Opinion Columns & Blogs

Harder vows to protect Valley’s water rights, way of life

Don Pedro Lake in Tuolumne County is pictured from Highway 132 on Tuesday April 3, 2018.
Don Pedro Lake in Tuolumne County is pictured from Highway 132 on Tuesday April 3, 2018. jlee@modbee.com

One-hundred seventy years ago, my great-great-grandfather crossed the U.S. to find a better life in California. He and his wife founded their peach farm in Manteca. Access to water to grow their crops was critical to providing for their family then. It’s just as critical today.

For farmers here in the Valley, water is not a partisan issue – it’s about economic self-determination and the difference between providing for your family or going without. For decades, Democrats and Republicans alike have worked together to protect our access to our water.

No matter what political party you belong to, we’ve always agreed that we will never solve our problems by piping our water to Southern California.

In recent years, however, politicians have haggled over our water crisis instead of working to solve it. Washington insiders like Jeff Denham have done nothing to actually ensure our access to our water – preferring to hold press conferences and send mailers promising to help protect our water and then turning around and voting to send it south.

I’m disappointed that Rep. Denham recently voted on a bill that would prohibit any lawsuits on the Delta Tunnels, providing that massive project with a clear path forward instead of protecting local farmers. His vote came merely days after he promised his constituents he would work to stop the tunnels.

The Central Valley deserves our fair share of water. The State Water Resources Control Board’s recent decision to dedicate 40 percent of unimpaired flows from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers imperils our economic livelihoods while doing nothing to help the environment. If this plan proceeds, our economy will lose billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. We need a strong advocate who will stand up to Sacramento and Washington and fight for us.

We have leaders in our communities who have provided viable alternatives. I support the Tuolumne River Management Plan put forth by the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. This plan relies on better science, better water reliability for the Valley and responsible habitat management.

My top priority in office will be to fight for the Valley’s long-term water security. That means fighting to stop the State Water Board from taking our water and working nonstop to prevent the Delta Tunnels from being built.

We need to do more to ensure the Valley has water in another 100 years. I will support projects that effectively manage our groundwater systems, like expanding the UC Davis’ groundwater recharge and banking project in Modesto.

I’ll support our local groundwater sustainability agencies and the plans they’ve developed. The treatment plant in the Modesto subbasin, which MID and the city of Modesto built decades ago, provides a great example of type of project we should be promoting.

And we must invest in water storage and build more water infrastructure so we can lessen the impact of droughts while protecting us from floods.

We need a leader in Congress willing to fight for our interests with honesty and integrity – and there’s nowhere we need that more than when we’re talking about the backbone of the Valley’s economy and identity.

Josh Harder is a candidate for Congressional District 10.