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Twin tunnels will impact Manteca

Water for local cities, farming in jeopardy

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POSTED June 1, 2013 2:27 a.m.

Steve DeBrum wants to make sure Manteca’s future - and that of the rest of the region - isn’t shipped south to Los Angeles.

The Manteca councilman and Diary Farmers of America’s Northern California coordinator fears the proposed Twin Tunnels to divert Sacramento River water under the Delta to points south and to the Bay Area will put in jeopardy water that South San Joaquin Irrigation District has secured for future growth through historical water rights and aggressive  conservation.

DeBrum noted the exact size of the tunnels haven’t been determined. That leaves the door open to take even more water from other locations.

“Here the SSJID is selling extra water they have to elsewhere in the state,” DeBrum said. “(I wouldn’t be surprised) if Southern California came up with a way to take water that districts have to sell and use it for themselves.”

Even if that scenario doesn’t materialize, there is an even stronger possibility that the rivers that feed into the San Joaquin River ultimately will be required to release additional water to maintain the Delta once Southern California  bound water stops flowing through the Delta.

The councilman is expected to be confirmed during Tuesday’s City Council meeting as Manteca’s representative to the City Council Delta Coalition that’s gearing up to protect the Delta, protect local water rights, and to battle efforts to usurp local land use decisions.

Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy all obtain surface water from SSJID in addition to pumping water from the ground. Ripon plans on tapping into the surface water as soon as feasible.

The water that SSJID has secured is being used by the three cities to assure reliable and clean water supplies for growth over the next  40 to 60 years.

And while SSJID along with Oakdale Irrigation District have superior water rights on the Stanislaus River, the ability of the state to use raw political power  to benefit the people and cities that the majority of the legislature represents isn’t lost on Mayor Willie Weatherford.

Besides regional water supplies being placed in jeopardy with plans to build the tunnels, Weatherford was critical of the Delta Stewardship Council that was put in place to function much like the California Coastal Commission.

That means land use decisions could ultimately be reversed by a regional state board that doesn’t answer to local communities.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that if one day you’ll have to go to Sacramento to get a permit to build a home in Manteca,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford noted the twin tunnels do the same exact thing as the peripheral canal that was soundly rejected by voters in 1980. Both have the same purpose of making sure not a drop of water heading south to Los Angeles or large corporate farmers  will have to enter the Delta.

The contention is the tunnels would provide more reliable and cleaner water for Los Angeles. Reliability would come into play since during drought years that water flowing into the tunnels may not be part of the mix any longer to shore up the Delta environment and combat salt water intrusion.

“It (the tunnels) is just the peripheral canal with a different name,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford and DeBrum are both confident the SSJID will fight hard to protect area water interests adding the district needs all the help from the community they can get.

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