Agriculture

SF gets its turn to critique river flow plan

A rainbow forms in the mist from water releases at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on the Tuolumne River in 2012. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs that city’s water system and provides wholesale supplies for parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties, gets about 85 percent of its water from the Tuolumne.
A rainbow forms in the mist from water releases at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on the Tuolumne River in 2012. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs that city’s water system and provides wholesale supplies for parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties, gets about 85 percent of its water from the Tuolumne. Modesto Bee file

Bay Area users of the Tuolumne River will get their chance Tuesday to weigh in on the state’s plan to increase stream flows.

A hearing in Sacramento will be the last in a series on the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal for the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers.

The board already has heard from hundreds of opponents, many of them farmers, at hearing sessions in Modesto, Merced and Stockton. Environmental and fishing groups made the case for even higher flows than the state proposed.

Tuesday’s agenda includes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which runs that city’s water system and provides wholesale supplies for parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties. About 85 percent of the water comes from the Tuolumne.

The managers oppose the state plan, which would reduce supplies by an estimated 14 percent in average years and 38 percent in “critically dry” years on the three rivers overall.

“We can’t conserve our way out of this,” said a guest column in the San Francisco Chronicle by PUC General Manager Harlan Kelly and Nicole Sandkulla, CEO and general manager of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. “Water is our lifeblood. The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy.”

The Tuolumne River Trust already has testified before the state board about the Bay Area water use. The group argued that demand has dropped thanks to conservation efforts and there is potential for more. It also noted that the region’s economy has boomed during this time.

San Francisco diverts its share of the Tuolumne far upstream of Don Pedro Reservoir, the main storage for the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts.

The state board will take public comment until March 17 and could make a final decision later in 2017.

Tuesday’s agenda includes scheduled presentations by other water suppliers, fishing groups, and state and federal agencies involved with the rivers. Members of the general public can speak for up to three minutes each.

John Holland: 209-578-2385

RIVER FLOW HEARING

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday

Where: California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, second floor, 1001 I St., Sacramento

More information: www.waterboards.ca.gov

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