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

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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  • Kevin Flora
    July 20, 2018, 7:35 pm

    Are you trying to destroy the economy of Stanislaus county by demanding more flows? Decreasing water for agriculture will only further damage our economy here in Stanislaus county. We are basically the Appalachian region of the west. Why no concern for this impact on our economy?

  • June Mills
    August 5, 2018, 8:21 pm

    In Denham’s late July radio town hall he spoke of not allowing our valley to be depleted of water by taking 40% of the three rivers that allow the farmers to provide food for the state. As I understand the situation the Ca water board wants that water flow for the salmon and to run through the delta to keep it viable when the tunnels are in place to send the Sacramento and rivers north to keep the southern California water users wet. Our rivers would then go in the ocean? His amendments would keep this from happening? As a member of this valley for life I disagree strongly with the state plan. First the fish. It has been discovered that the fish would rather navigate slower
    water than the rush of the released water and efforts to help them is ongoing . The young fish that try to return to the Pacific Ocean are being eaten by the non native bass. Those that escape that fate are being sucked into the system and destroyed thus we have fewer returning each year
    Now the farmers. There are large nut farmers as there has always been. But there are also small farms that have been family run for generations. The acquifers(water table underground) are already low and have been made much lower by the lack of foresight by the Stanislaus Co in approving as many large bore wells in the foothills east of the valley, our watershed. These wells were granted to venture farmers who planted thousands of acres of water hungery almonds in the foothills as the prices for nuts increased becauce of the foreign sales. People, both residents and farms, lost their water. The valley wells were dry. Some were able to lower the wells after waiting for overbooked well drillers. Water tables can be increased gradually by flood irrigation of orchards, but farmers are being urged to use sprinkle irrigation. The spokeswoman who last week addressed the valley water loss suggested changing crops. Go back to dry farming.I neglected to mention that the
    Opportunists who planted the trees in the foothills displacing the native flora and animals, will be hit by the tariff of China and India as will the small family farmers. I cannot furnish an easy solution but I know it is not a matter of sharing water equally as the Sierra club suggests. Despite my being a member, I don’t think it has been understood that the proposed water plan will reduce the production of almonds, walnuts, peaches and other tree fruit, dairy products, grapes, both table and wine (We are Galleo’ s home), strawberries and other field crops. It rains south of the San Joaquin valley too!
    LA and the greater area was built in the desert and shows no sign of slowing down it’s population increase. There Needs to be water storage south of here. It will not solve the problem but communities could start being responsible for water storage by building large metal rain catchers and maintain them until they need to replenish their water flow. I live in a town that has two and a smaller town has one.We also have very strict rules on water usage and pay fines for going over our quota. Is this bring done in the south? Bottom line a way has to be found to save agricultural land and the living in the central valley