East of the Altamont - Water
The next item in trying to figure out what is going on in San Joaquin County is to consider the question of water. Maybe there is no single question that is more important for the residents of the 11th CD. If you look around the Delta, you may come to agree with the line from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
“Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. .”
So, what is the thing about water in San Joaquin County?
According to a recent article in the Stockton Record, they don't do a good job of managing what flows into the river. The City of Stockton decided to contract with a private company to manage water for the City. The company, OMI/Thames had a terrible record in England and has done it again, releasing 8 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the San Joaquin River, needing 10 hours to recognize that it had a problem and then hiding the fact for 3 days before telling anyone.
I was passed a copy of a note from Sylvia Kothe, Chair of both the Concerned Citizens County of San Joaquin and the San Joaquin County Chapter, League of Women Voters. I extracted the following sentence.
CCCoS revealed publically (in two ignored Annual Evaluation Report Cards) to the City Council and the Stockton Record that there were several significant areas of the Service Contract's non-compliance that would be eventually be a contributing factor into showing that OMI/Thames should not be contractual responsible for the maintenance and operation of Stockton's water, wastewater and stormwater systems.
The point here is that the politics of water is as dirty as the water in the San Joaquin River.
Still this does not have anything to do with farming. But the following from the Stockton Record's Mike Fitzgerald does. Fitzgerald wrote his May 03, 2006 Column on the State of river dirty problem.
The ballooning cost of cleaning San Joaquin water is what drove the city to its controversial decision to unload the waterworks on a private company.
And the river is at the heart of the city's downtown and waterfront comeback. Add our responsibility to steward the river's aquatic life, and there are good reasons to get in there and fight.
For starters, take the failure of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board to enforce the state's clean-water law.
The toothless board is proposing to give ag polluters four more years to gear up for the clean-water law. They propose extending an ag waiver.
But although that appalling idea is coming up for review, the city isn't sending anybody to thunder: "Hey. Make these farmers do their fair share to clean up the river. It's the law." Even though the city bears a tremendous burden to clean their pollutants.
Now, you begin to see where they are connected. The drain from fields carries with it pesticides and high quantities of nitrates that make it very difficult and costly to provide clean, safe drinking water for Stockton.
So, what has our Congressman been doing? Nothing. Nada. Which is just what many in agriculture want him to do.
There is also an environmental issue here. It involves Chinook Salmon and the operation of the Friant Dam. The question involves the release of additional water from Millerton Lake to maintain the flow through the San Joaquin River system. However, any water sent down stream is not water that can be used by farmers, who currently use 95% of the water captured behind Friant Dam. And, the farmers of San Joaquin County don't give a Dam about salmon.
So, Pombo and the rest of the San Joaquin Valley Congressmen want a bigger, higher Friant Dam or they want to build another Dam on the same watershed, both of which have environmental consequences.
There is probably another solution to this. It is to take the voluntary farm associations that are currently trying to monitor the water quality and have them pay for the clean up. If you make it dirty, you clean it up. But, that just makes too much sense.
This is not easy. But, unless a candidate is willing to jump into the fray and talk sensibly about the question of water...water supply for the farmers, clean water for those downstream, we will continue having these problems for a long time to come. There may be no compromise that makes fishing, environmental and agricultural interests all happy.