It probably did him no political favors, but when Felicia Marcus saw Michael Frantz on the stage following the water summit sponsored by the city of Modesto and The Modesto Bee in July, she gave him a big hug. Marcus chairs the State Water Resources Control Board, the agency that wants more water left in the Tuolumne River for the sake of imperiled fish and environmental priorities. Frantz is a member of a board that stands to lose the most if Marcus’ agency gets its way.
That hug spoke volumes. In his four years on the Turlock Irrigation District board, Frantz has become one of the region’s most respected irrigation district representatives. When it comes to water policy, he has earned the respect of everyone from county supervisors to farmers to Marcus. He not only grasps the numbers, he gets the policy implications. Instead of spouting dogma, he listens to concerns and works to craft solutions.
Tracy Sunde, Frantz’s opponent, has done his homework and is well-versed on district issues. He has good thoughts on balancing the district’s power supplies and feels TID is a little behind in developing a green-power portfolio. Sunde is sympathetic to TID’s unionized employees, which is, in itself, not an issue. But relations between the union and the district have not always been good. Having a sympathetic director might help improve relations, but not at the risk of losing someone like Frantz.
As a board member, Frantz worked with Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth to get the water-treatment plant moving after decades of stagnation. When Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow put together an ad hoc committee to meet informally with environmental groups, he asked Frantz to be part of it. Those ad hoc meetings have since moved to Sacramento and are finally showing signs of making progress toward real solutions. While many environmental organizations still cling to the belief that increased flows are the only way to create healthier rivers, others recognize there might be other paths to the same goals.
The Bee firmly believes the irrigation districts must do all they can to defend the region’s water rights, but we also believe everyone has an obligation to keep those rivers healthy, clean and alive. Just running more water down the rivers won’t do that – something that’s been proven repeatedly elsewhere. We agree with Frantz that setting realistic goals for fish populations, stream improvements and verifiable environmental indicators is the best way to improve the health of the rivers.
That’s why we need Frantz at the table and on the TID board.