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Jason Campbell: A shill for Denham?
Jason Campbell

Apparently I’m a shill for Jeff Denham’s campaign. 

That’s what the barrage of emails I received over the weekend kindly told me after I wrote a story about the congressman welcoming the acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency – the third high-ranking Trump Administration official that he’s welcomed to the district in the last three months – to the area for a tour. 

Anybody who knows my politics knows how ludicrous such a statement actually is. 

But, and I’m proud to actually be able to say this – my personal politics had nothing to do with what I perceived as an important and equally impressive piece of news that voters and constituents in the 10th Congressional District deserved to know about. 

While one gentleman suggested that I ask Josh Harder for his input on the matter, and believed I should have explained the state’s position in pushing for more unimpaired flows down the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne Rivers, I felt like Harder’s position on water was clearly established in his campaign advertisements, and the Bay-Delta plan and its effects have already been widely discussed and reported in this newspaper and others throughout the region. 

In short, there was nothing new to add there other than to add something for the sake of adding it. 

And in a sense, this is something that should transcend the vicious cycle of politics since it’s something that will affect all of us – regardless of which side of the fence you happen to come down on. 

I happen to believe that making a snap decision to pump twice as much water down a series of rivers so that we can potentially rehabilitate a polluted saltwater estuary and try to restore a fish population that will likely never return is reckless – especially when you consider the human cost of actually making those decisions. 

It’s easy to look at the farmers that dot the landscape out here in the Central Valley and make them the scapegoat for the state’s water problems. After all, it does take about a gallon of water to grow a single almond, and those farmers do get a healthy return on those almonds once they finally make it to market. 

So why should we sacrifice our environment so that some farmer can make an extra chunk on top of an already healthy salary thanks to emerging markets in the Middle and Far East?

At least that’s what you’re likely to hear in certain coffee shops. 

But if you go to others, like Johnny’s in Manteca on a weekday morning, or the makeshift coffee shop that is Schemper’s ACE Hardware in Ripon, you’re likely to hear a different story – about how these farmers are taking the money that they make from their products and putting them right back into their own communities. 

They’re buying pickup trucks from Phil Waterford and the Steve’s Family in Oakdale. They’re purchasing as much as they can from the Schemper Family. They’re making donations to local high schools, eating at local restaurants, and shopping at local stores – putting that money directly back into our local economy here. 

And without that water, that economy dries up. It is that simple. 

Are there other discussions that need to be had here? Absolutely. Nobody is saying that we should just abandon all hope of flushing out the San Francisco Bay, and nobody is saying that we should simply abandon all hope of rehabbing fish populations on the San Joaquin River or the Rivers that feed it. 

While some will boil this down to a simple “human versus fish” argument – I heard Sean Hannity talking about that this week, as a matter of fact – I have enough depth of knowledge to realize that things aren’t that simplistic, and there is no clear-cut answer here on how to satisfy everybody’s wants. 

One thing that is not being discussed, at least in any real capacity when it comes to this argument, is how the Bay-Delta plan would affect things like the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s Surface Water Treatment Plant, which has been a godsend for cities that have run into problems pumping their water from wells that are becoming harder to keep clean and aren’t completely reliable when it comes to presenting an ongoing water source. 

In a meeting in Stockton when the Bay-Delta Plan was first introduced SSJID warned that if the plan comes to fruition, any future water rights to that surface water that were guaranteed as part of an expansion would immediately dry up – and that means that clean drinking water is all of a sudden not on the table anymore for some of the cities that paid to help bring that project to fruition. 

Isn’t that something that we need to think about?

I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, because I think that it’s erroneous – there’s a reason we have a secret ballot, and I’m not beholden to anybody when it comes to disclosing how I chose to exercise my constitutional right. 

With that said, I think it’s somewhat comical that because I opted not to view the situation that unfolded last week through the lens of an election, and as a result was accused of attempting to sway things for somebody who historically represents a party I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with. On anything. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.