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The Valley Water Pledge

What are we going to do today, tomorrow, or next year until dams and tunnels are built in 10 or 20 years?

May 06, 2013

The article below asks farmers to stand together on Valley water policy. We think it's a good idea. But, easier said than done. However, we've been working on something that might start the process. It's called: The Valley Water Pledge. If you're a local elected official at any level, please hit the 'reply' button and let us know if you agree with our pledge. If you know an elected official, please encourage them to read the pledge and let us know. We will let our readers know in a future newsletter who has agreed to take the pledge. 
The Valley economy is drying up acre by acre because of human decisions about water policy. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are out of production because of political decisions to use our current water infrastructure to send water to the sea instead of to Valley farms and communities. As elected officials and candidates at every political level in this Valley, including supervisors, city councilmen, mayors, water district directors, and school board members, we understand that this is a problem for all of us and we must do everything in our power to solve our irrational water policy. All of the current solutions on the table are long-term solutions like the BDCP and the Water Bond. But what about right now? What are we going to do today, tomorrow, or next year until dams and tunnels are built in 10 or 20 years? For too long, elected officials at the local level have stayed out of the water policy debate. It's time for us to speak up and support using current infrastructure that's already built and capable of moving water to us right now. As the Valley gets less and less water, many of our communities are shrinking and suffering. There cannot be a healthy Fresno, Bakersfield or Modesto without a healthy Madera, Visalia, Delano, Kerman, Chowchilla or Tulare. We are all in this together. To show our good faith to solve this problem, we sign the following pledge and urge other elected officials and candidates to do the same:


Valley Water Pledge

1. I recognize that water is the lifeblood of the San Joaquin Valley and for this Valley to grow and prosper, this water must be affordable and available on a regular basis.

2. In order for the Valley to have adequate and affordable water, elected officials must work together regardless of party affiliation to achieve this goal.

3. I pledge to support efforts to change the political decisions that keep water from coming to the Valley, and will apply whatever influence I have to use current infrastruture to bring water to us today until long-term solutions are in place.

4. I pledge that maintaining and enhancing the water supply for the San Joaquin Valley will be my top priority even superseding demands by my party leaders.

5. I pledge to work with other elected officials on a local, state, and federal level regardless of party affiliation to enact short term and long term (e.g., storage) solutions that will ensure adequate and affordable water for the San Joaquin Valley for now and the future. I also pledge not to support any water bond that doesn't contain surface water storage provisions.

California farmers must hang together in the water wars

By John Michelenacolumns@modbee.com


Modesto Bee visiting editor John Michelena Jr., of Patterson, Wednesday, January 7, 2009. (Debbie Noda/The Modesto Bee) - Modesto Bee - Debbie Noda

Modesto Bee visiting editor John Michelena Jr., of Patterson, Wednesday, January 7, 2009. (Debbie Noda/The Modesto Bee) - Modesto Bee - Debbie Noda

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately," said Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His words of wisdom are also applicable to farmers in modern-day California.

Farmers have been mostly divided in this state when it comes to water. Many farmers are focused on survival — securing water for their own farming needs. It's almost as if they take delight when other farmers can no longer grow their crops. Perhaps they believe that the loss of irrigation for others will benefit them, by thinning production and increasing commodity prices.

This dog-eat-dog attitude is often expressed: Farmers should never have planted permanent crops south of the delta without having water they could count on. Some others, with even bigger craniums, say that water should only be used for high-value crops like trees and vines (i.e. permanent crops), not for growing alfalfa or other field crops. I suppose they miss the inconsistencies, and that flushing freshwater out to sea for the welfare of fish is not wasting precious water, either.

Guess what? California has a bad business climate for farming or any other productive enterprise which plans on being around for more than a year. This state punishes those who work hard. It's also eco-centric, as humans rate below primitive organisms barely worth their six glasses of water a day.

It was the west side farmers that first had their water greatly reduced to protect the delta smelt and Chinook salmon. The government-run bureaucracies using witchcraft instead of science were never satisfied with fish screens, restrictions on water pumping, environmental water fees, etc.

Then this willy-nilly environmentalism spread east.

Friant water users have water cuts to restore the flow of the San Joaquin River that has had dry river beds for some 60 years. The state Water Resources Board wants 35 percent of the Tuolumne River flows diverted for fish, which hurts farms in the Turlock, Modesto and Merced irrigation districts.

Stockton-area farmers have been fighting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to receive promised water from New Melones Lake as they had built an expensive network of tunnels and canals, with taxpayer funding, too.

Even the delta tunnels plan, like irrigation improvements on any farm or to the whole statewide water system, may only be creating false hopes, never giving farmers reliable water no matter what they do.

Amid all this misery, it may help just a little if fellow farmers could support one another — even if just in spirit and as a matter of principle. Farmers might then build a stronger, more unified front against this avalanche of legislation and regulation that is taking away water from large swathes of agricultural land.

But it will take more than farmers sticking together to ensure they have water. Many more people than farmers must realize that agriculture and water are indispensable to our economy, and is good for the environment. It's just not wise to replace irrigated farmland with dry weeds and concrete.

Michelena is a Patterson-area farmer who served as a visiting editor at The Bee in 2009. Send questions or comments to columns@modbee.com.

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