Bay Delta Water Plan SED: Next Steps
The State Water Resources Control Board closed the public comment period on its Bay Delta Plan SED and its poised to make a final decision in the coming months.
MID has provided hundreds of pages of comments and analysis.
The Bay Delta Water Plan SED intends to take water from storage in local Lake McClure and send it north to the Bay Delta. The water diversion would impact local drinking water quality and quantity, cost the Merced area up to about 1,000 jobs and decrease local agriculture production.
More than 600 residents, farmers, and local elected officials turned out for a State Water Board hearing in Merced in December to share their concerns and discuss flaws with the Bay Delta plan and its impacts to the local community. (To read more in the Merced Sun-Star, please click here.)
Merced Irrigation District has promoted the the Merced River S.A.F.E. Plan as a better and more logical means of improving the survivability of salmon, the purported goal of the State’s Bay Delta Plan. Rather than simply release more water, the S.A.F.E. Plan would restore more than five miles of river habitat in the Snelling area, address local predation by non-native bass, modernize the Merced River salmon hatchery, and provide increased Merced River flows at times based on science and known migration times for salmon. While MID is promoting the Merced River S.A.F.E. Plan, MID’s Board members and managers have made it clear to the State Water Board that MID will take all possible actions to protect the District’s water rights if a compromise cannot be reached.
Merced River S.A.F.E Plan
Agriculture is the leading industry and employer in our community. For decades our local farmers have depended on water derived from the Merced River. As we have long said, few care more about the land and water than those whose livelihood depend on them.
On September 15, 2016, the State Water Board released the long-anticipated Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update, or SED. The plan calls for significant diversions of Merced River water away from storage in Lake McClure and sends it north toward the San Francisco Bay Delta. The new water diversion away from MID is for the purported benefit of salmon and protection of water quality for south-Delta farmers and communities.
In direct response to the state plan, MID is proposing a comprehensive alternative proposal aimed directly at supporting salmon, agriculture, local water quality and the environment. The state’s plan is simply unacceptable: without an alternative comprehensive approach solution – which recognizes the importance of our local water source and agriculture – years of regulatory and legal challenges are sure to ensue.
The Merced River S.A.F.E. Plan (Salmon, Agriculture, Flows and Environment) is based on the best possible science related to the Merced River. It relies heavily on studies that were undertaken as part of MID’s federal relicensing for New Exchequer Hydroelectric Project. The S.A.F.E. Plan would serve as an alternative approach to furthering the State’s Bay Delta goals while still providing protection and certainty to our community’s water supply and water quality. To learn more about the S.A.F.E. Plan, click here. The S.A.F.E. Plan website contains letter templates and other crucial information to ensure your voice is heard by Sacramento environmental regulators who are tasked with implementing the State Bay Delta Water Plan. To write a letter now using the template, please click here.
Under the State’s Bay Delta Plan, preliminary analysis shows MID would experience water shortages from Lake McClure nearly half of the time. Under current conditions, MID experiences water shortages approximately 10 percent of the time. This loss of our local water supply would have devastating impacts to our community:
- Up to $231 million in local economic losses and up to 1,000 lost jobs.
- Lost groundwater recharge
- Decreased groundwater quantity and quality.
- Local environmental impacts resulting from warmer water, and less of it, flowing through local streams and waterways.
- Increased groundwater pumping.
- Continued challenges to salmon spawning, rearing and survival.
MID has closely followed the development of the State Bay Delta Plan for years. This includes completion of a reduced water economic analysis. We are prepared to fight tooth and nail to protect our 2,200 growers’ water rights. However, we also believe there is a better way: too often environmental issues result in opposing sides retreating to their corners and decades of litigation. Before we revert to such an action, MID is offering an alternative that brings common sense and benefits for MID growers and other interested parties.
Under the S.A.F.E. Plan:
FLOWS – Flows on the Merced River would increase over current obligations. However, the increased flows would rely on sound science and be coupled with eco-system improvements and predation management. Appropriate flow releases would be made at times proven to benefit migratory salmon.
HABITAT RESTORATION – More than 5 miles of riparian and salmon-spawning and rearing habitat would be restored along the Merced River upstream of the Snelling community. This habitat was altered decades ago by large-scale aggressive dredge mining, which was not associated with MID or its activities.
INCREASED SALMON HATCHERY PRODUCTION — Merced ID, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other interested agencies would develop and implement a plan to modernize and expand the existing Merced River Salmon Hatchery to increase production and survival.
PREDATION MANAGEMENT – Under the S.A.F.E. Plan, a technical advisory committee, composed of MID and federal and state agencies, would oversee a comprehensive Merced River Salmonid Predator Management Plan. Key elements would include manually removing bass from the river, filling in bass spawning and rearing areas, many of which occur in isolated, off-channel ponds. All actions aimed at increasing salmonid survival will be considered. Coordination and cooperation with private property owners will be essential for this measure.
There is no question that more needs to be done for salmon. What’s questionable is the best and most fair approach. We believe that the Merced River S.A.F.E. Plan helps the State meet its goals while also protecting our local farming community. We urge you to help KEEP THE MERCED RIVER S.A.F.E. by writing letters and attending public meetings.
As this process unfolds, information will be found here on this webpage. You can also follow us on Facebook and sign up for announcements by clicking here.