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Denham Weighs In On New Melones Debate

Congressman Jeff Denham says a Federal Biological Opinion that calls for drawing down New Melones Reservoir “sounds ridiculous.”

“If we drawdown that water, we’ll be in a situation where we have less fish than more,” says Denham. “I don’t think we can afford it as a state, or as a community.”

The Oakdale Irrigation District has filed a lawsuit hoping to stall the Biological Opinion, and a federal judge will rule next month whether the drawdown should proceed. The Biological Opinion calls for New Melones Reservoir to be drained down below 500 TAF (thousand acre ft.) 18 percent of the year, and cooling water would be brought down to flood the lower Stanislaus River. It is designed to protect the Central Valley Steelhead.

If the Federal Judge allows plans to move forward, Denham hopes something can still be done. “I think at times the federal government needs to step in, either through the Executive Branch, or Congress proposing new laws to actually change the overall dynamic,” says Denham.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors also recently submitted a letter supporting efforts of the Oakdale Irrigation District. Denham, a Republican, represents the 19th Congressional District. A programming note, he will be the guest on Mother Lode Views this weekend.