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Move afoot in Congress to block Delta tunnel project

Tom Patti and Josh Harder — the two hopefuls that want to serve the first Congressional district to represent San Joaquin County exclusively — agree on at least one thing.

The state’s Delta tunnel plan to benefit the massive Metropolitan Water District in Southern California ‘s as well as  billionaire and corporate farmers in West Kern County must be stopped.

Potential fallout for San Joaquin County, which has the largest land mass within the Delta region, include:

*Extensive damage to the Delta ecological system.

*Negative impact on fish including the endangered Chinook salmon.

*Tens of thousands of  acres of farmland, some of the richest agricultural ground in the world, could go out of production.

*Domestic water supplies would be impacted.

*Long-range issues with saltwater intrusion impacting water supplies the cities of Lathrop, Tracy, Manteca, and Stockton take from the underground aquifer that is impacting when fresh water levels above and below  the surface in the Delta drop.

*The quality and sustainability of Delta recreational opportunities.

Harder along with fellow Congress members Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi earlier this month introduced an amendment to prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a Clean Water Act permit for the California Delta Conveyance Project.

Their argument is the tunnel would rob the Delta of the benefit of Sacramento River water that currently flows through it on the way to the pumps at the head of the California Aqueduct northwest of Tracy.

That would impact not just the quality of water but it would reduce the volume which in turn can raise water temperatures than can be fatal to fish as it robs water of dissolved oxygen. At the same time less water in the Delta means salt water would push farther to the east toward Stockton, Lathrop, and Manteca.
“I refuse to let politicians in Sacramento get away with a water grab that would take Valley water and ship it downstate,” Harder said. “It’s time we protect our Valley water so every farmer, rancher, mom and dad has the water they need to support their business and their family. My family has spent generations on the Delta, and I plan on protecting it so my daughter can do the same.”

Harder, currently represents the 10th District that includes Manteca and Ripon, but has moved to Tracy to seek election Nov. 8 in the new 9th District that consists exclusively of San Joaquin County minus Lathrop and the rural areas south of Manteca and east of Tracy.

“I’m more than happy to have Harder onboard with efforts to stop the tunnel,” Patti, who represents Manteca north of Yosemite Avenue, Lathrop, much of the Delta portion of the county as well as parts of eastern Stockton on the San Joaquin County Board if Supervisors.

County supervisors have opposed the conveyance project from the beginning. First in 1978 when it was the Peripheral Canal and more recently when it was a twin tunneled project under Gov. Jerry Brown.

Patti has been working behind the scenes for the past several years with elected officials elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley in a bid to protect water supplies for farms, cities, and fish in the greater region.

Patti noted common sense rules — if they were in place today — would take some of the sting out of the current drought and better position all competing parties for water to urban users to better weather future dry periods.

That solution centers around allowing more nimble water transfers.

“There’s water out there,” Patti said.

By that he means regional and local areas have more storage due to the varied hydrology in California.

Patti said transfers of verified water rights in today’s drought conditions could get water to areas that have almost run dry or are having to fallow cropland.

However, federal and state regulatory agencies either act too slow or refuse to sign off. That includes the Bureau of Reclamation that Congress has authority over.

A local example is the derailed efforts of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to transfer water it has rights to under a 1988 operating agreement hammered out for New Melones Reservoir. Due to aggressive conservation measures imposed on district farmers, the SJID had water available that it could transfer to Westside farmers that had all of their supplies cut off from the State Water Project.

The SJJID came up with a plan that would allow the release to be timed with critical spring pulse flows for Chinook salmon.

In doing do, the flows would be more robust for the salmon or else the Bureau could hold back releases from set aside storage for fish in New Melones to stretch its available water supplies.

The Bureau ultimately refused to allow the water transfer to go through.

As  result, orchards are dying and farmland are fallow on the Westside while the available water for fish flows has dropped significantly on the Stanislaus River due to the drought.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email