By: Alex Breitler, Record

STOCKTON – Watch out for lizards, Ruben Sarabia says, kicking up dust as he tromps through a shallow valley in the middle of a walnut orchard.

“This is actually called ‘The Gully,’ ” Sarabia says. “People who say anything else must really know their history.”

This “gully” is the head of Mormon Channel, which – strange though it may seem, given the lizards, the dust and the walnut trees – once carried much of the water that flowed naturally through Stockton out to the Delta.

┬áIs there enough water? Not for regular flows on both the Mormon Channel and the Calaveras River, says Bill Jennings, a Stockton environmentalist who opposed this project when it was proposed in the 1990s. “Dreams die hard,” Jennings said. “It would be a wonderful thing to have the water running through Stockton, but none of us are prepared to kill the Calaveras River to do it.”