Editorials

Tell the state it needs a better plan to share our water

The state of California knows its plans to send more water down our rivers into the Delta will cause a lot of pain. In the words of the board’s latest blueprint, it’s “unavoidable.”

That’s all: Unavoidable.

The state produced a 3,100-page document describing a plan to save salmon – available in virtually every fish restaurant in America and anything but endangered. In all those pages, not a word about mitigating human pain, or easing the economic catastrophe the state is about to wreak.

It’s unavoidable.

It’s also unacceptable.

On Tuesday, we can deliver that message to the State Water Resources Control Board – five people appointed by the governor – in person.

Rarely does The Bee feel compelled to make a front-page editorial statement. This is one of those times. The water board will conduct the third of four hearings, this one at Modesto Centre Plaza starting at 9 a.m. Four hundred attended the first meeting in Stockton, 600-plus were in Merced. On Tuesday, the board should hear from hundreds more, from all walks of life – not just farmers.

We know farmers get a bad rap. They complain – it’s too hot, too dry, too wet, prices too low. And, too, many expect to get all the water they want for almost nothing, just because they always have.

But we also know they provide thousands of jobs in our communities and grow products consumed worldwide. We know they started 130 years ago building the dams and canals – without help from state or federal governments – that turned a virtual desert into a Garden of Eden. We know they care deeply about the rivers that sustain them. We’ve never heard a farmer complain about the millions spent by irrigation districts on environmental projects. Many put on rubber boots and go into the rivers to help.

Yes, our rivers desperately need help. And most of us are willing to share the water. But we want to see a plan with offramps for drought, accountability, science that makes sense, and time frames that allow farmers to adjust without facing ruination.

The water board is going to hear from many people Tuesday, just as it did Friday and Monday. Every person who speaks represents thousands of workers in hospitals, schools and factories. If the state’s plan is implemented, all will feel “unavoidable” pain.

We believe it can be avoided. We believe it must.

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