Peter Drekmeier, in his role as Policy Director for the Tuolumne River Trust, expressed his opinions on water and agriculture in a column published in The Sacramento Bee.
The column provides false information to justify misguided recommendations and conclusions.
The big lie has to do with the application of the public trust doctrine as regards to water. Drekmeier claims that under this doctrine all water belongs to the people and can be allocated by the state.
He says, “The state should take a serious look at how our water is allocated.”
The truth is that the public trust doctrine sits alongside a detailed and comprehensive system of water rights and water rights law. The state has to respect water rights and state and federal laws in considering how to regulate water.
Drekmeier is correct that the State Water Resources Control Board has proposed increasing unimpaired water flows on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Drekmeier claims the increased flow recommendation is a “modest” amount.
In fact, the recommendation would give State Water Board bureaucrats the right to confiscate 40 percent of the unimpaired flow of these rivers from February to June each year. Water agencies, cities, counties, businesses, farmers and local citizens threatened by the proposal have vigorously objected to it as unjustified, unfair and illegal.
If it isn’t substantially changed, Modesto Irrigation District and other agencies will be going to court to protect the drinking-water supply of Modesto and water for farming.
The state believes more water will increase the number of salmon in the rivers. Their own estimates suggest the increase will be around 1,100 salmon each year.
MID together with our partner Turlock Irrigation District is proposing to spend more than $150 million to improve salmon habitat on the Tuolumne River and for other environmental and recreational improvements. In our Tuolumne River Management Plan we have proposed additional flow as well as these measures, which our studies show will result in many more salmon on the Tuolumne than the state proposal.
Drekmeier objects to the fact that California farmers and food processors export agricultural products and food to other countries. Apparently he sees no economic benefit to the hundreds of thousands of people employed in agricultural production and processing relating to exports.
He recommends the legislature “adopt a fee on water used to grow export crops.” How does Drekmeier propose to determine which tomatoes are grown for domestic consumption vs. export? How will he know if chardonnay grapes will be made into wine consumed locally or on another continent?
Should the state impose a fee on water used to manufacture semiconductors and other products that are exported from California?
Does Drekmeier understand and appreciate the benefits of free trade and free markets?
Before pitting our local economy against the needs of the environment, we encourage Drekmeier and others to thoroughly review our Tuolumne River Management Plan. This Plan is a comprehensive package of interrelated measures, based on the best-available science that includes balanced solutions that benefit both the environment and the long-term prosperity of our region.
It’s balanced. It’s sustainable. And most importantly, it’s achievable. For more details on the Tuolumne River Management Plan, go to www.tuolumnerivermanagementplan.com.
Submitted by members of the Modesto Irrigation District board of directors: Nick Blom, president; Jake Wenger, vice president; John Mensinger; Larry Byrd; Paul Campbell.
The MID Board
This op-ed was written by members of the Modesto Irrigation District board of directors:
Nick Blom, president
Jake Wenger, vice president