Good luck getting California’s diverse special interest groups to agree on anything.
But if South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields is right, a unique consortium of farmers, environmentalists, sportsmen and private property crusaders might have something to celebrate together.
While Shields was standing before the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission last week to discuss the merits of an independent study the district commissioned addressing the viability of taking over PG&E’s existing power distribution system to lower rates 15 percent across the board in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop. Shields’ expertise in water - and the major projects that have thrust it into the collective conscious - wad quickly brought into the fold.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller, who is terming out in November, asked Shields for an update on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan - and the notorious “twin tunnels” project - that would siphon freshwater from the Sacramento River around the Delta and into a pair of tunnels that would dispatch it to the Southern San Joaquin Valley.
What was initially feared to be a major destructive force of the area’s most valuable resource, Shields said, could turn out to be nothing out all.
“I really think that the wheels have come off of it,” Shields said of the plan. “I’ve stopped making phone calls about it because frankly, I have better things to do with my time.”
One of the biggest indicators that the project has stalled, Shields said, is a recent government filing that provided no money to advance the construction or the study.
Farmers in Fresno and points further south that were supposed to benefit also haven’t seen any deliveries, and the coalition that was pushing for the projects advancement, he said, is losing hope.
California’s water politics, while typically fractured, have become regional since the “peripheral canal” reboot was advanced by Governor Jerry Brown.
Concerns over water and its availability were raised by Ruhstaller since SSJID will generate a large portion of the power it plans to sell from hydro power along the Stanislaus River.