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600 fish will cost 209 region $250 million

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POSTED December 6, 2016 12:49 a.m.

A state bid to increase the net annual number of new fish on three rivers that provide the economic lifeblood for the Northern San Joaquin Valley threatens to cost thousands of jobs with a permanent yearly economic loss of $250 million out of the pockets of the region’s 1.5 million residents.
It is why the South San Joaquin Irrigation District is imploring those that will be impacted by the plan — farmers, residents, developers, businesses, and cities — to make their concerns known at a State Water Control Board public input meeting on Friday, Dec. 16, at the Stockton Civic Auditorium starting at 9 a.m.
The state plan calls for an increase of unimpaired flows to 40 percent on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers between February and June to try and bolster fish population and improve Delta water quality.
If it the state plan were in place for the current water year:
uThe SSJID would only have 105,000 acre feet of water or a 64 percent reduction in supplies.
uThat would limit water delivers to 56,000 acres to 12 inches per acre of water. Almonds, as one example, need 36 inches of water just to stay alive.
uBetween 2,300 and 6,200 acres of farmland around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon would be fallowed.
uThe 193,000 urban water customers SSJID provides for in Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy would see a 64 percent cutback in surface water deliveries.
uGiven the pending state mandate concerning groundwater sustainability, the cities couldn’t simply pump more well water and would be forced to stop issuing building permits and put severe water conservation measures in place.
uThe three cities with SSJID water cutbacks would have $127 million in stranded capital costs due to water sales being cutback 64% they would have to cover including bond debt and ongoing operational costs meaning water customers in Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy would experience significant rate increases.
The state plan to commander 360,000 acre feet of water centers on rainbow trout and steelhead that are the same species. Scientists are not exactly sure what environmental factors or inherited traits determine what type of fish a juvenile grows into — rainbow trout that stay in freshwater ort steelhead that migrate to the ocean.
While students are taught the basic salmon lifecycle of traveling from river to ocean to river, the scenario in the Stanislaus River is not quite so simple. FISHBIO scientists believe that almost all of these returning fish were not actually born on the Stanislaus River, but instead came from hatcheries, either on the Merced River or in the Sacramento River basin. 
The situation is made even grimmer by another state demand that more water be left in reservoirs year round as cold water pools for fish. That calls for New Melones Reservoir that has a 2.4 million acre foot capacity to go no lower than 700,000 acre feet of water at any given time. New Melones on Sunday was at 533,373 acre feet. That means had the state plan be in effect, water releases to SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District likely would have stopped in June this year to avoid the reservoir from dropping as low as it has.
The state also wants a permanent cold water pool of 800,000 acre feet at Don Pedro (39 percent of capacity) and 300,000 acre feet at McClure Lake (29 percent of capacity).

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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