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Winter 2012

Fighting for Our Way of Life

As Family Water Alliance (FWA) celebrates its 20th anniversary, members look back at their journey and their fight to protect water, property rights, agriculture and rural living.

Family Water Alliance's essence is the heart and soul of the countless volunteers who dedicated their time and personal money; volunteers who wanted no recognition, no glory, no spotlight -they just sought to preserve our way of life and protect our water and land.
Family Water Alliance began when environmental regulations hit home with a ruling from Judge Levi, a ruling that would stop the water that flowed to our vast rich soils; soils that provided food to the world and was the base of our rural communities’ economic stability. The early 1990’s launched our quiet farming communities into a whirlwind of fear, regulations, tension, new law’s and a constant sense of uncertainty. Our communities were thrust into the invasive environmental agenda.

Farmers and their families found themselves heading to Sacramento to attend court hearings, governmental meetings and visits with legislators. With this, these volunteers realized they needed to organize because the battle was fierce; FWA begins to form. When you combine fear, outrage, grit, commitment and determination the results are impressive. FWA soon became a well greased machine ready to fight to the end to protect our rights.

The battle was larger than life as the vastness of environmental groups was staggering. They were and are armed with our tax dollars and continue to create regulations to accomplish their environmental goals and the ultimate goal; to take our land and our water. They are still developing environmental laws and strategies, forcing FWA to keep their guard up, which is why FWA is as vital today as it was 20 years ago.

The early names behind the scenes are many and span many counties. So in honor of those many volunteers and the past and current Board members and all the long-time financial supporters, the theme at FWA’s annual dinner this past November was to recognize those people whose dedication has made FWA what it is today.

The original founders of FWA were: Joe Carrancho, Marion Mathis and Sue Sutton. From this core group the coalitions and supporters were far reaching. People like Rich Bottini, Rich Lorenz, John Amaro and David Yingst went to countless north state environmental meetings to learn about what they were planning and what made them tick. While Mathis, Carrancho, Jeff and Sue Sutton and later Ashley Indrieri headed to Sacramento to bring attention to the happenings taking place in our rural communities, others made endless phone calls and gathered information keeping dubious notes so concerns could be addressed at the Board meetings. Both Sutton in his tenure and today Indrieri, regularly travel to Sacramento to testify at Legislative hearings and assist legislators with information and provide comments at state agency hearings. FWA is well respected in Sacramento.

Family Water Alliance continues to coalition build; coalitions with various agricultural groups as well as continued relationships with fishing and forestry industries. In order to keep up the fight, FWA’s holds an annual fundraiser each November to generate funds which it uses to help absorb some of its operation costs.

The Family Water Alliance is truly dedicated to its rural communities and will continue to fight to protect the way of life. FWA is humbled by the support it receives for the communities they aim to protect.

During its tenure, the organization went from the founders dividing up their time to run the group to being able to hire its first executive director, Jeff Sutton. Sutton’s contributions to FWA and our communities was invaluable as he held a hard fight against the Sacramento River Conservation Forum (SRCAF) which then and still today aligns itself with the environmentalist and aim to manage the river and the land connected to the river. The goal is to create a massive riparian forest. The plan is fraught with problems and Sutton was instrumental in holding them at bay.

Sutton stepped down as executive director more than five years ago and today the position is held by Ashley Indrieri.

FWA today has three full time employees.  FWA staff continues to administer the Sacramento Valley Fish Screen program. Using cost-effective measures for farmers, this program thrives today. FWA has screened 30 agricultural diversions throughout the Central Valley of California protecting over 40,000 acres of productive farmland.

Family Water Alliance continues to fight against the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area proposal. FWA was instrumental in working with the Colusa and Glenn County Board of Supervisors to show grassroots opposition to this environmental proposal. FWA continues to battle for adequate flood control for rural communities and never ceases in the fight against increased water fees. These are just a few of the numerous issues FWA deals with daily.

A debt of gratitude goes out to all FWA’s current and past board members and supporters for their years of dedication and service. Thus, on the 20th anniversary of Family Water Alliance they look to the future with pride knowing that their past was built by many individuals. ■


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