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Advocacy

 

Advocacy topics vary from year to year as issues come and go. Timely issues will be added to this page as situations justify. Some West Delta Chapter advocacy activities that are present year in and year out are listed below:

Promote Catch & Release - to conserve the resource; Attend Department of Fish & Wildlife meetings when Striped Bass are on the agenda; Attend Fish & Game Commission meetings when Striped Bass are on the agenda; Work with State agencies to reinstate the net rearing pen program; Advocate for the return of fresh water flows through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay; Get our youth involved in fishing,

CA Obtains Fed Fish and Wildlife Funds for Delta Tunnels Under False Pretenses
December 10, 2015

Sacramento – A document obtained under a Public Records Act request reveals a taxpayer grant of a $17 million from the Bureau of Reclamation to the California Department of Water Resources on July 30, 2015.

Read the federal agreement here.

The funds were intended to help: "...lead to the conservation and rehabilitation of habitat to improve fish and wildlife populations and ultimately to a healthier Delta ecosystem."
While the agreement describes a habitat conservation planning effort to help recover fish and wildlife, the funds were used instead to plan and promote the Delta Tunnels water export project.
The timing of the grant is important, because at the time as the grant agreement was drafted (March 2015), and well before the agreement was signed (July 2015), DWR had already jettisoned the conservation components of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) in favor of only constructing massive diversions on the Sacramento River with no habitat restoration.
Tim Sloane, executive director the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations noted, "The Bureau of Reclamation does not appear to have questioned releasing the federal tax dollars, even though the Bureau already knew that habitat restoration was no longer included. This allowed DWR to use the funding obtained under a misrepresented grant to aid the Brown administration to plan for and promote the tunnels. Clearly, there are captive federal and state agencies moving this project forward without regard for the health of the fish these agencies are supposed to be protecting."
On April 30, 2015, state officials formally announced that the original BDCP had been abandoned in favor of the "WaterFix" Tunnels project, citing inability to meet more stringent legal requirements applicable to conservation plans. While the BDCP previously included 100,000+ acres of habitat restoration as part of a habitat conservation plan, the now separate "EcoRestore" program includes a goal just 25,000 acres, and 5,000 acres of "habitat enhancements." This restoration has been required of the existing Delta water export operations since 2008-2009, and is required to be funded by the water exporters.
Osha Meserve, an attorney representing Delta farming and environmental interests explained, "The grant agreement clearly states that these funds would be used for conservation planning purposes. Yet, the funds were instead used to directly advance the Tunnels, a project that does not include any of the conservation described in the agreement. Ironically, funding that was supposed to promote protection of fish and wildlife is now being used to fund a project that will destroy endangered and threatened fish species. Plus, beneficiaries of the Delta tunnels, like Metropolitan Water District, Kern County Water Agency, and Westlands Water District, are supposed to pay for project planning, not the Federal taxpayers."
The proposed Tunnels project would divert essential fresh water needed to protect endangered salmon and more than 27 other endangered species from the Sacramento River and send it south before it reaches the Delta Estuary and San Francisco Bay.
More than 1/4 of a billion dollars has already been spent on the BDCP planning effort, including millions in federal dollars. PRA documents indicate the bait and switch with the funds provided under the guise of protecting fish had already happened well in advance of the latest grant agreement being signed.
While planning for the Delta Tunnels has continued at a breakneck pace, the commitments to restore and protect the Bay Delta ecosystem gather dust.
"Federal funds meant for conservation were redirected into planning for the Delta Tunnels, including payment for no-bid contracts and special interest lobbying pitched as 'public outreach'. Amidst the worst drought in our lifetime, California officials took federal taxpayers for a bath," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. "DWR should have spent these funds on planning improvements to their existing pumps; for as little as $200 million, the south Delta pumping facilities could be improved to vastly reduce take of endangered fish."
The project has a history of cost overruns more than doubling since it first was initiated. Running out of money, DWR and prime beneficiaries, Westlands and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, have sought and obtained federal tax dollars for the water export Tunnels that were meant to ensure protection of fish and wildlife.

Records: California plans taking land for huge water tunnels

By Associated Press on August 17, 2015 3:30 pm

 State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300 farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by opponents of the tunnels.

Farmers whose parcels were listed and mapped in the 160-page property-acquisition plan expressed dismay at the advanced planning for the project, which would build 30-mile-long tunnels in the delta formed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.

“What really shocks is we’re fighting this and we’re hoping to win,” said Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s. “To find out they’re sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they’re going to bully us … and take what they want.”

Officials involved in the project defended planning so far ahead regarding the tunnels.

“Planning for right-of-way needs, that is the key part of your normal planning process,” said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the water agencies that would benefit from the twin tunnels.

The district serves 17 million people in Southern California as well as large farms and businesses.

Brown’s administration said re-engineering of the delta — the largest estuary on the West Coast — is essential to undoing mistakes of past water projects and to supplying water to Southern California.

Brown has pushed for a massive delta makeover since his first stint as governor in the 1970s and 1980s. In May, he told critics of the tunnels to “shut up.”

Opponents say the tunnels would jeopardize delta farming and destroy vital wildlife habitat.

“If these reports are correct, then we have further confirmation that the tunnels project has been a forgone conclusion,” state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who chairs a committee on the delta, said in an email Monday.

The environmental review, “which should be used to choose a project, is simply being used to justify the favored project,” she wrote.

Through October, the project officially is in a period of public comment on the environmental impact of the tunnels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which opposed an earlier version of the project, also must still weigh in.

Restore the Delta, a group of farmers, fishing associations, environmental groups and other opponents, released the property plan that was obtained with a request made under the state open records law. The plan targets public and private land in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties to be acquired for the project.

Under the plan, landowners would have 30 days to consider and negotiate a one-time state offer, while officials simultaneously prepare to take the land by forced sale if owners declined to sell. “Negotiations to continue in parallel with eminent domain proceedings,” the plan notes.

Contractors also appear to call for minimal public input.

“All transactions are conducted, reviewed and approved internally by DCE staff and managers to maintain control and avoid unnecessary delays to schedule,” the property plan outlines. “DCE shall seek to minimize external review and approval requirements.”

DCE is short for Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise, a private-contractor group embedded within the state Department of Water Resources to work on the proposed tunnels.

In a June interview, Neil Gould, an attorney for the Department of Water Resources, said planning for the proposed tunnels was no more than 10 percent complete and had focused on assessing the environmental impact.

Asked if planning the process of eminent domain was warranted as part of the project’s environmental review, Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Nancy Vogel said Monday in an email, “identification of properties that may be within the project area is necessary … as DWR needs to estimate the proposed project’s potential impacts to those properties.”

A group of Southern California water agencies paid for the property-acquisition plan, Vogel said.

Patterson, with the Southern California water agency, said the latest revisions to the overall tunnels project laid out using more public land and less private land.

Osha Meserve, an attorney for some of the delta farmers fighting the project, said the latest plans still proposes taking roughly the same land as before.

 August 18, 2015 - California Department of Fish and Wildlife Torpedoes Fishing License Reforms


Several weeks ago, the California Sportfishing League announced that the California Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015 (SB 345) may not advance in the California State Assembly this year, unless a key provision of the legislation is reintroduced.
 
In June, Senate Bill 345 passed the State Senate by a unanimous vote, but without a key provision that would replace California’s calendar-based fishing license system with one that is valid for a full 12 months from the date of purchase. The provision aimed to provide greater value to one the costliest fishing licenses in the country.
 
The decision by Senate Appropriations Committee to gut a key provision of the legislation angered anglers concerned with the State’s failure to recognize and provide solutions to an unprecedented decline in fishing participation.  While the legislation enjoyed unprecedented support from associations representing anglers, tourism, small business and local government, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was the lone opponent.
 
“The fact that California is facing an unprecedented decline in fishing license sales is an ominous sign that anglers find fishing too expensive and less accessible than in years past,” said Marko Mlikotin, CSL’s executive director, in a press statement. “Yet, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to defend the status quo and has failed to engage the angling community in reversing a dangerous trend. Unfortunately, this failure of leadership will undermine the amount of revenue generated from fishing license sales that fund fishery management plans, fish hatcheries and conservation programs. Absent meaningful reform, fishing license sales face a death spiral.” 

Be assured that CSL has not abandoned SB 345 as we work with the bill's author, Senator Tom Berryhill, to bring about real and lastly reforms.

Click here to email DFW Director Chuck Bonham to support SB 345!

Click here for related article

Federal appeals court backs restrictions on delta water deliveries
By BETTINA BOXALL, LA TIMES December 23, 2014

Ruling that water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is important not just for people but also for the fish that swim in it, a federal appeals court on Monday backed environmental restrictions on deliveries to urban Southern California and San Joaquin Valley agriculture.
A panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed most of a lower court ruling in a long-running legal battle over endangered fish protections in the delta, the hub of California's water system.
The appeals decision was issued in one of two lawsuits filed by San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts — including the Westlands Water District — and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California challenging federal protections that at times limit pumping from the delta to the big aqueduct systems that carry water south.
Though the water districts won at the U.S. District Court level in the two cases, the 9th Circuit has now unraveled both of those victories.
Monday's decision upheld a set of environmental restrictions imposed in 2009 by the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect imperiled chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon that migrate through the delta, along with a small population of orca whales that prey on salmon.
Noting that "people need water, but so do fish," the 80-page opinion echoed another 9th Circuit decision issued this year that affirmed delta smelt protections adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As in the smelt case, the appeals judges concluded that U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger overstepped legal bounds when he relied on thousands of pages of outside scientific opinion to invalidate many of the environmental restrictions.
Judge Richard Tallman, who wrote the opinion, said the three-judge panel agreed that the fisheries service "used the best scientific data available, even if that science was not always perfect."
Major urban and farm water districts that get supplies from the delta have for years attacked the salmon and smelt protections in the courts and the political arena. The water contractors argue that federal fishery agencies focus too much on the effects of the delta pumping operations while ignoring other harms to native species, such as pollution and predation by non-native fish.
Bob Muir, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which imports delta water to the Southland, said Monday's decision was not surprising, given the ruling in the smelt case.
Metropolitan and a number of other agencies have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the smelt decision. The high court in recent years has declined to take up other California water cases. A decision on the request is expected next month.
The appeals opinion "is likely to be the last word. But you never know," said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at Earthjustice, which represented fishing and environmental groups that intervened in the salmon case.
Caputo called Monday's opinion "a pretty resounding affirmation by the judges that the [fisheries service] did the right thing when it protected the salmon."
In a departure from the detailed parsing of environmental law that made up most of the opinion, Tallman opened with a passage from "East of Eden," John Steinbeck's novel about California's Salinas Valley: "And then the dry years would come ... The land dried up and the grasses headed out miserably a few inches high and great bare scabby places appeared in the valley."
"The same can be said for California's Central Valley," Tallman wrote, adding that the salmon case was about competing demands for delta water.
"This water is essential to the continuing vitality of agriculture in the Central Valley, and some 25 million Californians depend on it for daily living. But that water is also an important habitat for thousands of river and anadromous fish, many of which are endangered."

Water 4 Fish - Action Alert

January 2015 Newsletter

Update on Federal Legislation which would destroy our Central Valley Salmon Runs

In early 2014 a water bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives which would have devastated the Central Valley salmon populations. It was sponsored by the San Joaquin agricultural members of the House. In early December, both Senators Feinstein and Boxer were instrumental in stopping an amended version of that bill in the Senate because it would have overturned the Endangered Species Act protections for the salmon. Undeterred, later in December the House passed a new bill which contained most of the same salmon killing provisions.

The new Congress will take up these bills again in 2015. Water4Fish, the Golden Gate Salmon Association and other organizations are gearing up for the battle. You can help. Letters to Senators Feinstein and Boxer thanking them for their 2014 actions and requesting their continuing help in 2015 can have a big impact.

We have drafted an email that you can easily send to Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Go to www.water4fish.org and click on "Send Letters to Legislators". Fill out your information and click on "Send Emails".

Water4Fish to Exhibit in the January International Exposition next week in Sacramento

Come visit us at the show which runs January 8th through the 11th at Cal Expo. We will be in booth 3822. You can get updates on the salmon situation plus get a show special on gear.

We are seeking volunteers that can help in the booth. If you can donate a day or part of a day to help our team spread the word on saving our fish, call or email Bob Mellinger at (707) 894-3780, Bob4fish@comcast.net or Dick Pool (925) 963 6350, Rbpool@protroll.com . It is a great way to give back to the fisheries we love.

Thanks for your continuing support.

Dick Pool, Editor

Water4Fish.org P.O. Box 5788, Concord, CA 94524 email: action@water4fish.org

Delta smelt reaches new record low in fall survey 

by Dan Bacher   January 10,
2015


The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's fall midwater travel trawl survey that was released today. 

The smelt was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary. It is considered an indicator species because the 2.0 to 2.8 inch long fish is endemic to the estuary and spends all of its life in the Delta. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has conducted the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) to index the fall abundance of pelagic (open water) fish, including Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad, nearly annually since 1967. The index of each species is a number that indicates a relative population abundance.

The dramatic decline of fish species this year is part of a long term decline of fish species, due to massive water exports out of the Delta, increases in toxic chemicals and the impact of invasive species. 

Scientists and leaders of fishing groups, Indian Tribes and environmental organizations pinpoint the export of massive amounts of water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County as the key factor behind the fishery collapse. 

"The 2014 Delta Smelt index is 9, making it the lowest index in FMWT history," wrote Steven Slater, CDFW environmental scientist, in a memo revealing the results of the survey. "Delta Smelt abundance was highest in 1970 and has been consistently low since 2003, except in 2011." 

Found only in the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the fish mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events from approximately March to May. 

Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, it is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat. 

The survey also revealed the continuing collapse of striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas

The 2014 age-0 striped bass index is 59, making it the third lowest index in the survey's history. Age-0 striped bass abundance was highest at the survey’s inception in 1967, according to Slater. 

The index for longfin smelt, a cousin of the Delta smelt, is 16, making it the second lowest index in history. Longfin smelt abundance was also highest in 1967. 

The 2014 threadfin shad index is 282, the sixth lowest in history and the seventh in a series of very low abundance indices. Threadfin shad abundance was highest in 1997, a year of high outflows into San Pablo and San Francisco bays. 

"The 2014 American Shad index is 278, which is the second lowest in FMWT history and only slightly higher than the 2008 index of 271," said Slater. "American Shad abundance was highest in 2003." 

Delta advocates pointed to mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs and the Bay Delta Estuary by the state and federal governments as the primary reason for the decline. 

"These crashes in fish populations show that the Delta was not managed for fish protection in 2014," responded Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. "We know from research that outflows to San Francisco Bay were needed to stop salinity intrusion at the state and federal export pumping facilities." 

"Thirty years of overpumping have led to the destruction of our fish species during the current severe drought. The question is whether proposed federal drought relief legislation proposed in Congress is going to even worsen the bad management practices and destroy Bay Delta fisheries in 2014," Barrigan-Parrilla stated. 

The surveys were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta. The surveys show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad have declined 95.6%, 99.6%, 99.8%, 97.8%, 90.9%, respectively, between 1967 and 2013, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and Board Member of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN). 

Both the 2013 and 2014 indices for Sacramento splittail, another native fish found only in the estuary, were not released, but results from 2012 reveal that splittail indices have dropped 98.5% from 1967 levels. In 2011, the Brown administration presided over a record "salvage" of 9 million splittail in 2011, a record year for exports by the federal and state projects. 

The release of the survey takes place as Governor Jerry Brown continues to back the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels under the Delta. The plan is based on the premise that taking more water from the Sacramento River above the Delta will "restore" the collapsing estuary. 

The $67 billion plan will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

You can read the full report with graphs at: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=92840

 


 


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