Meeting attracts southern perspective

Meeting attracts southern perspective

Speaker says Delta board should spread message about needs to L.A.


Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON – The guy hired to run the sound system got the last word at a meeting Tuesday about the fate of the Delta and water exports to the south.

“I’m from Southern California, and this is the first time I’ve heard about any of this, really,” John Stringfield told members of the new Delta Stewardship Council. “You should probably spread the word a little bit more in Southern California so we know what your needs are. … I’m just saying. …”

An audience full of Delta defenders applauded. They know exactly what the ramifications are as the council writes a plan that could determine the Delta’s destiny through the end of this century.

Tuesday night’s meeting was intended to give locals a chance to help shape that plan by offering their own suggestions. The council must write a plan by year’s end that balances the “co-equal” goals of a reliable water supply for places such as Southern California and restoration of the Delta’s foundering ecosystem while still protecting the Delta as a place.

It was easy to see why Stringfield was moved to comment. Earlier speakers seemed pretty concerned about what’s going on in his backyard.

“Our friends in Southern California want our water,” Delta farmer Tony Silva Jr. said. “They ruined the Owens Valley; they also ruined the Colorado River. … Stop this water grab before the Delta turns into the Owens Valley or the creek known as the Colorado River.”

Among other things, the council was urged to at least consider a solution that does not include a peripheral canal or tunnel – and when such a facility is studied, to look at a smaller size than has so far been proposed.

Notably, environmental groups that have disagreed in the past over California’s water wars joined forces Tuesday in asking the state to consider more freshwater flows through the estuary and to include a wide range of alternatives in an upcoming environmental impact report.

“Failure to consider a whole range of alternatives would doom the EIR out of the starting gate,” said Bill Jennings of the Stockton-based California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, one of 30 groups that commented.

The environmentalists also asked that the council make it clear that the purpose of any kind of canal – known in water talk as an “isolated facility” – should be to increase the predictability of the water supply for farms and cities, not to increase the actual amount of water taken.

Dante Nomellini, Jr., a Stockton attorney representing Delta farmers, said the council must consider how much water is really available for export south and how much must remain in the watershed.

“You folks, I think, are our only chance for someone to do it,” he said, speaking to council members.

Consideration of a canal or tunnel should be delayed, Nomellini said. The status quo – sending water through the Delta to the giant pumps near Tracy – has not been given a fair chance as an alternative, he said.

“I really believe in the bottom of my heart, when they create an isolated facility, the Delta is gone,” Nomellini said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the sixth of seven held as far south as Diamond Bar and as far north as Chico. Stewardship Council Chairman Phil Isenberg said “thousands upon thousands” of comments have been received and will be used to help shape the plan. A first draft is due on Valentine’s Day.

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