Friday, June 7, 2019

Modesto and Turlock made it onto the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times a few days ago, but not for reasons we might hope.

They’re paying attention to legislation in Sacramento that would make a rule addressing climate change a little more fair for us, meaning customers of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. That asinine rule already has cost everyone buying electricity or farm water from either utility tens of millions of dollars.

Friday, June 7, 2019

When California embarked on its quest to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a global model to stave off climate change, its first target was the state’s electric power industry.

A series of ever-tightening decrees required utilities to shift from coal, natural gas and other carbon-based sources to a “renewable portfolio,” eventually reaching 100% non-carbon sources by mid-century.

The acceptable alternatives were specified in law, dominated by windmills, solar panels and geothermal wells. But for purely political reasons, the list omitted two power sources that are both free of greenhouse gases and renewable: large hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Two long-vexing problems confronting our Valley — not enough doctors, and not enough clean drinking water — could be addressed by innovative legislation that we urge Sacramento legislators to embrace by Friday’s budget deadline.

Although the Valley is a great place to raise families, we have trouble luring medical professionals. Did you know the Bay Area enjoys 411 doctors for every 100,000 people, while the San Joaquin Valley struggles with only 157? The statewide average, by the way, is 237.

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.