Go to the rally, but keep politics out

More than 1,200 people came to Modesto Centre Plaza to confront the State Water Resources Control Board in 2016. Now the venue has moved to the state capitol.
More than 1,200 people came to Modesto Centre Plaza to confront the State Water Resources Control Board in 2016. Now the venue has moved to the state capitol. jlee@modbee.com

For the sake of our region, it’s important that people let state legislators and the State Water Resources Control Board know that we won’t sit back and let them just take our water rights.

The easiest way to do that will be to show up on the State Capitol steps in Sacramento on Monday at noon. Might be the most fun, too.

Thanks to sympathetic school administrators in Merced County, the Atwater High School band is planning to attend. So will dozens (if not hundreds) of FFA members from across the region. The farm bureaus from Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties are organizing buses, free of charge, to take people up 99. Farmers from as far away as Tulare County and Redding are planning to show their support.

Among the hundreds expected will be a handful of elected representatives and those hoping to be elected. That’s appropriate.

But it brings up a potential sore point. This should not – must not – turn into a typical, political, red-vs.-blue event. Leave your politics at home, if you’re planning to attend. No politicking.

“Too many people try to make this a political argument,” said Assemblyman Adam Gray, who represents Merced and part of Stanislaus counties. “Well, I represent both Republicans and Democrats. ... This is not a partisan issue. This is a community issue. We’re going to have the whole community up here.

“We’re not going to stand by – Republican or Democrats – and watch you decimate our community. I’m going to continue to be a voice for not allowing this to become a partisan issue. It needs to be about doing what’s right. … The state can’t just come in and put in a plan that they know won’t work.”

Michael Frantz, a Turlock Irrigation District board member, agreed.

“I’ve been so impressed and so grateful that this issue has transcended partisan politics, and I hope it stays that way,” said Frantz. “This issue is about the health of our communities, our livelihoods and our way of life. I hope it stays above the partisan fray.”

Why all excitement?

If you’ve been out of town for say a decade, you should realize the State Water Resources Control Board has decided it wants to double the amount of water flowing down the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers into the Delta. They say this will help salmon swim up the rivers when its time to spawn in winter, then exit the rivers when it’s time to head to the ocean in the Spring.

While area irrigation districts agree more needs to be done to help struggling salmon, they vehemently disagree with the state’s methods. Instead of working with the districts on river restoration and predator control – two proven methods of helping salmon – the state is simply demanding more water.

People around here, meanwhile, can’t help but notice the amount of water demanded aligns neatly with the amount of water Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels – aka, the $20 billion California WaterFix – will typically remove from the Delta. Hmm.

Oh, and science be damned.

“The fact that none of the volumes of site-specific science done by the districts and by the City and County of San Francisco was included in this supposed scientific document speaks to a one-sided approach,” said Frantz, “and a desire to reach a pre-stated goal through non-scientific means.

“We’ve got $25 million in science, and you’re saying none of it is right? That defies logic.”

We think it’s more fun to defy expectations. Anyone who has the time, should plan to visit the capitol on Monday. We hear the music will be fantastic.