On Tuesday in Modesto, it was standing-room only at a State Water Resources Control Board hearing for a plan that could cut irrigation water for farmers and drinking water for cities.
Many people showed up at the meeting to protest the plan, while others came to show their support.
The Bay-Delta Plan could see a change for outflows on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The current proposal is to increase water flows from those rivers from February to June leaving little or no surface water for irrigation for growers in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.
Stanislaus farmer Bill Lyons served as the former California Secretary of Agriculture.
He says all three counties could face major losses in production, jobs and land values.
“If you took their gross agricultural production, and if they were a state, they would rank in the top 15 states in the nation, so you’re going to take 40 percent of the water away from one of the most productive areas of the nation, doesn’t make any sense to me,” says Lyons.
The water would go to the Delta to improve fish and wildlife, and especially the salmon population, which has declined substantially over the decades.
State Senator Cathleen Galgiani from Modesto says the potential for an increase in the salmon population is likely minimal.
“It may provide an additional 1,100 salmon at the expense of our agricultural economy here,” says Galgiani.
Board Chairman Felicia Marcus says it will be up to the board to try to find the best solution.
“The board’s job is to establish objectives that provide reasonable protection to the fishery and to balance that with agriculture and municipal use," Marcus says.
The State Water Resources Control Board expects to make a final decision by July.