The state-approved plan for Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Plan will create innumerable hardships for residents, farmers and business owners who rely on the Tuolumne River. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the plan.

The plan disregards years of voluntary settlement talks and a scientifically proven alternative that would benefit native fish and people who rely on the river.

Turlock Irrigation District (TID) opposes Phase 1 of the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) Bay-Delta Plan, which threatens significant harm to its customers by focusing only on river flows. By adopting the Final Substitute Environmental Document on December 12, 2018, the SWRCB ignored a solution reached through voluntary settlement talks between TID and State officials. It also discounts sound science in TID’s proposed option: the Tuolumne River Management Plan.

The Tuolumne River Management Plan is based on independent, peer-reviewed science. This alternative calls for improving habitat and limiting non-native predatory fish, in conjunction with moderate water flow increases, a combination that would result in greater gains than the SWRCB’s plan for O. mykiss and fall-run Chinook salmon populations. 

By furthering the co-equal goals of fishery improvement and water supply reliability, the Tuolumne River Management Plan provides the greatest benefits to the most people – and to the fish. And it could be accomplished for less money.

As a result of the SWRCB’s action, TID, along with the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, has filed a lawsuit challenging the adequacy and legality of Phase 1. TID now faces a protracted legal battle over this very important issue, but in the interest of its customers and the river upon which the region depends, TID will continue to pursue a voluntary settlement agreement.

The SWRCB’s plan relies on outdated studies conducted around the world, which applies generic data across all river systems and assumes this data would apply equally to all rivers affected by the plan. In addition, the plan doesn’t address the factors that are impacting fish populations and how those can be mitigated in a holistic, scientific approach. It looks instead at how much water aquatic species need to reach “viability.”

The Tuolumne River Management Plan was developed with years of river-specific research and was the result of years of consultation with federal and state resource agencies, Indian Tribes and members of the public. It is science-based and peer-reviewed – and a more equitable and effective way to protect the resource for wildlife and humans.

Increasing water flows on its own does not take into account the specific needs of the fish. Science shows that a combination of water flow in the river at the right times, habitat restoration, and decreasing predation by non-native species (all of which are solutions offered in TID’s Tuolumne River Management Plan) will produce far greater numbers of O. mykiss and fall-run Chinook salmon – the native fish that live in the Tuolumne River.

TID has some of the oldest water rights on the Tuolumne River, and with that comes a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. TID takes this role seriously. It employs an aquatic biologist and other experts to ensure it is meeting the requirements to sustain a healthy river ecosystem.

In addition, groundwater sustainability is important to the district. Flood irrigation from the river provides the largest single-source recharge method in the Turlock Groundwater Basin. The State Water Resources Control Board’s plan would remove large amounts of surface water that could be used to recharge local groundwater basins and severely impact the region’s groundwater sustainability efforts.

The state’s plan poses a serious threat to quality of life in the region. It would threaten agricultural production and processing, ag-related business, the region’s economic base, groundwater recharge and an affordable water supply. Click here learn more about the impacts of the plan.

The average parcel size in TID’s irrigation service territory is under 30 acres, meaning they are not large corporate operations, but multi-generational farms. Permanent agriculture such as tree fruits/nuts, dairy and dairy feed crops cannot be fallowed one year (while dry) and then return to adequate production the next year, if they return to production at all. Three out of four TID farmers grow crops in this classification. The increased river releases would have a devastating impact on these farms.

More information about the Tuolumne River Management Plan can be found online at tiddonpedro.com.