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January 18, 2017

Governor Urged to Intervene in State Water Board Minimum Flow Standards Proposal Process

IRVINE, Calif., (January 18, 2017) — In a letter delivered to California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif urged the governor to direct the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) “to begin anew” on a proposal that would update minimum flow standards for the Lower San Joaquin River, calling for a “collaborative approach” in order “to pursue legitimate and meaningful settlement discussions with all involved parties.”

Nassif claimed the Board has not collaborated with or effectively engaged Western Growers’ members and other stakeholders — including water rights holders — during the public process. The letter noted that the governor himself called on the Board to pursue a collaborative approach with all stakeholders in a letter dated September 16, 2016.

Nassif cited a letter Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) provided to the Board on January 4, 2017, in which he said that the proposal “has created enormous ill will and distrust in the adversely affected communities.” In the same letter, Gray said that the update “is full of misinformation, is not realistic, does not reflect current circumstances, and… is significantly flawed.”  

Nassif’s letter acknowledged that delaying implementation of the draft proposal “may be costly, but I assure you that hastily enacting this ill-advised, poorly-informed and one-sided proposal will result in far greater long term damage, both for the Delta ecosystem and rural San Joaquin Valley communities.”

Text of the full letter:

January 17, 2017

 

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

Governor

State of California

State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Re: Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary and the recirculated draft revised Substitute Environmental Document

Dear Governor Brown,

Recent public hearings held by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) on a staff proposal to update minimum flow standards for the Lower San Joaquin River elevated very serious problems surrounding this endeavor.

You issued a pragmatic September 2016 letter to Chairwoman Felicia Marcus calling on the Board to pursue a collaborative approach inclusive of all stakeholders, including water rights holders. However, our members have not been engaged in any collaborative process. Rather, as Assemblymember Adam Gray wrote in his recent letter to the Board, the draft proposal “has created enormous ill will and distrust in the adversely affected communities.”

Assemblymember Gray goes further, writing that the update “is full of misinformation, is not realistic, does not reflect current circumstances, and… is significantly flawed.” We completely agree.

Indeed, in its current form, the draft proposal invites court challenges by the Turlock, Modesto and Merced Irrigation Districts, puts the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act process in jeopardy, fails to address non-flow stressors (e.g. predation, invasive species) and abandons the “faster, less contentious, and more durable” voluntary agreements you asked the Board and staff to implement in your September 2016 letter.

Even after receiving substantial and credible evidence that should trigger major revisions to the 3,000-page proposal, the Board inexplicably refrained from giving staff any kind of direction other than to ask for more information. I suggest, at the most elementary level, that the affected irrigation and municipal water districts should play a major role in the process and have the opportunity to provide direct and significant input in making needed revisions if the environmental and economic benefits of any settlement are to be fully realized.

Even though the deadline for written comment has been extended until March 17, 2017, I ask that you immediately urge the Board to begin anew on this proposal with the directive to pursue legitimate and meaningful settlement discussions with all involved parties. I agree with your September 2016 letter that delay may be costly, but I assure you that hastily enacting this ill-advised, poorly-informed and one-sided proposal will result in far greater long term damage, both for the Delta ecosystem and rural San Joaquin Valley communities. Let’s invest a little more time, and a lot more collaboration, to get this right.

Sincerely,

Tom Nassif

President and CEO

Western Growers

cc:           Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

                Mark Cowin, Director, California Department of Water Resources

                Matt Rodriguez, Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency

 

About Western Growers:
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California and Colorado. Our members and their workers provide half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. For generations we have provided variety and healthy choices to consumers. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on our Twitter and Facebook.

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