View All Posts

Aug 10

Modesto and the Bay-Delta Plan

Posted on August 10, 2018 at 11:58 AM by Thomas Reeves

The City of Modesto has historically been considered a model of success in maintaining its “water wealth” through the use of reservoir storage and dams. What Modesto residents may not know, however, is our access to water is at risk of being compromised as a result of the proposed amendments to the State’s Bay-Delta Plan.

The Bay-Delta Plan was adopted in 2006 by the State Water Resources Control Board, which identified a number of issues that required further evaluation regarding the water supply of California, San Joaquin River flows, and southern Delta salinity. Over the years, the Bay-Delta Plan has gone through several public comment periods and proposed amendments. 

In 2016, the Board released draft amendments that included the increase in flows by 40%, which would significantly reduce Modesto’s surface water.  Following the release of these proposed amendments, the Board held a public hearing here in Modesto to listen to the concerns of our community. Elected officials, city staff, and members of our community provided feedback regarding how this reduction in water would affect the community.  The Board received over 6,500 public comments from the Central Valley region opposing the proposed amendments to this plan.

In July 2018, following the public comment and response period, the State Water Resources Control Board released the final draft of amendments relatively unchanged.  If adopted, the draft final proposal would raise the flows in the lower San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers, and significantly reduce the amount of surface water available to the residents of Modesto and the larger Stanislaus County region.

The Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office finds the potential impact includes billions in annual economic losses, thousands of job losses, and thousands of acres of land fallowed.  More specifically, the effects of the proposed changes in drought years would have a more profound economic impact on the communities that rely on Lake Don Pedro.

The City of Modesto has historically maintained healthy sources of water by blending the use of surface and ground water.  However, the proposed regulatory changes can have a severe impact on the health and wellness of our community.  

If the state’s proposal is approved, it can reduce our water supply by approximately 100 billion gallons, which can eliminate a key source of water for residents of Modesto, and require us to rely more heavily on ground water.  An increased reliance on ground water can impact our community by reducing our water supply, increasing the cost of water treatment, and severely hampering the ability to maintain the health of our basin.

This week, the City Council approved $100,000 to help the city preserve its water sources, and to help ensure that the proposed changes to the Bay-Delta Plan reflect the best interests of the City of Modesto.  Council Member Grewal states that “this is a clear and unfair water grab by the state that can have long term effects on the city and we have to do everything that we can to fight against it.”  City staff is currently in the process of identifying the best use of this funding to help ensure that our interests are protected. 

Rest assured that the City Council and I will be watching whether this item is approved by the state’s oversight board, and will be doing everything we can to preserve the water rights of our community.  In addition, I will be exploring how the City can collaborate with the Modesto Irrigation District and other stakeholders to help us achieve a favorable result. 

If you would like to provide feedback on these plans, you may speak during the public comment period on the hearings scheduled for 9:30 am on both August 21st and August 22nd at the CalEPA Headquarters Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.  The State Water Resources Control Board may consider the amendments for approval during this meeting.

In addition, if you would like to follow this issue more closely, you may visit the state water board's website for further information on the proposed amendments.

Our water is a precious commodity, and your city leaders will not allow the state to take it away.  We've joined the fight, and will stand up for our community.