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John Herrick to Leadership Forum: The Delta is under attack

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Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:12 am, Fri Jun 22, 2012.

John Herrick wants you to know there is a thief trying to steal from you. No, your wallet and purse are probably safe. But the San Joaquin River Delta is under attack.

Herrick, general counsel for the South Delta Water Agency, explained the threat to Delta water rights and what he called the “insane policies” that could be the Delta’s undoing.

“It’s time to get pitchforks and torches and march on the government,” he said, as he delivered the first speech of the Leadership Forum at Hutchins Street Square.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a massive project to divert water from the Delta for agricultural needs farther south. It would require 50-year water right permits and divert 15,000 cubic feet per second of water per year before it ever reaches the Delta. Instead, the water would travel through two tunnels and end up far outside the region.

Herrick, from his work as general counsel and as a registered lobbyist, had a long list of reasons why this plan is not only wrong, it’s illegal.

State laws require that only excess water can be taken from the Delta, not water that people, animals and farmland rely on. Also, if a project of that scale is built, those responsible must improve the quality of the environment in the area to help mitigate the impact.

Herrick said this project will do just the opposite.

“Can a freshwater estuary be improved by removing 3.7 million acre-feet of water?” Herrick asked the audience.

The expected, “No,” was chorused in reply.

“Yeah. It’s that nuts,” he said.

Herrick reviewed the recent history of water management in the state, including the 1995 Monterey Agreement. In this policy, legislators removed a provision from their contracts that required them to dial down water use in times of state emergency. This allowed non-surplus water to be sold, even during drought years

“Here’s the part where we pull people out of office, beat them up, handcuff them, and throw ’em in jail,” he joked.

The water diversion project will also undermine endangered species instead of helping them grow stronger, said Herrick.

“You have to make a plan to improve the species if you’re going to, um, kill them,” he quipped.

A cost-benefit analysis is not planned for the project, which could cost about $15 billion over the 40 years it takes to build.

The state’s response?

“Let’s build it anyway and figure out later how to operate it and make it work,” paraphrased Herrick.

In the end, Herrick explained, the project won’t increase the amount of available water or water storage space, and it won’t help fish populations. He challenged the audience to do something about it.

“Are you guys going to sit there and drink water out of your tap while these guys ruin the Delta?” he demanded.

The audience hollered “No.”

“When people are cheating, ignoring reality and doing things that are worse for the state of California, tell them ‘no,’” he said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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  • Ted Lauchland posted at 1:45 pm on Fri, Jun 22, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Just a tip of the iceberg Darrell. Who do you think is really pushing for the underground canal.

    What about Owen's Valley?

    California Farm Water Coalition? What about the Farm Bureau not being able to represent all farmers as a huge contrast exists between south and north areas.
    Delta land owners are farmers too.

    My wife sells Delta properties. First hand we already see the start of condemnation of properties and the fight the land owners have because " the state" knows better how to use the water than how it is already being used . - Upstream users being bypassed by now attempting to go further upstream. Other bypasses have already happened for the benefit of Bay Area users and now if you notice "clean water" is being saught by farmers? How far south do you think the water can go. Water rights on a river the length of California will follow " people first" theories which involves more people - more money channels.

    Conserve the Delta ? - What - as it was 100 plus years ago or what it has developed into since. Out smart the people and do it behind closed doors is the philosophies this time around. Build using my tax dollars and then all we have to do is make a slight word change in the law and walla - LA has the water and we up north lose. Look who is trying to buy Delta properties for water rights. Look who is attempting condemning properties - not for our benefit here locally. Pitch forks sound good to me. The water here is already accounted for. Fill the reservors down south with the water from the north in wet years only. You already have the means to do that. Create more reservors in the north to meet the need for dry years. Believe me if you know what water flows from south rivers and what flows from north rivers into the delta area you would also know the combinations of the two IS the ecosystems of the delta. Why do you think North California and South California will never happen as two separate states. - Water .

    Lodi's water will become brakish or salty on the edge of a delta swamp teaming with salt water what ever. The levy systems will not exist. Delta farm lands will not exist and maybe Lodi's won't either.

    Go John ! You've always had my support.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:24 am on Fri, Jun 22, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Mike, why should anyone believe what your organization says. You have members who have an economic stake in getting the water. Can you provide a link where the information provided is objective and independent of the people who directly benefit from the water going south.

    I notice in the mission statement of your organization, it fails to state that one mission is to protect and preserve the Delta...Why? What would be helpful is a public debate between people you represent with people like John Herrick . If you are concerned about facts as you state, please post the schedule of public forums where these kind of debates will take place.


    The California Farm Water Coalition Board of Directors has identified three primary goals as part of its mission to increase public awareness of agriculture’s use of water and provide a common, unifying voice for agricultural water users.
    •To serve as the voice for agricultural water users.
    •To represent irrigated agriculture in the media.
    •To educate the public about the benefits of irrigated agriculture.

  • Mike Wade posted at 9:44 am on Fri, Jun 22, 2012.

    farmwater Posts: 5

    Twenty-five million Californians and millions of acres of farmland that grow a safe, healthy and economic food supply receive a portion of their water from the waters that flow through the Delta. Droughts and environmental regulations have reduced that water supply. In order to improve the reliability of that water supply, several efforts are now underway that would accomplish that desired reliability and restore the ecosystem of the Delta. It is unfortunate that opponents of these efforts will say almost anything in a public venue to mislead people about the work that is going on to secure California's water future. Rather than simply accept the comments from one point of view, people would be better served to seek the facts when it comes to water supply and the Delta environment.

    Mike Wade
    California Farm Water Coalition

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 8:46 am on Fri, Jun 22, 2012.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    The peripheal canal should NOT happen. However, there are so many convoluted approaches to the solutions in the Delta- forming a balance between conservation and environmental concerns- and private property rights and land use, is a huge, huge problem. Will there ever be an amicable solution acceptable to all? We all want to take care of our habitat and environment, but at what cost to human rights too?



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