Editor’s note: Merced Irrigation District General Manager John Sweigard extended the following open invitation to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday:
“For years we have worked in good faith with the State Water Board, your secretaries and your staff. Despite our best efforts and backed by strong science on salmon and the Merced River, we have been unable to reach a settlement agreement that would protect our community’s water supply under the plan. Bay Delta water quality control.
“I would personally like to invite you to come to our community and experience firsthand the tremendous amount of work we have undertaken to support salmon on the Merced River, as well as the impacts the Bay Delta Plan would have on our communities already. disadvantaged.
“We believe there are still alternatives to the Bay Delta Plan that could benefit state goals while protecting our community’s water supply.”
McClure Lake is owned and operated by Merced Irrigation District. The reservoir is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It provides local water supply, flood control, hydroelectric generation, statewide electrical grid support, and water for the local environment and wildlife areas. Water from Lake McClure is crucial in helping to replenish local groundwater used by cities and provides water to farmers in eastern Merced County.
MID’s invitation to Governor Newsom follows a meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board on Dec. 8. During the meeting, a discussion ensued about the state’s plans to divert water from Lake McClure to the Bay Delta. Many organizations lobbied for the State Water Board to act quickly. Some speakers called on the State Water Board to begin diverting water from Lake McClure as early as the new year under emergency orders.
The plan will take up to half of eastern Merced County’s water supply from Lake McClure and send it north to the Bay Delta. From there, water can be exported to other farms and towns in the state.
As part of the State’s Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, every resident of Atwater, Merced, Livingston and surrounding areas will lose:
- Drinking water quality and their historical water supply.
- Hundreds of Household Support Jobs and Hundreds of Millions in Local
- Recreation at McClure and McSwain Lakes including camping, fishing, boating and more.
- Local environmental benefits, including water flowing into local streams, such as Bear Creek,
After the Dec. 8 meeting, MID’s Sweigard called on all residents of Atwater, Merced, Livingston and surrounding communities to write to Governor Newsom and the State Water Board.
“This is absolutely as real as it gets. The Governor and the State Water Board need to hear from every resident,” Sweigard said.
“Lake McClure was not built by the state or the federal government,” he added. “Your community built and paid for this reservoir a century ago. MID has responsibly managed this resource to maximize local water supply, flood control, environmental benefits and recreation. If the state succeeds, half of your water supply will be lost forever.
The State Water Board is made up of five unelected members who are appointed by the Governor of California. State Water Board staff proposed the Bay Delta Water Plan several years ago with the supposed goal of improving salmon populations and improving water quality in the Bay Delta.
For years, the MID has advocated for support for salmon on the Merced River, but said the water quality issues in the Bay Delta were not created by residents in the county’s east from Merced.
“It is not our community that illegally diverts water from the delta, dumps pollution into it, or exports fresh water from it,” Sweigard said. “Our community shouldn’t bear the brunt of fixing problems it didn’t cause, located across three counties and over a hundred miles away.”
Backed by tens of millions of dollars in environmental science on the Merced River, MID has repeatedly told the State Water Board that simply removing water from eastern Merced County will not support salmon . Most of the historical and natural floodplain habitat around the Bay Delta has been carved into towns and farms. Habitat for spawning and rearing along key sections of the Merced River was destroyed decades ago by invasive mechanical mining – which was sanctioned by the state, not the MID.
MID has championed and helped achieve important environmental projects to restore Merced River salmon habitat in eastern Merced County. MID was also among the first water providers in the state to offer an alternative settlement agreement to support salmon on the Merced River. Governor Brown and Newsom had both said they welcomed “voluntary settlement agreements” with California water suppliers who are affected by the Bay Delta plan.
In 2016, MID proposed the SAFE Plan (Salmon, Agriculture, Flows and Environment). MID’s alternative proposal proposed to immediately increase water flows in the Merced River during key salmon life cycle events. The MID SAFE plan also called for the restoration of more than five miles of salmon habitat on the Merced River; discusses predation of juvenile salmon by non-native bass; and invested in the Merced River Salmon Hatchery.
State environmental leaders and the State Water Board rejected the MID plan saying it did not provide enough water. In 2018, the Council adopted a final version of the Bay Delta Plan. Then, in October of this year, state officials said they were done with their efforts to reach settlement agreements and were moving forward with the implementation of the Bay Delta Plan. .
On December 8, the State Water Board discussed different ways the Bay Delta Plan could be implemented.
“The Bay Delta Plan and its water intake in eastern Merced County have been discussed and planned for years,” MID’s Sweigard said after the meeting earlier this month. “Today it became clear that the planning is complete and the actions to take your water are about to begin.”
Contact information for Governor Newsom and State Water Board officials, as well as an online petition, can be found online at: www.SaveMercedsWater.com