Stanislaus County will pay $90,000 for study on economic impacts of river plan

Stanislaus County leaders authorized $90,000 on Tuesday to pay for an economic study on a contested state plan that would keep more water in rivers for fisheries.

For three years, the State Water Board has continued work on a proposal that would dedicate 35 percent of flows in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers for fish and wildlife.

Local officials and water districts fear that would devastate agriculture in Stanislaus County. They joined other agencies in taking issue with the plan at a two-day hearing in Sacramento in March 2013.

The state could release an updated proposal this month, giving affected agencies 60 days to comment. The State Water Board could approve a final decision on the unimpaired river flows before the end of the year.

The county will hire Stratecon Inc. of Southern California to prepare an economic analysis on “the adverse impacts” that would occur in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The strategic planning and economics firm specializes in water issues in California and other western states.

A report for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting says the county talked with a number of consulting firms, but Stratecon was the only firm able to do the study on short notice.

Supervisor Terry Withrow predicted that land will be fallowed if there is less water for the county. That will lead to lower property values and less tax revenue available to pay for vital county services.

Withrow said he did not know when the state would implement the river flows after the final environmental documents are completed.

County supervisors approved the $90,000 for the economic analysis under a consent item.

Supervisors also heard a presentation on a marketing promotion for county parks and approved the public health report for 2016.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16

Board of Supervisors Watch

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors also took the following action Tuesday:

  • Approved a federal waiver for Behavioral Health and Recovery Services to provide substance-abuse treatment options.
  • Approved agreements with the KaBoom nonprofit group, Police Activities League and Manos Unidas to build a playground at Fairview Park.