Statement by Assemblymember Adam C. Gray to the State Water Resources

January 1, 2016 - - Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) issued the following statement to the Water Resources Control Board during the final public hearing to approve an amendment to the Bay-Delta Plan which would increase minimum environmental flows from the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers by 100%:

“The proposal before you today contains so many oversights and error and is so substantially flawed that I cannot possibly do every issue justice in the short time I have today.

Instead I will offer brief comments and submit a lengthy letter detailing the problems in full.

These hearings have offered a very public forum to display the enormous disconnect that exists between protecting San Joaquin Valley water supplies, environmental goals for fish populations, and what your plan actually proposes.

Environmental groups criticized this plan at the first Sacramento hearing for failing to demonstrate any legitimate benefit to salmon populations and asked that the plan incorporate nonflow measures without which they believe ecological goals cannot be achieved.

Agricultural interests have leveled the same criticism that, without nonflow measures, the proposal before you today simply wastes precious water without any discernable benefit.

You also heard from irrigation districts, as well as local city and county officials, who explained in great detail that the proposal will jeopardize the drinking water supplies of 1.5 million people in one the most disadvantaged areas of the state where 1 in 4 live in poverty and where unemployment consistently remains 5 points above the rest of the state.

In fact, the areas you have put on the chopping block face significant challenges beyond poverty – challenges like being the largest contiguous health professional shortage area in California, where life expectancy and educational attainment is among the lowest in the state, while violent crime rates, air pollution, and premature deaths are among the highest.

We disagree about the number of job losses this plan will cause as well as how severe the economic impacts will be – although it must be pointed out that while the SED predicts removing 300,000 acre-feet of water from the Northern San Joaquin Valley will cost just $68 million, your own economist working on the Delta Tunnels project predicts every 100,000 acre-feet of water has a total economic value of $1.4 billion.

The only source of consistent agreement throughout these hearings has been that all parties prefer the more immediate and enduring option of reaching voluntary settlements.

Unfortunately, because of your staff’s refusal to engage in discussions during the drafting of this report, failure to respond to comments submitted on the prior version, and the disingenuous manipulation of the facts contained in this latest proposal, there is strong and justified belief that you and your staff have not acted in good faith.

The obligation to restore confidence that legitimate settlements can be reached through negotiations is squarely on your shoulders.

There are far too many flaws contained in the current report for it to be considered a viable starting point.

My recommendation is that you call a mulligan – send this report back to your staff and your consultants with a directive to start over.

Quite frankly, the only other option is to spend years bitterly fighting this out in court.”