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Forum near Tulloch will explore river flows

Critics of boosting river flows for fish will gather Saturday near Lake Tulloch, which is at risk of emptying this summer because of drought.

The speakers will include Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, who on Thursday introduced a bill that would suspend reservoir releases aimed at keeping water cool for salmon and other fish.

The event, the Water Crisis Forum, happens amid a now 4-year-old drought that has reduced water supplies for many farmers and strained rivers that support fish and other life.

Tulloch is part of the storage for the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts. Their managers have raised the possibility that the reservoir might be drained, prompting protest from owners of waterfront homes.

That might not happen after all, thanks to a tentative agreement that would involve releasing water instead from the deeper, colder New Melones Reservoir.

Jack Cox of the Lake Tulloch Alliance, which is sponsoring the forum, said in a news release that a longer-term threat remains.

“This environmental policy threatens agriculture in the Valley and communities throughout the Sierra foothills and will also impact higher mountain communities by decreasing tourism,” he said.

“These releases will effectively waste enough water to supply the cities of Modesto and Stockton combined for one year while removing a valuable storage of water that may be needed in the future if the drought continues in 2015-2016. This is bad public policy.”

McClintock, whose district includes the central Sierra Nevada, aims to deal with the issue with House Resolution 1668, the Save Our Water Act.

“This bill incorporates language that will stop the appalling practice of sacrificing tens of thousands of acre-feet of water for the comfort of fish when the human population is in immense peril,” he said in a statement.

The event will start with a scientific presentation by fishery consultant Doug Demko. He is president of Fishbio, which is based in Chico and has an Oakdale office.

Another lawmaker representing the central Sierra, state Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, will take part in the forum. SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields and OID board member Frank Clark also will be on hand, as will Tuolumne County Supervisor Karl Rodefer.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

AT A GLANCE

What: Water Crisis Forum

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Black Creek Center, Copper Cove Drive and Black Creek Drive, Copperopolis

More information: www.laketulloch.org

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