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Environmental Coalition Sends Clear Message to Secretary Zinke and Representative Denham: Hands off State Water Rights and Delta Flows!

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MODESTO, CA – Today, an environmental coalition comprised of Restore the Delta, Sierra Club, Friends of the River, and Save California Salmon held a press conference outside of Representative Jeff Denham’s (R-Turlock) Modesto office in response to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to Denham’s district to discuss Valley water rights and California water infrastructure projects.

To watch the press conference via Facebook Live, click here.

The coalition criticized Denham for introducing yet another provision to the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 6147)—a bill that has received scrutiny from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala Harris, and California Secretary for Natural Resources, John Laird due to riders respectively written by Congressman Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and Congressman David Valadao (R-Hanford) that seek to bypass state and federal law by banning judicial review on the Delta tunnels project, the State Water Project, and the Central Valley Project.

Representative Denham’s recent addition to the Interior spending bill aims to curtail ample flows through San Joaquin Rivers and its tributaries to the San Francisco Bay-Delta in favor of big corporate almond growers, despite the State Water Board’s recent recommendation for increased San Joaquin River flow as part of the Bay-Delta Plan.

Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said,
“Representative Denham says that he is against the Delta tunnels, however his recent provision to the Interior spending bill that attempts to increase water diversions for the east side of his district—thereby worsening water quality for Delta farmers and residents living at the west end (Tracy and Manteca)—suggests that he does not genuinely care about the Delta’s people or ecosystem. He is favoring one part of his district over the other.
“We have legitimate reason to believe that these three riders individually introduced by Congressmen Calvert, Valadao, and Denham are tied together as a deliberate attempt to circumvent state water rights law and protections for the Bay-Delta estuary, clearing a path for the twin tunnels to be built and the eventual privatization of water. Congressman Denham is in a perfect position to bring people to the table to solve the challenges of the overallocation of water for the San Joaquin River system, but instead is enlisting the Trump Administration to help gut water quality and quantity protections for the San Francisco Bay-Delta.”

Tribal Water Organizer with Save California Salmon, Morning Star Gali said,
“California’s iconic salmon are facing extinction due to bad water management and waste. Salmon have been part of California’s economy and culture long before its official statehood. The Trump Administration’s meddling in California’s state rights threatens our economies, jobs, and livelihoods. It also threatens the rights of native people, who are the real senior water rights holders, and are leading the effort to restore California’s rivers for all people.”

Ron Stork, Senior Policy Advocate for Friends of the River said,
“Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the long tradition in western water that the states were in control of their state waters, not the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Apparently, Representative Denham didn’t get the message.”

Co-Chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, Sonia Diermayer said,
“California’s water resources must be shared equitably among all its people and its natural environment. We will not stand by and watch as Representative Denham, along with other congressional Republicans and the Trump administration impose federal controls over California water rights and infrastructure that would benefit a few and harm many.”

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