[env-trinity] Sac Bee 10 03 10
ara.azhderian at sldmwa.org
Fri Oct 8 11:10:20 PDT 2010
Good morning Jim,
Thanks for your response. Now that the dust has settled some, I thought
it important to circle back to our exchange from Monday. Unfortunately,
I fear my use of a simple and contentious example only further
distracted from the true issue. Please, let me try again.
The San Joaquin Basin Plan amendment that the State Board considered on
Tuesday has nothing to do with Westlands.
The amendment was requested by the Grassland Bypass Project
participants, which does not and never has included Westlands.
The amendment simply seeks to extend the current regulatory regime (yes,
they are regulated) for up to 10 years to facilitate completion of the
Westside Regional Drainage Plan, which aims to eliminate agricultural
discharge from the nearly 100,000 acre planning area (which doesn't
include Westlands). The project has worked diligently toward having the
plan fully implemented by now; however, it has been delayed in large
part due to the state's fiscal problems. Local and federal funding is
An Environmental Impact Statement and Report was prepared and the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service subsequently issued a biological opinion.
This project is the most proactive and progressive drainage management
effort in the Valley, and arguably anywhere. It was initiated by a
small group of farmers in the mid-nineties because they saw the need to
manage their drainage. Clearly, no one else was going to do it for
them. It has grown into a huge success and now enjoys support from an
array of local, state, and federal agencies as well as a number of
The project has reduced the discharge of selenium load by over 89% since
program implementation and monitoring began in 1995
(http://www.sfei.org/gbp). While the program has experienced a few load
limit exceedances, each occasion was the result of a high rainfall
event. Regardless, the project Oversight Committee has required the
payment of "incentive fees" and these have been paid. Not once has the
program experienced a load limit exceedance due to management of the
area's agricultural discharge.
Your clarification between what's in evidence, that Westlands doesn't
drain into the San Joaquin River, and your suspicion that they do, is
appreciated. However, I believe the distinction was lost upon your
readers. Rather, they were presented a story that interweaves history
and speculation with current events in a way that would likely lead a
person to conclude there was some relationship between the various and
disparate issues and that the character of that relationship was bad.
It is this misrepresentation that is the source of my dismay.
This project is a good one; one, frankly, that you should support. It
aims to accomplish what you claim to want. It will not result in
another Kesterson, it will avert one. It will not avoid the rules, it
will reinforce them. It is not a "free pass", it is a solution. And
fortunately, the State Water Resources Control Board agreed -
I invite anyone interested in learning more to contact me or the Panoche
Drainage District to arrange a tour. Their enthusiasm, resourcefulness,
and conviction are inspiring and I encourage each of you to experience
that for yourself.
Water Policy Administrator
San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
From: Jim Metropulos [mailto:jim.metropulos at sierraclub.org]
Sent: Monday, October 04, 2010 10:30 AM
To: Ara Azhderian
Cc: Byron Leydecker; FOTR List; Trinity List
Subject: Re: [env-trinity] Sac Bee 10 03 10
We know that Westlands has plugged their drains. In theory the Grassland
Drainers are the only ones discharging directly into the San Joaquin
River via the San Luis Drain.
However, the Central Valley Regional Water Board staff testified that
Westlands Water District selenium pollution, which is is not regulated
by waste discharge requirements, is migrating to surrounding farms and
to the San Joaquin River. Because there is no publicly available
monitoring of the contaminated groundwater at Westlands or field edge
monitoring, ones does not know for certain if Westlands is discharging
directly in the San Joaquin River.
I can respect that you have a different opinion on this issue but what's
sad is your knee-jerk characterization that the op-ed is "obfuscating
Regardless, have a good day.
Sierra Club California
jim.metropulos at sierraclub.org
The Regional Board staff testified that Westlands Water District
selenium pollution, which is not regulated by waste discharge
requirements etc, is migrating to surrounding farms and to the San
Joaquin River. Because there is no publicly available monitoring of the
contaminated groundwater at Westlands or field edge monitoring, one does
not know for certain if Westlands is discharging directly into the San
On Oct 4, 2010, at 10:02 AM, Ara Azhderian wrote:
WOW... you would think that someone with such a position would be at
least partially aware of the facts. For example, Westlands doesn't
discharge any drainage.
Obfuscating the facts doesn't benefit anyone. Sad.
Water Policy Adminstrator
San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
From: env-trinity-bounces at velocipede.dcn.davis.ca.us
[mailto:env-trinity-bounces at velocipede.dcn.davis.ca.us] On Behalf Of
Sent: Monday, October 04, 2010 9:24 AM
To: FOTR List; Trinity List
Subject: [env-trinity] Sac Bee 10 03 10
Irrigators may get new free pass to pollute
By Jim Metropulos
Longtime residents of California may recall those 1984 pictures of birds
with twisted beaks, deformed heads and the limp, dead chicks. These
birds died by the hundreds in Kesterson Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos -
one of the state's worst wildlife disasters.
In the decades that followed, state water officials have looked the
other way and refused to enforce the state's tough discharge selenium
standards. Kesterson Reservoir became a wake-up call.
But no one at the State Water Resources Control Board woke up. Toxic,
selenium-contaminated agricultural drainage water still flows through
the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and into the San Joaquin River.
And the State Water Resources Control Board is about to approve another
10-year waiver for its selenium discharge standards. That means another
10 years of toxic water headed toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta -
and our drinking water.
For west-side irrigators, this is business as usual. And the state water
board plans to keep it that way.
Some may view this as a blast from the past. In Kesterson, follow-up
studies documented that selenium-laced runoff from Westlands Water
District lands and other west-side irrigators produced the selenium
wastewater that caused the Kesterson disaster. Now, the state water
board is about to allow one of the state's biggest drainage polluters to
keep loading selenium into our waterways.
Of course, the west-side irrigators will tell you things have changed.
They may quote their new slogan: "Dilution is Grasslands' and Westlands
Water District's solution."
But these giant west-side agricultural powerhouses' "solution" falls far
short of fixing the problem. Selenium builds up in the bodies of plants
and animals. So while the levels of selenium vary with dilution, this
toxin builds up in the food chain and has caused bird deformities,
reproduction problems and death in wildlife. It can even threaten human
health and is known to cause symptoms as varied as hair loss,
nervous-system effects, and digestive harm.
Let's follow the water. Bearing levels of selenium high enough to deform
wildlife and threaten drinking water, the drainage swirls past signs
posted along Mud Slough and parts of the San Joaquin River. The signs
warn would-be anglers not to eat fish caught in the toxic brew, to
prevent potential birth defects. Seeping its toxic cargo into
groundwater all the way, the water finally flows to the Merced River and
empties into the Delta.
Westlands and the other west-side irrigators are simply too politically
powerful. Westlands and these other irrigators are some of the state's
foremost proponents of a proposed peripheral canal. The federal
government has documented that the continued use of federally subsidized
irrigation for about 400,000 acres of selenium-rich soils along the west
side of the valley are causing the selenium contamination of groundwater
and surface waters spreading out from Westlands Water District and the
other west-side irrigators.
For years, these polluters have received a free pass as they dumped
toxic selenium into our drinking water, and harmed our fisheries and the
Pacific Flyway. The State Water Resources Control Board should deny
approval of the proposed amendment to the San Joaquin Basin Plan that
would give Westlands and these water users another decade to avoid
enforcement of selenium water-quality standards and aquatic life
These west-side irrigators need to wake up and follow the rules.
Jim Metropulos represents the Sierra Club on statewide water and energy
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (secondary)
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