July 31, the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (SCFB) sent a letter to the Modesto Irrigation District (MID). Some ten pages in length, the letter voices strong objections to the proposed MID sale to San Francisco, and questions not only the MID’s legal authority to make the sale but also whether the MID actually has surplus water to sell.
In strong language, the Farm Bureau argues that, “MID has not yet met its minimal obligations as a ‘responsible agency’ with ultimate, discretionary approval authority over the transfer within the meaning of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).” The letter continues, “Until MID has affirmatively met its minimal obligations under CEQA, our current assessment is that to approve the transfer would be illegal.”
Since the MID first announced the proposal, the Modesto Bee has been a strong supporter of the sale, arguing that the 2,000 acre foot transfer could be done without negative impacts to MID water users. The Bee has also downplayed objections to the sale as hyperbolic and unjustified.
Throughout the period of public discussion, the Modesto Bee has consistently failed to tell the people just how fraught with danger the sale really is. Even when the Tuolumne River Trust voice objections based on potential harm to fisheries and river ecology, the Bee minimized its arguments.
Now, the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau has come forward with even stronger objections, and again the Bee has failed to tell the people. Knowledgeable readers know the Bee has long been an active participant in local politics, but far too few realize the extent to which the Bee tries to influence political outcomes.
The proposed water sale is a major event, and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau a major institution. When the Bee fails to tell Valley citizens that one of the most respected institutions in the region is opposed on strong legal grounds to a sale favored by the Bee, it is abusing its power and its responsibility.
Consider the following from the SCFB letter:
Only when it has responsibly determined that MID has any surplus water supplies, should the board contemplate any subsequent steps relating to any specific water transfer.
And consider this from another section:
….given that the district proposes all but permanently transferring water out of the district, the district must complete an independent water supply availability analysis that shows whether there is actual surplus water available, and do so before it contemplates any specific water transfer or related environmental review.
Like many others, SCFB believes the MID has put the “cart far ahead of the horse” in proposing a sale before ascertaining just how much water it might or might not have after water is diverted for salmon survival and the delta ecosystem.
Clearly the Modesto Bee and the MID hope to accomplish the sale by way of strong public support, but the people have a right to know the whole story so they can make a fully informed decision. The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau has earned the respect of Valley citizens and deserves to be heard.