Friday, April 12, 2019

Assemblyman Gray criticizes water board, says Delta-Bay Plan hurts struggling communities

About 80,000 people in Merced and Stanislaus counties can't drink water from their tap without risking their health, according to clean water advocates who spoke on Friday, May 11, 2018. BY THADDEUS MILLER

After the state Water Resources Control Board said its Delta-Bay Plan would not have “significant” effect on the drinking water of disadvantaged communities Assemblymember Adam C. Gray, D-Merced, blasted the board members for what he said was their lack of concern for impoverished and minority communities.

Gray recently introduced Assembly Bill 637, which requires the board to identify disadvantaged communities and mitigate impacts to the drinking water supplies serving those communities. The bill also requires the board to hold public hearings in or near those communities.

“It should be the rule – not the exception – that impacted communities are able to make their voices heard,” Gray said on Wednesday.

The water board did not immediately return requests for comment.

There are 17 communities in the 21st Assembly district where wells have recently tested positive for harmful toxins. About 80,000 people in Merced and Stanislaus counties can’t drink water from their tap without risking their health, according to clean water advocates.

They draw those numbers from records provided by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Delta-Bay Plan requires water entities including the Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale and Merced irrigation districts to sacrifice 40 percent unimpaired river flows, allowing it to go to the San Francisco Bay Area from February through June. That leaves less water for agriculture and city water customers in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

Sending that water would have an adverse effect in areas that already struggle with water quality, Gray said. He argued the board should follow the same rules as the federal government.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order prohibiting federal agencies from discriminating against and ignoring impacts to low income and minority communities.

“Any rational person would agree that advancing a plan which devastates impoverished neighborhoods, degrades drinking water, and openly ignores impacts to some of the most vulnerable communities in the state should be against the law – but the Water Board is not rational,” Gray said.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

When the the State Water Resources Control Board voted to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, it ignored the direction of former Gov. Jerry Brown and current Gov. Gavin Newsom to pursue voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw this as an act of defiance by former chair Felicia Marcus, the executive director, and many of the activist staff.

While Newsom has made swift progress towards rebuilding trust with water users, in part by removing the former chair from the board for her actions, it takes time for reforms at the top to trickle down to the hundreds of staff who actively urged the board’s action.

Since then, Eileen Sobeck, the executive director of the board, submitted a proposal to the United States EPA requesting “review and approval” of the revised salinity objectives included in the Bay-Delta Plan.

While the Bay-Delta Plan exceeds 3,500 pages, the board’s entire submittal for federal approval was nothing more than a couple paragraphs and a chart. The letter made absolutely zero mention of the 40% unimpaired flows approved by the board last December.

Ten years of hearings, a myriad of reports and meetings, millions of dollars in staff and consultant costs, and thousands of public comments should not be subjected to review according to the board’s letter.

Adoption of the Bay-Delta Plan by the EPA based on a single letter would be a profound act of irresponsible government. That the board’s executive director would ask the federal government to take such action is the height of bureaucratic arrogance.

Even more troubling however, is the board’s failure to acknowledge the voluntary agreements being negotiated by our irrigation districts and water users. Many of these negotiations have reached agreements already, and the others are headed in that direction.

By sending an approval request without full and comprehensive information, the water board staff are undermining the good-faith relationship Newsom has established with our region. The federal government should reject this sorry excuse for a proposal.

Democrat Adam Gray represents Assembly District 21, which encompasses Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

Monday, February 25, 2019

As published in: The Merced Sun-Star

Some of my legislative colleagues began to pay more attention to our position when they learned it was about much more than farmers and agriculture. They were especially impressed with the role Merced educators played in our efforts. Our Merced County educators have stepped up big time on the water issue. Retired Merced Superintendent Steve Gomes co-signed the initial letter to the State Water Board. Our current superintendent, Steve Tietjen, appeared at hearings, signed letters and helped organize our Merced districts in support of the Valley’s position on water. Twenty-two Merced school superintendents signed a joint letter asking the state to consider educational impacts. Special thanks to Alan Peterson, Superintendent of Merced High School District, and Planada Superintendent Jose Gonzales for their support and participation at the water rally and during testimony at hearings.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

New Governor can see past coast all the way to the Valley. That’s a change.


In his first State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom proved that his map of California does in fact include the San Joaquin Valley, the Inland Empire and other back-bone communities too often ignored.

The Valley has a justified history of distrust toward statewide politicians. As the former mayor of San Francisco, it’s easy to pigeonhole the new governor as another big-city politician out of touch with the unique issues of rural and inland communities. But after the Governor’s address, a lot of folks are rethinking their skepticism.

We don’t need to agree on the solution to every problem, but it is refreshing that Gov. Newsom’s vision for the future of California actually includes us.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The high cost of a zero-emission California

By Dan Walters | Sept. 24, 2018 |


It’s time again, boys and girls, for more fun with numbers – this edition being about electrical power generation and consumption in California.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use round numbers reflecting official state and federal data.

Electrical power is measured and priced to consumers by the kilowatt-hour, which is 1,000 watts of energy, about what a coffee maker uses, flowing for one hour. But in larger scale, officials use terawatts, each a billion kilowatts.

Californians burn 300 terawatt-hours of juice each year, 70 percent of which is generated in-state and more than 40 percent of which comes from natural gas- or nuclear-powered plants here or elsewhere.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Open hearts greet new Camp Taylor facility at old Honor Farm near Grayson


September 23, 2018 12:17 PM

A place that once locked up law breakers will now give children with heart disease the freedom to be themselves in Stanislaus County.

On Saturday, ground was broken on the new, permanent home for Camp Taylor at the old Honor Farm facility on West Grayson Road. The ambitious project comes after the camp, founded by Kimberlie Gamino, spent its first 16 years moving from site to site for its day and over-night camps.

Once completed, the $10 million project will be first medically supervised permanent camp facility dedicated to children with heart disease, which is the No. 1 birth defect nationally. This year, the efforts were infused with $2 million after Assemblyman Adam Gray helped to secure funding in the state budget for infrastructure and new construction.

“They have a tremendous vision for this place,” Gray said at the groundbreaking event Saturday afternoon. “This is something Stanislaus County should be extremely proud of.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Camp Taylor along the San Joaquin River becomes a reality


More than 40,000 children are born with heart defects in America each year, making heart disease the nation’s leading birth defect. Children with heart disease often miss out on many of childhood’s most cherished experiences, as the regimen of medication and surgery prevents many of these children from participating in recreational activities.

Kimberlie and Michael Gamino of Modesto were determined to change that.

In 1993, Kimberlie and Michael welcomed a son, Taylor, to their family. Doctors soon discovered that he had been born with half a heart, a condition known as Hypo-Plastic Right Heart Syndrome. The Gamino family virtually lived at the hospital for months at a time, but they remained determined to ensure that Taylor experienced the fun and formative moments of childhood even while enduring four open-heart surgeries and a stroke.