‘Save the Stan’

Two water districts with senior rights to divert the Stanislaus River are launching a PR campaign as they battle the new federal rules to protect steelhead, which the districts say will constrict the amount of water available for farms and cities, and perhaps actually harm the fish.

The South San Joaquin and Oakdale irrigation districts formally launched a website Wednesday to take the debate to the public.

Among their claims:

• New Melones Lake would go empty 13 times over an 80-year period if more water is released for fish. The lake would also drop below 500,000 acre-feet 22 times. The implication is that even senior water rights holders could be affected.

(The Stockton East Water District, which imports Stanislaus River water to San Joaquin County, doesn’t appear to be a part of the Save the Stan effort, although Stockton East stands to lose more water that SSJID or OID. In what was sort of a surprise, Stockton East is getting all of its Stanislaus River supply this year).

• The feds did not use a key model to determine how cold the river water must be for fish to thrive. The amount of water that must be sent downstream to keep temperatures low is “enormous.”

• Steelhead are already in “good” condition on the Stanislaus under current operations, so, “Why the dramatic change?”

• The districts also support a crackdown on nonnative striped bass, which eat — to some degree — baby salmon and steelhead as they ride the river currents toward the ocean.

Conclusion: “The implementation of the BO (biological opinion) could kill the very fish it attempts to save, devastate the regional agriculture and curtail recreation on the river and reservoirs.”

Oakdale and South San Joaquin have already joined forces to challenge the fish protections in federal court, as have many other water districts including Stockton East. Their PR campaign is headed by San Francisco-based Astone Agency, which says on its Web site: “We’ve convinced millions of people with thousands of different opinions to start heading in the same direction.”

Yeah, but have they dipped their toes into California water?

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  • Blog Author

    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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