When it comes to protecting their biggest resource the South San Joaquin Irrigation District is putting their money where their mouth is.
The fight gearing up between the Delta Stewardship Council – a group charged with balancing the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta against its agricultural uses – and the coalition of municipalities that oppose what they say is broad power given to the group won’t come without a cost.
And with a strong Sacramento political insider now on the payroll of the group that opposes what they feel are far-reaching powers on behalf of the stewardship, the district has agreed to shell out $3,000 a month to help advance the cause that they’ve been advocating since Day 1.
But that money being given to the Delta Council won’t come without oversight.
In the eyes of SSJID director Dave Kamper, making a one-year commitment for more than $30,000 to a group that they’re not completely sure will have the district’s best interests at heart is a gamble not worth taking.
The SSJID board – director Dale Kuil was absent due to health problems – put a three-month stipulation on the funds that could be renewed as long as things continue on what they believe is the right track.
“Our goal is to protect existing water rights,” Shields said. “We’ll take a look at it and if it ends up going sideways we can just not renew our commitment.”
According to Shields, the Delta Council – the name of the coalition of cities that have united to show their solidarity against what they believe could end up impacting the water supply in a catastrophic way – is essentially spearheaded by Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston and the City of Stockton.
Johnston has taken on a pivotal role in visiting city councils in San Joaquin County and organizing presentations to strengthen the power of the group.
The SSJID is concerned that the actions of the stewardship council could impact their pre-1914 adjudicated water rights on the Stanislaus River – the source that they share jointly with Oakdale Irrigation District that provides both irrigation water and a source for power generation. Municipalities are concerned that actions taken could end up overriding their General Plan and affect development in the future.
The Delta Plan – a document that the agency believes will protect the Delta’s resources – is one of the focal points of the Delta Coalition’s grievance and it’s something that they’ve pressed in meetings with the seven-member board. Most of their concerns, they feel, have been ignored.
Four other counties besides San Joaquin have a stake in the Delta.
Shields believes that at least some of the money being given by the cities will go to a public relations campaign to get the word out to residents. He told the board that the price tag he had heard for the service being provided was somewhere in the neighborhood of $230,000.