Reservoir – New Melones Dam and Reservoir, CC BY 2.0, Link

Men walk to end sexual and domestic violence

The Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus is Calling all MEN, WOMEN, TEENS & CHILDREN of Stanislaus County! There is still time to register for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes presented by Mercedes-Benz of Modesto & Modesto Subaru Join us on April 6th downtown Modesto where hundreds of people gather to end domestic and sexual violence in our community. WE NEED YOU!

Register today at https://www.havenwalkamile.org/ and help make a difference in the life of a survivor. After-party hosted by Greens On Tenth See you there! 

#havenwcs #hope #SubaruLovesModesto #WAM19 #havenwalkamile #doyouacceptthechallenge

Executive Director of Merced Lao Family Community, Inc. Retires

Congratulations to long time community leader Houa Vang on the occasion of his retirement as Executive Director of Merced Lao Family Community, Inc. where he served for 32 years.

Merced Lao Family Community, Inc., was established in 1981 as a non-profit organization. In the early 1980’s, a large and unexpected number of Southeast Asian refugee’s influx in the Central Valley of California. The missions of MLFC are to help Asians and refugees in Merced County to assimilate to mainstream social, cultural, educational, health, economical, employment and self-sufficiency in America.

Thank you for your commitment, Houa Vang, and best wishes in the years to come!

CUSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegel has been named the “California Professor of Education of the Year” for 2019

This just in! 🗞️ Congratulations to Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegel, who has been named the California Professor of Education of the Year for 2019 in recognition of his work as an adjunct professor in the Educational Administration program at Stanislaus State!

The Association of California School Administrators notified Deputy Superintendent Dr. Denise Wickham late Friday, and this morning a group of fans stopped by Dr. Siegel’s office to surprise him with the news.

In the photo includes Dr. Daryl Camp, Superintendent of Riverbank Unified School District, CUSD Board member Valli Wigt, and CUSD administrators – many of whom are Dr. Siegel’s former students. Well deserved!

Carroll Fowler Elementary

La Rosa Elementary

Cesar Chavez Jr. High School

Ceres High School

Virginia Parks Elementary School

Argus and Endeavor High School

Added Strain Put On Our Water Supply

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.

Dorene D’Adamo

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

Featured image by Angela Sevin from On the Glen Aulin trail in Yosemite National Parkmountain majesty, CC BY 2.0, Link


On March 20th, Merced Union High School District FFA and 4H visited the Capitol for Ag Day 2019 which was hosted in partnership with California Women for Agriculture and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Ag Day is an annual event to recognize California’s agricultural community by showcasing the many crops and commodities that are produced in our state. It is also a day for farmers and ranchers to show their appreciation by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for agricultural education. More information can be found at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/agday

An open letter to Governor Newsom from the Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors

New Governor Brings Hope for a New Partnership on the Merced River

Jeff Marchini, Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors, Division 1

We, the Board of Directors of the Merced Irrigation District (MID), want to commend Governor Newsom for his recent changes in appointments to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). We believe those changes, together with other key appointments he has made in his administration, provide a new and much-needed opportunity to take a step back from the contentious last decade we have been living through in the water community. We have an opportunity to make real progress for Merced River salmon and water quality improvements in California.

Suzy Hultgren, Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors, Division 4

As part of starting fresh with this new opportunity, we want to provide the Governor and the new appointees throughout his administration with some facts as to why, from our perspective, MID was unable to reach a framework for settlement with the State prior to the SWRCB’s adoption of their Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan and SED. Quite simply – MID was being asked for far more water than any other party, on an equity or statistical basis, without any valid justification, support or documentation. The State never provided any documentation or data to support their water demands, and the state also never acknowledged the lack of equity in relation to our watershed yield and water storage ability compared to the settlements on other rivers and systems being embraced by the state negotiators.

Dave Long, Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors, Division 3

To use a phrase commonly used in negotiations by others – the state has been looking to test a hypothesis. The hypothesis proclaimed by CDFW since 2012 – “We won’t know what kind of natural production we’re going to get until we start increasing flows to see what natural production we can achieve.” Wait, what? The state wants our community to give up our senior water rights, storage rights and our community’s economy to “test a hypothesis?” And their hypothesis means the taking of water from our community – and sending it to the ocean with the faint hope that salmon numbers will improve? We can tell you there have been far more discussions about how much water can flow to the ocean than there has been about actual proven lifecycle management strategies to boost salmon populations. Some of the state’s leaders have ignored the realities of anything but their own science and dismissed the impacts our disadvantaged community will bear. These include impacts to our community’s drinking water quality and supply, as well as our local environment. How can MID negotiate the future of our region under these circumstances? It frankly cannot, and we will not.

Before we suggest a path forward, we need to stress we as a Board have an established track record of being realistic, progressive and pragmatic. If invited back to the settlement table, MID will continue to proactively negotiate in good faith, and we will support and embrace a settlement we and our biologists believe will address the core issues affecting salmon populations in our zone of influence, the lower Merced River. But we cannot defend a settlement plan that science and reality does not support. We cannot defend a plan that dumps precious water to the ocean without knowing exactly what benefits will be attained to finally solve the salmon issue. We are willing to do our part and then some, but we are not going to “settle” for the sake of settling.

Robert Leimer, Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors, Division 5

The path forward involves the following: First, the fundamental ideas behind and driving the SED must be set aside. We understand the time and money involved in developing that plan, but anyone who has worked on any significant public or private project understands there sometimes comes a point when a reset button is needed. The flaws in the SED, both factual and legal, are obvious and undeniable. As painful as it may seem, the time to push the reset button passed a long time ago, but it is not too late. Second, a realistic comprehensive flow and non-flow salmon lifecycle plan needs to be negotiated for a set term encompassing several salmon lifecycles. We have been and continue to be willing to discuss new and significant new water releases into the Merced River. We support new flows coupled with in-stream and side channel river restoration projects, predation control, and physical and operational salmon hatchery improvements. We also support peer-developed and reviewed monitoring by a science panel to include local and national fishery experts. Monitoring is vital to the success of combined flow and non-flow actions to support the development of the best modern science to inform and address salmon lifecycle issues.

Scott Koehn, Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors, Division 2

Opportunity has already been lost. If MID had been taken up on its offer to implement the S.A.F.E (Salmon, Agriculture, Flow and Environment) Plan years ago, significant new flows would have already been in the Merced River and vital habitat restoration projects would have been completed. The S.A.F.E Plan would have created habitat for thousands of new spawning sites (Redd’s), and floodplain rearing habitat would have been increased by 300%. But instead opponents of Merced ID have embraced the high-stakes game of ‘take it all.’ This is not productive.

We sincerely welcome this new opportunity to work with Governor Newsom, his staff, and the members of the SWRCB. We hold a genuine hope that the divisions that led us all to court can be set aside and new relationships can be built with the ultimate goal of improving salmon populations and their habitat. We are open to being a proactive part of a solution to some of the larger water quality issues that have plagued California for decades. But most importantly, we look forward to doing so in a way that protects our community, not destroys it.

Featured image by Kylir Horton from Eagle Mountain, Utah, United States – Merced River, CC BY 2.0, Link

Governmental Organization Committees Convene Joint Hearing on Emerging Wildfire Monitoring Technology

(Sacramento) – March 6th, 2019 – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, held a joint hearing today with Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Chair of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, to highlight the existing infrastructure and emerging technological advancements in the state’s efforts to monitor, respond to, and combat the devastating wildfires which have engulfed much of Northern and Southern California in recent years.

“The magnitude of the destruction caused by these wildfires is simply unimaginable,” said Gray. “Unfortunately, we expect to see larger and more catastrophic wildfires in the future, so we must embrace emerging technologies to reduce catastrophic risks to property, and more importantly, to save lives.”

Speakers at the hearing included representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services who provided an overview of existing wildlife monitoring technologies as well as scientists from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and CSU San Jose who highlighted cutting edge and emerging technological advancements.

“Existing technologies have proven inadequate to meet the needs of our first responders,” continued Gray. “Governor Newsom has demonstrated a commitment to address this issue head-on, and it is important for us to fully utilize the new technologies at our disposal. Drones. satellites, fire modeling, weather stations, and real-time monitors all have a role to play to keep the public and our firefighters safe. Advancements in communication technology also play an important role in coordinating local, state, and federal assets to maximize an effective response.”


SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D – Merced) has named Ms. Mireya Aguilar of Winton as the Woman of the Year from the 21st Assembly District. She was honored today during a ceremony at the State Capitol. Assemblymember Gray chose Aguilar for her exceptional track record of volunteerism and community service. In addition to her profession in migrant education with the Merced County Office of Education, Ms. Aguilar holds classes to assist applicants with the citizenship process and with English proficiency. She is also very involved in supporting cultural programs such as the Ballet Folklorico and this year serves as the president of the Nuevo Latino Rotary Club of Winton.

“Mireya’s community service through her regular employment is already noteworthy in and of itself,” said Gray. “Like a true leader, she has elected to go above and beyond in her volunteer efforts and commitment to service.”

Mireya Aguilar was born in 1966 in the city of Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. She arrived in the United States in 1989 and married her spouse Adolfo Aguilar on 1990. She received a B.A in Agriculture Business in 1989, which was certified through CSU Fresno in 2005. Mireya lives in the community of Winton with her two sons Abraham and Aaron, and daughter Ayerim. Assemblymember Gray also acknowledged Aguilar at 2019 Latina Women’s Luncheon hosted by the Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last week.

“Mireya is an incredible role model for the aspiring young leaders in our community,” continued Gray. “I am proud to honor her as the Woman of the Year for my district.”

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