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Action Alert-Send Letters Now to Save our Fisheries

On June 20th we posted a petition to the Fish & Game Commission to oppose the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta petition to change regulations on Striped Bass & Black bass which could decimate both fisheries. We have since learned that letters to the Commission are far more effective. We have created a letter for you to use and mail. You can also write your own letter or modify the one we created. We need everyone to send a letter and save our fisheries. Copy & paste the letter to Word.


July 11, 2016


California Fish and Game Commissioners
1416 Ninth Street. Suite 1320
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Predation

Dear Executive Director Termini, President Sklar and Game Commissioners:

I am writing to register my strong opposition to the Petition submitted by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. Their petition to increase bag limits and decrease size limits for Striped Bass and Black Bass due to predation of listed species could have many negative consequences for the entire SF Bay-Delta ecosystem and economy. Regulations currently in place were to protect these public trust resources from over harvest and provide fishermen and women angling opportunities.

The largest indiscriminate predator in the Delta is the exports pumps which destroy millions of fish annually through direct and indirect losses. Additionally pumping operations remove millions of acre feet of habitat and nutrients from the ecosystem. The exportation of habitat also reverses the flow of rivers drawing listed species as well as other fish to their doom.

Dr. Peter Moyle of U.C. Davis is the expert on the Delta wrote about Striped Bass predation and found predation of listed species is insignificant. Targeting Striped Bass could also have negative unintended consequences for the rest of the ecosystem. His study and writing, Striped bass control: cure worse than disease?, can be found at the following link:

https://californiawaterblog.com/…/striped-bass-control-the-…

An Economic Analysis of Striped Bass, Steelhead, Salmon, Halibut and Sturgeon Fishing in a 31 County area of Northern California was prepared for the California of Fish and Wildlife by The Program for Applied Research and Evaluation at California State University, Chico, CA. The study started in 2010 and completed in April 2013. The bottom line of this in depth analysis showed that 162,002 Bay Delta Complex Anglers contributed $470,280,821.00 in pursuit of their sport.

The Coalition litigated to remove Striped Bass, however, the Fresno Federal Court ruled on July 21, 2010 that the peer reviewed science did not support any of the plaintiff’s contentions regarding Striped Bass predation impacts on salmon, steelhead and delta smelt listed under the Endangered Species Act.

A Science Panel convened by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2010 on Delta Flow Criteria arrived at the same scientific findings based on peer review scientific studies.

In 2013 an independent panel of national expert fisheries scientists was convened by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries to evaluate predation impacts in the estuary. They found that the removal of non-native fish is absolutely unnecessary, logistically impossible and would open a Pandora’s Box of adverse ecological effects within the estuary ecosystem.

I hope you will find that the Coalition’s petition is counterproductive and will reject their request to change regulations on these public trust resources.

Sincerely,


Your Signature
Address

 

Let bass off the hook in Gov. Jerry Brown’s delta tunnel plan

 By George Skelton, LA Times, July 6, 2016

 “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton….” Hold it there. Cotton growers don’t like those fish jumpin’.

 Neither do hardly any other growers in the thirsty San Joaquin Valley. Not bass, anyway, jumpin’ in the bucolic California Delta. They want `em dead.

 Striped and black bass, so popular with recreational anglers, are trying to survive in water that San Joaquin Valley growers desperately covet for their crops. And the fish are messing it up.

 Summertime indeed is easy livin’ in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of all the Americas and California’s main water hub.

 Water flows from the Sierra have slowed, and the rivers, muddy only a few weeks ago, are turning a deep green.

 Houseboats and skiffs, ski craft and bass boats are navigating waterways lined with willows, sycamores, vines and oaks. The delta is everyone’s swimming hole. Rustic restaurants and bars are inviting respites.

 Anglers anchor in the rivers and toss out bait to tempt stripers. In sloughs, fishermen nose their small boats into reeds and cast lures for black bass.

 But it’s all threatened. Gov. Jerry Brown and big interests — corporate agriculture, water districts, labor unions — are trying to convince government environmental regulators that digging two 40-foot-wide, 35-milethan it is. In fact, they argue, it’ll improve.

 Sure, the project will disrupt local farming, burgs, marinas and lifestyles. But southbound water deliveries, it’s contended, will become more reliable.

There’s also a financing dilemma, however. The cost is pegged, so far, at a hefty $15.5 billion. That will increase practically everyone’s water bill in the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles Basin. Critics say the money could be better spent on regional projects, such as recycling, storm water capture and desalination.

 But back to those bad bass.

 This is convoluted and a bit concocted, but the charge is that striped bass and black bass eat beautiful baby salmon and endangered tiny smelt. Moreover, the bass aren’t even native Californians, while the salmon and smelt are.

 It’s hardly a scientific discovery that big fish eat little fish. Just like big farms in the San Joaquin Valley are trying to crunch little farms in the delta by siphoning off more of their fresh water.

 Actually, what adult stripers prefer to eat are their own young. But they’ll eat any critter that swims near, including little salmon and smelt. So will the iconic steelhead trout, but they’re natives so no one is targeting them.

 Those herons and egrets, they get hungry too and dip in their beaks, plucking out fish. But nobody’s trying to blow them away.

 And the sea lions that swim up from San Francisco Bay in pursuit of spawning salmon and stripers. Don’t get me started on them. They scarf down fish like Alaskan bears. But they’re sacrosanct.

As for being native to California, hardly any crop is. Almonds did start arriving with Spanish explorers in the 1700s. But navel oranges came here about the same time as striped bass did from the East Coast in the 1870s. Cotton was first grown early in the 20th century.

 So let’s not get too huffy about what’s native. Certainly people of European ancestry aren’t.

 The problem for San Joaquin Valley farmers and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is that when endangered salmon and smelt are threatened in the delta, federal judges restrict pumping and reduce flows into southbound aqueducts.

Delta fish populations — most importantly Chinook salmon, which supply the coastal fishing industry, and the shy smelt that live only locally — have been a century ago.

 The project has been deadly for fish, chomping them up in giant pumps. The pumps also reverse natural river flows, confusing salmon trying to make it to the ocean.

There are other culprits, too: dams that block access to ancestral spawning streams, a toxic brew of pesticide runoff from farm fields and inadequately treated waste water from cities.

The bass, however, have become scapegoats for big water interests: agriculture, urban districts, contractors, labor unions. They’ve banded together in a speciously named organization called — the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta — that is trying to make it easier for anglers to catch and decimate bass.

 They’re petitioning the state Fish and Game Commission — appointed by the governor — to reduce minimum size limits and increase daily catch limits. The size limit for stripers would be lowered to 12 inches from 18, and the daily catch limit raised to raised to six from two. For black bass, allowable sizes would be reduced to 8 inches from 12 inches and the daily creel limit upped to 10 from five.

The coalition calls it an important step toward restoring salmon and smelt, which would stabilize water deliveries for irrigation and cities.

 Nonsense, says Peter Moyle, a veteran delta fish biologist at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

 “People don’t seem to get that striped bass have declined along with the smelt,” Moyle says. “The same thing has been affecting all fisheries. They need a functioning estuary.”

 Reducing the striper population, he says, “will make no difference at all. You’ve got all those other predators out there.”

 Predators like non-native San Joaquin water gulpers. 

Sign our petition urging the Fish and Game Commission to reject the Water Contractors petition to destroy our fisheries!

For details read the article below and then go to our on line petition to the F&G Commission to do the right thing. The link to our petition is:

https://www.change.org/p/california-fish-and-game-commission-save-the-delta-fisheries/share_for_starters?just_created=true

 Water Contractors Launch New Attack on Striped Bass, Black Bass

June 21, 2016

by Dan Bacher

The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, the Astroturf group bankrolled by Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon Stewart Resnick, on June 9 submitted a new petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to raise bag limits and reduce size limits on striped bass in an attempt to reduce their populations. This time they’ve added black bass also as a so-called “predator” in their petition.

The “Coalition” is joined by a who’s who of the state’s agribusiness, water agency and corporate interests, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, Southern California Water Committee, State Water Contractors, Western Growers Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, Northern California Water Association and Kern County Water Agency.

When the water contractors last tried to eradicate striped bass by slashing the size limit and increasing the bag limit, anglers were able to defeat their proposal with a large showing of people at the February 2012 Fish and Game Commission meeting after Fish Sniffer Editor Cal Kellogg and I helped organize a campaign mobilizing over 450 anglers to show up for a CDFW meeting on the issue in Rio Vista in November 2011.  

Coalition for a Sustainable Delta spokesman Michael Boccadoro, the president of the Dolphin Group, claimed the purpose of the petition is to “help preserve” Sacramento River Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.

California families, businesses and farms have sacrificed considerably during this drought to provide water to help preserve salmon and smelt,” Boccadoro stated. “Modifying size and bag limits for striped bass is an important next step to better protect and begin restoring these endangered species. It is clear that more needs to be done to halt the continuing declines.”

The proposed changes would increase the bag limits and decrease the size limits for black bass and striped bass in the Sacramento-San Joaquin  Delta and rivers tributary to the Delta, according to Boccadoro.

The black bass size limit would be decreased from 12 inches to 8 inches and the daily bag limit would be increased from 5 fish to 10 fish.

The striped bass size limit would be decreased from 18 inches to 12 inches and the daily bag limit would be increased from 2 fish to 6 fish.

Sacramento Judge Rules Delta Plan Is "Invalid"

by Dan Bacher
Thursday Jun 23rd, 2016 6:52 PM

 Judge Michael Kenny of the Sacramento Superior Court today ruled that the Delta Plan is "invalid" after a successful legal challenge by multiple Delta parties who argued that the controversial plan is not protective of the water quality or the fish species that depend on fresh water flows for their survival. 


The Court, in its tentative ruling vacating the plan, said the Delta Stewardship Council must redo the Delta Plan to include a number of quantitative measures of performance, including reduced reliance on the Delta for future water needs by exporters.

Since the Delta Plan relied heavily on Governor Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels Plan, now called the California WaterFix, to achieve its goals, Delta and public trust advocates see this as significant victory that will delay the twin tunnels for years.

The Delta Plan was required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act, a law designed to implement the two coequal goals of providing a more reliable
water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. "The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner
that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place," according to the Act.

In his decision, Judge Kenny said: “To be clear, the Delta Plan is invalid and must be set aside until proper revisions are completed. As Respondent itself argued previously, in light of an invalid Delta Plan, there is no proposed project, and consequently nothing before the Court to review under CEQA. The Court does not believe that piece-meal CEQA review is feasible under circumstances in which significant Plan revisions are required.”

Representatives of groups who participated in the lawsuits against the weak protections in the Delta Plan hailed the decision. They plan to issue a full press release on Friday, June 24.

“The court invalidated the Delta Plan because it blatantly failed to comply with the law and, consequently, was not protective of the Delta," said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). "The Plan failed to mandate specific requirements that would reduce reliance on the Delta, provide for more natural flows, reduce harm from invasive species or increase water supply reliability though increased regional self-sufficiency."

"The order will require major changes in the Plan that will reverberate though-out the document necessitating new environmental review. This will delay WaterFix’s efforts to construct the Delta tunnels by years and force the state and federal contractors to reassess whether they wish to expend tens of billions of dollars for a project that will supply less water from the Delta," explained Jennings.

Tim Stroshane, policy analyst with Restore the Delta (RTD), said, “Judge Kenny has told the state that the Delta Reform Act means what it says. The Delta Stewardship Council must go back to the drawing board with the Delta Plan and actually require numeric measures that must reduce reliance on the Delta water. This decision will force reductions in reliance on Delta waters by Metropolitan Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Westlands Water District, Kern County Water Agency, and Alameda County’s Zone 7 Water Agency on the Delta, for their future water needs.”

In a statement, Jessica Pearson, Executive Officer of the Delta Stewardship Council, said they were "disappointed" with the ruling.

"While the Sacramento Superior Court’s May 19th ruling upheld significant aspects of the Council’s Delta Plan, the tentative ruling from today unfortunately moves to set aside the Delta Plan until specified revisions are completed," Pearson stated. "At the same time, the Court validated the Council’s role in creating an enforceable Delta Plan, and the Council’s use of best available science to set direction for the Delta."

"While the Council is still considering the full implications of the ruling, we are disappointed that the Court chose to invalidate the entire Delta Plan because of what it identified as inadequacies in two discrete areas:

• The lack of legally enforceable, quantifiable targets for achieving reduced Delta reliance, reduced harm from invasive species, restoring more natural flows and increased water supply reliability, and

• Inadequate “promotion” of options to improve the way water projects move water across the Delta."

Pearson said an appeal of Judge Kenny's decision is likely. "The Delta remains in crisis and now isn’t the time to set aside the State’s only comprehensive management plan for the Delta. Because of this, the Council likely will appeal," she said.

For the complete statement from the Council, go to: https://mavensnotebook.com/2016/06/23/this-just-in-delta-stewardship-council-issues-statement-on-courts-tentative-delta-plan-ruling/'

If constructed, the Delta Tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperiling the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. A broad coalition of fishing groups, conservation organizations, Tribal leaders, family farmers, environmental justice advocates, Delta residents and elected officials opposes Governor Brown's California Water Fix.

The project is designed to ship massive quantities of northern California water to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

CONTACT: Allied Fishing Groups / John Beuttler @ 510.526.4049, johnbeuttler@icloud.com / Dr. David Ostrach @ 530.219.1451, djostrach@gmail.com

WWW.AlliedFishingGroups.com

 

Senator Feinstein’s Legislation Will Destroy Sport Fishing in The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary

Federal legislation introduced by California Senator Diane Feinstein would destroy the most popular sport fisheries in the Bay-Delta estuary should Congress pass her proposed legislation, S.2533 called “The California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act”. 

“The Allied Fishing Groups have urged Senator Feinstein to make urgent amendments to S.2533 to prevent the authorization and funding of programs to remove and eradicate non-native striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pan fish and catfish from the California Delta” stated the Allied Fishing Groups Conservation Director John Beuttler.  

“S.2533 is a death sentence for sport fishing and will accelerate the collapse of all the fisheries including salmon in Bay-Delta estuary”, commented Beuttler. “It will have devastating financial impacts on the money these fisheries generate for Northern California, the Delta, San Francisco Bay and the State’s economy. A 2013 California Department of Fish & Wildlife report estimates these fisheries generate $500 million annually to the states economy.”

“These fish have been targeted for destruction due to their alleged predation on salmon. However, the peer reviewed science on predation in the estuary clearly demonstrates that predation does not have an impact on salmon abundance”, stated David Ostrach PhD., a fisheries scientist who has worked on the estuary’s fisheries for more than 30 years and is the Allied Fishing Groups Science Advisor. “This stands in sharp contrast to the bogus science on predation that has not been peer reviewed but is often cited by water districts, and Central Valley agriculture spokesmen.”

According to Ostrach, “Striped bass and salmon coexisted and thrived together in the estuary and its tributaries for more than 100 years.  Both populations have collapsed since the 1960’s when the State and Federal water projects began pumping from the Delta adversely altering the estuarine ecosystem. The striped bass fishery has collapsed from an estimated 4,000,000 to less than 300,000 adult fish, while several runs of salmon have been placed on the Endangered Species List in an effort to prevent their extinction. Unfortunately, striped bass do not have that protection because they were introduced into the Delta in 1879. Non-native fish are not eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

 “All of California’s fisheries are owned by the pubic”, commented Beuttler. “They are an important part of our state’s natural resource heritage that our government is legally required to hold in trust for people of the state.”

“Ironically”, he commented, “the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has refused to manage the striped bass fishery due to political pressure from Corporate Agriculture and the Water Districts that supply them water. The agency has found political benefit in supporting the demise of this fishery in conjunction with the state’s agricultural industry which helped write some of the language in S.2533.” 

“Losing sport fisheries that generate some $500 million annually can’t be a good thing for the people of this state and especially those who live and work in the Delta,” noted Ostrach. “Senator Feinstein’s legislation is supposed to aide drought stricken California, not drive it into further fiscal and environmental decline.”

“According to some media reports, the state’s agriculture industry set new records of financial income during the drought in 2015 while many of the fisheries of the Bay-Delta estuary fell to their lowest levels in history due to the State’s failure to protect the water needed by the public’s fishery resources”, commented Beuttler.

“The estuary’s non-native fish are being scapegoated to cover up damage the state and federal water projects have caused to the fisheries of the Delta and its tributaries,” said Beuttler. “Since the projects came on line in 1950’s and 60’s, the estuary’s fisheries have been slaughtered by the millions due to the design and operation of the Federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. The loss of revenue to the state and the businesses in California since 1963 from the decline of the striped bass fishery has cost our economy an estimated $42 million per year for a total of $2.5 billion.*

“The Allied Fishing Groups is working diligently to obtain critical amendments to this legislation to protect the estuary’s fisheries and the business that depend on them. Our requests to the Senator have falling on deaf ears due to the influence of corporate agriculture that has little regard for public’s fishery resources”, noted Beuttler.

For those who share our concern regarding these fisheries please go to our website at www.alliedfishinggroups.com for additional information.”

* Based on information from California Department of Fish and Wildlife Report No. 85-03 – Anadromous Fisheries Branch

 

Allied Fishing Groups

1360 Neilson St. / Berkeley / CA 94702 / 510.526.4049

 

Black Bass Action Committee / Bass Classics of Santa Clara / California Fly Fishers Unlimited

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance / California Striped Bass Association / Chico Flyfishers

Delta Fly Fishers / Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen / E.C. Powell Fly Fishers / Fishery Foundation of California  Fly Fishers for Conservation / Fly Fishers of Davis / Friends of Butte Creek / Granite Bay Flycasters

Gold Country Fly Fishers / Grizzly Peak Flyfishers / Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club

Golden West Women Flyfishers / Hi’s Tackle Box / ICON Products Inc. / Lock Lomand Live Bait

Mission Peak Fly Anglers / NCC - Federation of Fly Fishers / NORCAL Kayak Anglers

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assoc. / Pasadena Casting Club / Peninsula Fly Fishers

Recreational Fishing Alliance / Salmon Restoration Association / Santa Cruz Fly Fisherman

Shasta Fly Fishers / SWC-Federation of Fly Fishers / Striperfest / Tracy Fly Fishers / Tri-Valley Fly Fishers

 United Anglers of California / United Pier & Shore Anglers of Calif. / USA Fishing / Wilderness Fly Fishers

 

2.20.2016

The Honorable Diane Feinstein

United State Senate

331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Re: “California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and

Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2016, S2533”

 

Dear Senator Diane Feinstein:

The Allied Fishing Groups represents some 40 sportfishing organizations, fishing businesses and thousands of California anglers. We have reviewed the “California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2016”. We appreciate the opportunity to advise you and your staff of critical changes that are necessary if we are to support this 2016 legislation.

We are requesting two essential changes to this legislation:

1)    Sport fish should be removed from the invasive species list in Section 203 because they are not invasive species and because their destruction would have unacceptable legal, financial and social impacts. Striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish were intentionally introduced into California. The financial impact of destroying these sport fish is enormous.

 

2)    Section 204 should have a specific requirement to protect and relocate the non-native fish captured in the Stanislaus River into the California Delta.

 

 Supporting information for these amendments:

While the legislation has laudable provisions to address some of the drought’s impacts and assist collapsing populations of salmon and steelhead, it also has provisions that would cause the unnecessary destruction of publicly owned fishery resources dependent upon the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary including striped bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. We urge amending this bill to avoid damage to the public’s non-native fisheries that are dependent upon estuary.

Like salmon and steelhead, the fisheries that reside in the estuary and its Delta are held in trust by our government for the public and they must be responsibly managed. In order for your legislation to be successful, it must be based on sound peer reviewed science as far as the estuary and its fisheries are concerned. It should not be based on alleged “science” generated by special interests that has not been peer reviewed by scientific community working on the estuary.

Section 204: Page 113, requires Pilot Projects to Implement CALFED Invasive Species Program. On page 114, line 3 through line 8 requires the removal, reduction or control of a list of invasive species that improperly include striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, white and channel catfish. These are not “invasive species”. 

These species were intentionally introduced into California to establish sport fisheries to be used by the public to provide recreation and food. Their introduction has resulted in generating significant economic benefits to local, state and national economies for decades. The recent “Economic Analysis” conducted by California State University, Chico of April 2013 for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife found fishing for these species and sturgeon generated annually for 31 California Counties some $270 million in labor income, $49 million in tax generation and $500 million in revenues for Central California Counties. This analysis did not have the necessary scope to estimate the income generated statewide, as San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean income estimates were not included in the analysis.

 

Section 203: Page 106 should be amended to require the “nonnative predator research and pilot fish removal project” to relocate the fish removed from the Stanislaus River to the California Delta at the mouth of the Middle River using equipment approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Background Information on Predation in the Bay-Delta Estuary:

Much propaganda has been used by some Central Valley water interests associated with state and federal water contractors that striped bass and largemouth bass predation is the reason for the decline of the estuary’s salmon and steelhead. However, the peer reviewed science does not support these assertions!

This alleged predation issue was litigated in federal court by “Citizens for a Sustainable Delta” (aka water contractors). The Fresno Federal Court ruled on 7-21-2010 that the peer reviewed science did not support any of the plaintiff’s contentions regarding striped bass predation impacts to salmon, steelhead and delta smelt listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Also, a Science Panel convened by the California State Water Resources Control Board in the “2010” Proceeding on Delta Flow Criteria” arrived at the same scientific findings based on peer review scientific studies in the estuary and its tributaries. In 2013 an independent panel of national expert fisheries scientists was convened by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries to evaluate predation impacts in the estuary arrived at the same conclusion.  

The removal of non-native fish is absolutely unnecessary, logistically impossible and would open a Pandora’s Box of adverse ecological effects within the estuary ecosystem. The peer reviewed scientific studies on predation in the estuary have consistently found that that striped bass predation does not have an impact on the population levels of any of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The efforts detailed in the legislation to eradicate a number of sport fisheries including striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass in the estuary are not based on sound peer reviewed science.

The collapse of the striped bass population has paralleled that of runs of listed salmonids and other species that utilize the Bay-Delta estuary. Further reducing its population could have serious unintended consequences for the listed species as well as significant adverse effects on the estuary’s ecology and food web. In the 50 year decline of the striped bass fishery it has collapsed from in excess of three million adults to less than 500,000 adult fish. We are reminded of the warning from respected fishery scientists in the academic community, including Drs. Peter Moyle and Bill Bennett of U.C. Davis, that striped bass predation on inland silversides plays a significant role in reducing the silverside’s predation on delta smelt eggs. Further degradation of the striped bass fishery could have serious consequences for this listed species as well as significant adverse effects on the estuary’s seriously degraded estuarine ecology.

If healthy salmon and steelhead fisheries are to be restored to California’s Central Valley, we recommend that this bill be amended to require an analysis of the abject failure of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act passed by Congress to realize its objectives to double the runs of Central Valley’s anadromous fisheries which includes striped bass devastated by the federal Central Valley Project. Public Law 102-575 was passed by Congress in 1992.

We would appreciate knowing your decision as soon as possible regarding accepting our proposed amendments. Should you have questions or desire additional information, we would welcome your contacting us.

Thank you for your consideration,

John Beuttler                                             David Ostrach, Ph.D.

Conservation Director AFG                    Science Advisor AFG

510-526-4049                                             530-219-1451

 

The Allied Fishing Groups are a voice for California's two million recreational anglers. Currently we represent over 40 sport fishing organizations across the state. Our Mission is to save, protect and restore Northern California’s fisheries and their habitat. Guided by science and our many years of direct experience in fishery management, our Steering Committee is comprised of fishery professionals and dedicated anglers. We work with sport fishing businesses, government and sport fishing organizations to implement practical and lasting solutions to the serious problems facing fisheries and their habitat.

 

 

For Immediate Release: May 20, 2016 from Restore the Delta

 

Sacramento Superior Court Ruling: A Bullet In The Heart
Of The Delta Plan

 

Stockton, CA — Contrary to the Delta Stewardship Council’s claim that the Sacramento Superior Court upheld the Delta Plan except for two needed refinements, Superior Court Judge Kenny put a bullet in the heart of the Delta Plan.

Judge Kenny ruled that the Delta Plan failed to include quantified or otherwise measurable targets associated with achieving reduced Delta reliance, reduced environmental harm from invasive species, restoring more natural flows, and increased water supply reliability, in accordance with the Delta Reform Act.  He also ruled that the Delta Plan failed to provide a flow policy that includes "quantified or otherwise measurable targets" and failed to promote options for water conveyance and storage systems.

While the Stewardship Council talks vaguely about “quantifiable performance measures,” the Decision specifically says, “A measurable target would therefore be a numeric goal that can be identified. Accordingly, to satisfy the requirement of ‘quantified or otherwise measurable targets’ the Court finds that any analysis of the Delta Plan must be informed by numeric goals that will be evaluated at a date certain to determine compliance or the measure of progress that has been accomplished. This is also consistent with the legislative direction that the Delta Plan be ‘legally enforceable’.”

Judge Kenny also discusses reduced reliance on the Delta and increased water supply reliability: “Section 85021 provides that California’s policy is to reduce reliance on the Delta in meeting California's future water supply needs through a statewide strategy of investing in improved regional supplies, conservation, and water use efficiency."  In other words, improved water reliability is not simply a matter of better conveyance in the Delta; it is improving the water supply in local areas in order to reduce the need for water from the Delta.

The Court also found that, because the Delta Plan was inadequate, the Court did not need to address the adequacy of the environmental documents supporting the inadequate Delta Plan.  In addition, the Court ruled that the state and federal contractors did not prove their allegations against the Delta Stewardship Council.  The environmental plaintiffs agree with the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) that the contractors’ arguments against the authority of the DSC to regulate the state and federal projects in the Bay/Delta were unfounded.

Statements by Plaintiffs:

Michael Jackson, CWIN:

While the Court found that it didn’t need to rule on the massive inadequacies in the existing environmental documents, it should be remembered that the Delta Independent Science Board found the Recirculated DEIR/SDEIS “sufficiently incomplete and opaque to deter its evaluation and use by decision-makers, resource managers, scientists, and the broader public.”  And the recent Independent Panel Report for the WaterFix Aquatic Science Peer Review concluded that “best available science for the greater Delta area is inhibited by important knowledge gaps and that science often provides only piecemeal and quantitatively uncertain projections of future environmental conditions in the Delta area and of fish responses to those conditions” and, consequently, “the substantial uncertainties of nearly all Biological Assessment are the dominant theme of the Panel’s findings.”  A grossly inadequate environmental document and substantial uncertainties of nearly all Biological Assessment analyses are a poor foundation for a massively expensive project to re-plumb an estuary.

Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance:

Judge Kenny put a bullet into the heart of the Delta Plan and didn’t even have to address the myriad inadequacies of the environmental document because the absence of specific numerical targets to reduce exports, lessen environmental harm, restore natural flows, increase conservation and reuse to improve water reliability, coupled with the failure to consider alternatives to the tunnels, rendered the Delta Plan inconsistent with the Delta Reform Act.  These failures go the heart of the Delta Plan and its supporting analyses and will require preparation of a new Plan and environmental document, which will further demonstrate the financial and environmental infeasibility of the WaterFix tunnels project. 

Osha Meserve, LAND:

The Delta Stewardship Council was unfortunately more interested in promoting the Delta Tunnels than carrying out the statute under which the Council was formed.  For the Council to regain any credibility, it must address these flaws.  If the Council chooses instead continue to bow to those that are intent on destroying the Delta by taking out its remaining fresh water, the Council serves no legitimate purpose and should be dissolved.

Bob Wright, Friends of the River:

The court is sending the Delta Plan back to the Delta Stewardship Council to revise the Delta Plan to do what the Delta Reform Act requires it to do. It is time for the government agencies charged with protecting the Delta to follow our laws instead of trying to ignore or evade our laws.

John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity:

The Delta Plan was supposed to address the Delta’s ecological crisis and protect endangered fish and wildlife.  This ruling recognizes that it has failed.

 

Should California’s striped bass be vilified as native-fish killers?

By Ryan Sabalow

rsabalow@sacbee.com

 Verona

J.D. Richey cut the throttle, bringing his 20-foot jet sled to a sudden halt in the gentle flows of the lower Feather River. Richey, a Sacramento-based fishing guide, had spotted what river anglers call a “boil,” a school of small bait fish under attack by larger predators. During the feeding frenzy, the predator fish splash the surface as they swoop up from below to attack.

With the boat drifting within casting distance of the splashes, Richey’s two clients grabbed their rods and let fly lures designed to mimic a struggling bait fish. Seconds later, they leaned back, grinning widely as they reeled in fish a foot and a half long.

For Richey and the anglers, it was a successful weekday outing, resulting in a bounty of fish dinners to come. More broadly, the scene put them smack in the center of yet another Central Valley river conflict, one that pits “good” fish against “bad” fish, farmers against anglers, and without enough fresh water to allow them all to thrive.

The “bait fish,” in this case, were among 1 million baby fall-run Chinook salmon that state officials recently had released into the river from an upstream hatchery. While the fall run isn’t endangered, its population is in sharp decline. The winter run, meanwhile, is perilously close to extinction; and the spring run only marginally stronger. Compelled both by endangered species law and California’s struggling salmon-fishing industry, state and federal regulators have gone to painstaking lengths to try to bolster their numbers.

And the predatory fish? Those were mostly striped bass, an East Coast species introduced to California in 1879, just 14 years after the Civil War. Tens of thousands of anglers now fish for them each year in Central Valley bays, rivers and lakes, generating millions of dollars in fishing-related purchases and fees.

What role the non-native bass – called “stripers” by anglers – have played in the overall decline in Central Valley native fish populations, including Chinook, is an ongoing debate in Washington D.C., and Sacramento. Last month, an Obama administration official voiced sympathy for a bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Turlock Republican, that seeks to reduce the number of striped bass in and around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State lawmakers considered a similar bill that stalled last year.

The primary advocates for these bills and others are powerful agricultural interests that have spent more than a decade blaming striped bass and other non-native predators for playing a significant role in the decline of native fish species in the Central Valley, including Chinook, steelhead and Delta smelt.

Their concern is less about the fish and more about how the population declines affect their water supply and livelihoods. Court rulings empower the federal fisheries agencies that monitor species to govern water flows in the Delta, and their decisions often translate into pumping limits to keep fish from being harmed.

As salmon and other native fish species have declined, regulators have responded by cutting back exports at the two huge government pumping stations at the bottom of the Delta. The pumps supply water to millions of acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley and 19 million Southern Californians. Instead of regularly throttling back pumping, groups dependent on exported Delta water say, regulators ought to reduce the numbers of striped bass and other non-native fish preying on salmon and smelt.

A chief complaint is the decision to label the striped bass a game fish protected by laws that set strict catch limits. In most of California, recreational anglers can be cited if they catch more than two stripers a day or if they keep any bass smaller than 18 inches. Commercial fishing for stripers is prohibited. Central Valley farm interests would like to see the limits on striped bass and other non-native predators raised or removed.

“This is one of the (solutions) that we think falls into the low-cost, no-brainer category,” said Michael Boccadoro, a political strategist who serves as spokesman for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. The coalition is funded largely by Kern County agricultural interests that rely on imported Delta water.

In 2008, Boccadoro’s group sued California fisheries officials to pressure them to remove stripers from sport-fishing protections. As part of a settlement, state wildlife officials agreed to ask the independent commission that sets fishing regulations to let anglers catch and keep more stripers.

The Fish and Game Commission in 2012 rejected the proposal on a 4-0 vote – after getting a less-than enthusiastic endorsement of the proposal from the fisheries officials.

“There’s too little known right now,” said Stafford Lehr, an acting deputy director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The consensus of the research is there’s more going on (with native fish declines) than predation. That’s the department’s position.”

Peter Moyle, a veteran fisheries scientist at UC Davis, is among the researchers who say striped bass are unfairly blamed for the declines in native fish. He described the striper as a “scapefish,” whose numbers have suffered marked declines in recent decades, alongside native fish. The real issue, he said, is what humans have done to the environment by over-allocating water to competing interests.

“There’s always something else – other than the way water’s managed – that’s causing the declines of fish,” Moyle said.

When you’ve got all your species trending downward, the common denominator is water.

J.D. Richey, Sacramento-based fishing guide

Scientists also are skeptical that a systematic removal of striped bass would have the intended effect. The Delta ecosystem has been so altered by humans, they argue, and invaded by so many non-native species that singling out an established species such as stripers may actually put more stress on the estuary. Of the nearly 46 fish species spotted in the Delta over the years, 27 were not native to the estuary.

Sean Hayes, a federal fisheries scientist who has studied predation in the San Joaquin River, said other non-native fish may move in to fill the niche that striped bass and other predators hold in the food web if they are aggressively singled out for removal.

“They’re certainly eating salmon,” he said. “But the reality is they’re eating each other far more.”

Lehr expressed more practical concerns: Cutting the striped bass population through fishing alone is likely a futile proposition given they inhabit such a vast area, he said. At various times of year, the stripers inhabit a range that stretches from the Pacific Coast near Monterey to just below the major dams on the Sacramento and San Joaquin river system.

Health officials have raised yet another objection: California’s striped bass, though prized by anglers for their flaky sweet meat, contain so much mercury that public health officials advise against children and women of childbearing age from eating them. Higher catch limits could increase mercury poisoning among impoverished groups who disproportionately eat fish caught for subsistence, Lehr said.

For now, state officials are experimenting with alternative solutions that offer something to appease the various interest groups, carving out safe space for salmon without decimating the striper population.

Hayes said one effort involves a search for predator hot spots, where river conditions make it easy for predators to gang up and gobble native fish. The hope is their research can suggest ways of altering the habitat to make it easier for the smaller fish to escape.

Other research is looking at the viability of removing predators from a known hot spot, and relocating them to areas where they don’t pose such a risk. That study is underway at the Clifton Court Forebay, a barren 2-mile-wide man-made holding pond that feeds the massive pumping plant near Tracy. The state uses the plant to ship water south from the Delta.

Small fish are drawn into the forebay when they follow the powerful currents generated by the plant’s 11 huge pumps. A fish screening facility sits at the opposite end of the pond at the canal that leads to the pumps. It’s designed to catch the wayward fish so they can be hauled away for release elsewhere in the Delta.

Studies have found between 60 percent and 99 percent of small fish are eaten by the predators that lurk in the forebay before they ever get to the screens.

For the last few weeks, the state has sent scientists into the forebay to see if they can change those odds. They periodically release specially tagged baby salmon at the forebay’s intake gates. And, three days a week, teams of researchers zap the predators waiting to eat them.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen researchers crowded into boats, netting dozens of predator fish that floated to the surface after being stunned by electrically charged cables dangling from two of the vessels. The haul – 11 white catfish, 59 largemouth bass and 150 striped bass – were relocated to a nearby lake where the fish posed no risk to juvenile steelhead, salmon or Delta smelt.

The researchers want to see whether, by regularly removing predators, significantly more salmon will make it through to the fish screens, so they, too, can be relocated.

Far upstream from the Delta, in his boat on the Feather River, Richey remembers boom years not so long ago when his clients hauled in salmon, steelhead and stripers. He views efforts to eradicate striped bass as “a diversionary tactic” that deflects attention from the unrelenting demand for exported water.

“When you’ve got all your species trending downward,” he said, “the common denominator is water.”

Striped bass, he said, have coexisted with salmon almost as long as California has been a state. And they certainly weren’t the only predator having a field day picking off salmon on the Feather River that recent morning.

Herons and egrets lined the banks, nabbing fish as they swam past. Terns and other birds dive-bombed from above. The anglers in Richey’s boat also caught largemouth and smallmouth bass that had been gorging in the boils.

“I’ll never deny that stripers eat salmon,” Richey said. “But so do everything else.”



 

Lawsuit over Delta flows: Feds fail in oversight role, environmentalists say Alex Breitler CA_Stockton

Environmental groups sued federal regulators on Friday for allowing river flows in the fragile Delta to decline below levels that would normally be required even in the driest of years.  Repeatedly since 2014, state officials have elected to loosen flow and water quality standards in order to hold back more water in upstream reservoirs for later use by cities, farmers or wildlife.  This, despite the fact that the normal rules that determine how much water must flow through the Delta already contain provisions for drought years.

Friday’s lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, blames the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to oversee the state’s actions. The most recent tweaking of the rules came just this week, when staff with the State Water Resources Control Board agreed to reduce flows on the San Joaquin River at Vernalis in order to store more water upstream in seriously depleted New Melones Lake.

“It seems this has become the habit now, to waive these standards. We think that’s a bad habit,” said Kate Poole, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued along with The Bay Institute and Defenders of Wildlife.

The state has referred to the flow changes as “temporary” and “urgent,” given the severity of the drought. Normally the changes would require more environmental review, but Gov. Jerry Brown’s drought declaration in 2014 gave officials the ability to speed up the process.

Temporary though they are, the changes amount to rewriting the standards themselves, which have been in place since 1995 and are supposed to keep the Delta fresh for cities, farms and fish, the environmentalists argue in their lawsuit.

They target the EPA because the Clean Water Act requires federal approval to rewrite the flow standards.

The past two years have been “disastrous” for fish, the lawsuit says, from the diminutive Delta smelt to the salmon that migrate through the estuary to and from their native streams.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler. 

Department of Water Resources begins removing stripers from the Delta
Electo-shock removal of stripers from the Delta

BY BILL KARR
WON Staff Writer

BYRON — With no apparent public notice, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has begun electro-shocking in the Clifton Court portion of the Delta and removing striped bass, moving them to Bethany Reservoir.

This writer received a call on April 19 from Stafford Lehr, Chief, Inland and Anadromous Fisheries, Department of Fish and Wildlife, to advise Western Outdoor News of the news.

“The Department of Water Resources is beginning an electo-shock removal of stripers from the Delta immediately, and they are moving the fish to Bethany Reservoir, downstream from Clifton Court, where they are conducting the shocking,” said Lehr.

Apparently, the permission to remove stripers from the Delta was included in 2009 under DWRs federal take permit for state water operations, under the section “Reasonable and Prudent Actions” clause, Lehr said.

“It’s important for your readers to know that this is not a DFW operation,” Lehr said, anticipating public outcry when the project becomes common knowledge. Lehr had no idea how large the operation is — whether it’s one boat, two boats or a fleet, but it will be operating 3 days a week in Clifton Court. Electro-shocking is a very tedious project — and not very effective for removal of large numbers of fish.

Bethany Reservoir, where the live stripers are being relocated, is in the 608-acre Bethany Reservoir State Recreation Area and is open to fishing, with a launch ramp. It’s noted as “the first stop on the 444-mile, north-to-south California Aqueduct of the State Water Project.”

According to Roger Mammon, President of the West Delta Chapter of California Striped Bass Association, “The problem is with the water exports, not the stripers, since the export operations have created manmade currents that draw the fish into the pumps. I think it will only have a minor effect on the fishery, but I would be concerned that they are going to start doing it on a wide scale basis. Those fish were originally planted by the then-Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to provide sport, and they provide perfect sport, if all the water wasn’t being diverted for corporate agriculture and their profit.”

 

 

March 8, 2016 3:58 PM

Southern California water agency moves to buy Delta islands

By Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow    dkasler@sacbee.com

In a controversial move that could shake up California’s water community, Southern California’s most powerful water agency moved a giant step closer Tuesday to purchasing a cluster of islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Following months of negotiations, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s board of directors authorized its general manager to enter into a contract to buy the islands from the owner, Delta Wetlands Properties, a company controlled by Swiss conglomerate Zurich Insurance Group.

Metropolitan delivers water wholesale to 19 million people through 26 agencies. The board’s vote, with 54 percent of its member agencies approving under Metropolitan’s weighted voting system, immediately set off alarm bells in the Delta and elsewhere in Northern California.

The Delta is the conduit through which the state and federal water projects deliver billions of gallons of water from Northern California to the vast farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley and millions of urban Southern Californians. The prospect of Metropolitan controlling a group of islands in the heart of the estuary has sparked accusations that the agency will somehow use the islands to engineer a “water grab” – an allegation Metropolitan has steadfastly denied.


Jeff Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, said he plans to execute purchase documents “within the next couple of days.” He wouldn’t disclose the purchase price Tuesday, but said the deal is for somewhere between $150 million and $240 million. The price will become public once the documents are executed, he said.

The deal involves five islands: Bouldin Island, Bacon Island, Webb Tract, most of Holland Tract and a small portion of Chipps Island. The islands, covering 20,000 acres, are spread among San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties.

Zurich bought the properties more than 20 years ago with the idea of converting the islands, some of which lie below sea level, into for-profit reservoirs that could ship water to Southern California in dry years. The plan has never gained traction, facing considerable legal opposition, and the islands are currently used for farming.

Kightingler said Metropolitan has no plans to use the islands as reservoirs. Instead, it’s exploring using at least some of the land to help pave the way for California WaterFix, Gov. Jerry Brown’s $15.5 billion plan to build massive twin tunnels beneath the Delta and shore up reliability of water shipments to Southern California. Kightlinger said some of the islands could serve as a staging ground for equipment, excavated dirt and other materials. Two of the islands lie in the heart of the proposed tunnels route.

In addition, Kightlinger said Metropolitan is prepared to use the islands to restore wildlife habitat. Given that water-pumping through the Delta is frequently halted because of environmental concerns, Kightingler said restoring habitat represents “enlightened self-interest” on Metropolitan’s part, helping to keep the water flowing by making the Delta’s ecosystem healthier. Owning the islands also would position Metropolitan to repair levees more quickly in case of a major earthquake that might interrupt the flow of water south.

Rather than a ‘water grab,’ he said, “This is about safeguarding the water we do have.”

Kightlinger said Metropolitan believes it has the legal clearance to use the islands for the purposes he outlined.

Delta landowners, however, said they think they could erect legal roadblocks if Metropolitan tries to make wholesale changes to the islands. George Hartmann, a Stockton lawyer who represents farmers and others in the area, said Delta interests can’t prevent Metropolitan from buying the islands but can ensure the agency abides by previously negotiated legal settlements that restrict what can be done with the land.

“We’re not going to roll over and play dead,” Hartmann said. “We’re going to do our best to make sure the agreements are enforced.”

Hartmann scoffed at the idea that Metropolitan wants to improve environmental habitat in the estuary, which has been degraded by decades of pumping.

“They have only one interest. And that is getting more water and securing more stable water, and it’s all about the money,” Hartmann said.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of the advocacy group Restore the Delta, agreed, saying the big Southern California agency will find a way to steer more water south. Once Metropolitan has the islands, “they have the resources to change laws and policies to maximize their access to Delta water in their favor,” she said.

Barrigan-Parrilla wasn’t mollified that Metropolitan said it is steering away from Zurich’s water-reservoir plan; her group is opposed to any project that would help facilitate the governor’s Delta tunnels plan.

“We believe that having MWD as a neighbor is an existential threat to the future of the Delta and Delta communities,” she said.

Michael George, a state official who helps oversee Delta water rights, doesn’t see a peril from Metropolitan’s ownership. George, the Delta “watermaster” at the State Water Resources Control Board, said Metropolitan has been “pretty wide open about what it’s doing” and won’t be able to make big changes or export more water south without getting regulatory approvals.

“My sense is that Metropolitan is a very responsible, pretty transparent public agency that owns lots of properties throughout the state and is a pretty good steward of those facilities,” George said. “I certainly would anticipate, as I’m sure they do, that there will be a great deal of scrutiny of however they choose to use their (Delta) property.”

A spokesman for Zurich had no immediate comment.

Metropolitan spokesman Bob Muir said the agency is still discussing whether to take on partners in the purchase, including a group of Kern County water agencies. The Metropolitan board is expected to take a final vote on the purchase in late April.

 

Hope floats in  hyacinth fight

State officials optimistic weeds will diminish

Posted Mar. 7, 2016 at 6:31 PM

Could 2016 be the year that the tide turns against water hyacinth?

With annual spraying of the invasive Delta weed expected to begin on Thursday, state officials say they’re hoping for a reduced crop this year.

At least one observer who has been critical of state efforts in the past said he’s hopeful, too.

"I think they're getting a better handle on it and I'm optimistic that it'll be more under control this year,” said Bill Wells, head of the California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau. “All the rain is certainly not hurting anything.”

There is reason to share his optimism:

• This year, the state's hyacinth-spraying armada will be larger. An extra $4 million in funding starting last summer allowed officials to hire seven additional technicians to spray herbicides onto the floating plants, as well as two managers to oversee them, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Parks and Recreation said Monday. Some of their boats have been upgraded with new motors, too, and four entirely new boats are being built.

While the money was available last year, it took time to hire the staff; 2016 is the first full year that they will be on the water.

• This is also the first full year of a multiyear contract with a mechanical harvesting company. The contract was delayed for months last year, but now the harvesters are available to target hyacinth hot spots on an ongoing basis. What’s more, the state has entered into a contract with the California Conservation Corps to bring on additional workers when needed.

• Using aerial images, state officials have identified new hyacinth nurseries where the plants grow before dispersing throughout the Delta. Early spraying efforts will target those areas.

• And finally, “Mother Nature also helped us in late December with all the deep frost, and that has also slowed down the growth,” said Gloria Sandoval, a spokeswoman for Parks and Recreation. “Hopefully with the combination of that and the nursery sites we’re targeting, we’ll have a better year.”

To be sure, we will still see water hyacinth. Experts say it will never be eradicated from the Delta.

While bureaucratic entanglements were partly responsible for especially bad outbreaks in recent years, some of the problem is out of our hands. Overall Stockton’s climate has been warming, which fosters plant growth. And the ongoing drought has resulted in less flow to flush the plants out.

Regaining at least some level of control over hyacinth would be a victory in 2016. Last year the state sprayed a record number of acres, and some improvement was noted by NASA officials who are using satellites to monitor hyacinth.

Still, Stockton’s Lighted Boat Parade was canceled for the second consecutive year.

This year’s spraying will start on Thursday, about a week later than last year but much earlier than other recent years and within 10 days of March 1, when the window of opportunity opened under the state's spraying permit.

Initially, spray crews will focus on the following areas: Fourteen Mile Slough, Old and Middle rivers, Paradise Cut, Whiskey Slough, and the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, including the Stockton waterfront.

 Mark your calendar for the Aquatic Invasive Species workshop in Oakley, March 16.

 Aquatic invasive species workshops are scheduled

The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, California Coastal Commission Boating Clean and Green Program, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are conducting aquatic invasive species workshops. The workshops will describe the impacts aquatic invasive species have on the economy and environment, show how to recognize aquatic invasive species, and describe actions to prevent the spreading aquatic invasive species by inspecting and cleaning equipment and watercraft. Workshops will be held March 16 in Oakley, April 12 in Modesto, and May 19 in Santa Cruz . Pre-registration is required. More information is here: http://bayplanningcoalition.org/2016/02/aquatic-invasive-species-workshops/

Here is another article of interest to the Northern California fishing community.

February 29, 2016 5:02 PM

Devastated salmon population likely to result in fishing restrictions

Commercial anglers already struggling amid closure of Dungeness crab season

Poor ocean and river conditions to blame for population decline

2008, 2009 salmon-fishing closures caused estimated economic losses of $549 million

By Ryan Sabalow

rsabalow@sacbee.com

Northern California's commercial anglers are bracing for restrictions on the upcoming salmon-fishing season after federal regulators projected there are half as many Central Valley Chinook salmon in the ocean compared to this time last year.

Last week, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council released its annual population estimates for Chinook off the Pacific Coast. The council estimates about 300,000 adult fall-run salmon from the Sacramento River system are swimming off the coast this year. For the past several years, the forecasts have predicted more than 600,000 salmon.

Fishing trade groups say they're expecting potentially severe curtailments to the upcoming fishing seasons for both recreational and commercial anglers. The estimates will be used by regulators in the next few weeks to set catch limits for both seasons, which tend to run from spring to fall.

Officials blame the poor numbers on unfavorable ocean and river conditions following years of drought.

The disappointing population estimates follow a challenging year for California's commercial fishermen. Last year's salmon-fishing season was restricted in some areas to protect endangered winter-run Chinook whose numbers have plummeted in California's record drought.

Professional anglers had hoped a robust Dungeness crab season would help offset the losses. But California officials announced in November they were suspending the crab season because of a toxic algae bloom off the coast. The commercial Dungeness season remains closed statewide.

"It's a 1-2-3 punch," said Tim Sloane, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "We had a pretty poor 2015 season. We've had zero income from crabbing, and now we're looking at 2016 that's projected to be – just by sheer numbers in the ocean – half what 2015 was."

Jennifer Simon, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the salmon numbers are worse farther north. She said just 142,000 Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon are expected to be available to catch this year, a third of last year's estimates.

Salmon fishing in California is dependent on fall-run salmon that mostly are reared in hatcheries. While government hatcheries have been breeding salmon in robust numbers, the fish face a gantlet on their runs to the ocean and their return a few years later.

Meanwhile, the status of the wild winter-run Chinook that spawn in the heat of summer along a short stretch of river below Shasta Dam also signals trouble. The National Marine Fisheries Service said recently that only 3 percent of the wild juvenile salmon survived long enough to make it out to sea last year. It marked the second straight year that the vast majority of juvenile winter-run Chinook were cooked to death in the Sacramento River. In 2014, only 5 percent of the juveniles survived.

Because winter-run Chinook can swim in the same schools as nonendangered fish, regulators say they'll have to consider the poor winter-run numbers as they set the upcoming season.

"There's no doubt there's widespread concern," said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. Still, he said he's hopeful the season won't be closed outright as it was in 2008 and 2009 because of poor returns of fall-run Chinook. State officials estimate the closures those years led to a nearly $549 million hit to California's economy.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Obama administration to declare a federal disaster tied to the state's closed crab season. In a Feb. 9 letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Brown said the closure has caused more than $48 million in economic losses.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article63238342.html#storylink=cpy

#

From time-to-time CSBA will feature news articles relevant to our mission of the preservation, protection, and enhancement of Striped Bass. This story by Dan Bacher is an example.

Congressman Denham introduces bill to eliminate striped bass doubling from federal law

by Dan Bacher

On February 22, Congressman Jeff Denham  (R-Turlock) introduced a controversial bill, the Save our Salmon Act (SOS), that eliminates the doubling requirement established by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 (CVPIA) for striped bass.

The "striper" is a popular California gamefish that has been devastated by Delta water exports and declining water quality over the past three decades.

The CVPIA required the doubling of all naturally-spawning anadromous fish species, including  Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, American shad, green sturgeon and white sturgeon, by 2002. Unfortunately, not only have the state and federal governments failed to meet the doubling requirements for these fish species, but many of these fish populations have instead declined to record low levels.

Denham described the striped bass, a fish introduced into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River from the East Coast over 130 years ago, as "a known predator fish of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead."

According to a news release from Denham's office, "The CVPIA mandated population doubling for all anadromous fish as part of an effort to protect the fish populations. Under this requirement, both native species and predator fish, specifically striped bass, are included."

Utilizing the false claim by corporate agribusiness interests that Sacramento and San Joaquin River water needed to sustain the fish, wildlife, ecosystem, farms and cities of the San Francisco Bay-Delta is "wasted," Denham said, "This law has led to sending millions of acre-feet of water to the ocean and millions of dollars being spent every year to protect fish populations across the Central Valley."

"Our devastating drought has been made worse annually by the Obama administration in conjunction with environmental extremists who prioritize fish over families," claimed Denham. "Yet they push out millions of acre-feet and fail to address predator species, which their own estimates have shown eat 98 percent of endangered fish species. We must stop the crazy cycle of spending money on both the fish we want to save and the fish that kill them."

Rep. Denham has previously introduced two other pieces of "predation-related legislation," a bill to establish a pilot program to "study predator fish" on the Stanislaus River in 2013, and an amendment to make salmon and steelhead recovery plans "more effective" by "ensuring focus on predation control efforts" in 2015. Both years, his legislation passed the House.

Denham and his corporate agribusiness allies are cynically blaming the striped bass for salmonid declines in order to divert attention from massive water exports to agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the key factor in the decline of salmon and other fish species. In fact, these species coexisted for many decades until water exports, combined with declining water quality and state and federal dam operations, drove these species to record low levels in recent years.

In fact, reducing numbers of striped bass, as Denham has proposed in his two previous bills, could actually have a negative impact on Delta ecosystem, according to prominent scientists.

An article by Dr. Peter B. Boyle, UC Davis author and fish biologists, and William A. Bennett, fish ecologist with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences in the California Water Blog in 2011 states:

"If the striped bass is indeed the dominant predator on other fishes (the reason for a control program), then their decrease should have the most impact on species that are most frequently consumed. The 'release' from predation by striped bass is highly likely to benefit many other alien fish that are also known predators and competitors on endangered fishes. For example, Mississippi silversides are important in the diets of 1-3 year old striped bass, so bass predation may be regulating the silverside population. Fewer striped bass could result in greater silverside numbers, which may have negative effects on delta smelt through predation on eggs and larvae.

Reducing the striped bass population is quite likely to have a negative, rather than positive, effect on the species a control program is supposed to protect. By messing with a dominant predator (if indeed it is), the agencies are inadvertently playing roulette with basic ecosystem processes that can change in unexpected ways. Of course, if it is not a predator that is regulating native fish populations, this issue is moot." (https://californiawaterblog.com/2011/01/31/striped-bass-control-the-cure-worse-than-the-disease)

The striped bass, along with salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt and other fish species, is a victim, not a cause, of water export-induced fishery declines. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's s 2015 Fall Midwater Trawl demonstrates that, since 1967, populations of striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, splittail and threadfin shad have declined by 99.7, 98.3, 99.9, 97.7, 98.5 and 93.7 percent, respectively, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). (www.counterpunch.org/...)

The natural production of Sacramento winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon has declined by 98.2 and 99.3%, respectively, and is only at 5.5 and 1.2 percent of doubling levels mandated by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, California Water Code and California Fish & Game Code.

"Failure to enforce temperature criteria on the upper Sacramento River led to the loss of 95% of winter-run, 98% of fall-run and virtually all of the spring-run Chinook salmon in 2014," said Jennings.

Then in 2015, over 97 percent of the winter-run Chinook salmon perished in lethally warm water conditions on the upper section of the Sacramento River above Red Bluff, due to mismanagement by the state and federal water agencies. (www.facebook.com/...)

"Since 1995, The California Department of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation have fully complied with Bay-Delta water quality objectives in only 8 of 21 years. The State Water Board has never taken an enforcement action for the thousands upon thousands of violations," said Jennings .

To restore salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, striped bass and others species, "sending millions of acre-feet of water to the ocean," something that Denham detests, is exactly what is needed to restore the estuary. The mixing of fresh and saltwater in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast, provides a nursery and spawning ground essential to the life histories of dozens of fish and shellfish species.

Not only are Chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass and Delta smelt dependent on a healthy estuary, but halibut, leopard sharks, sevengill sharks, sixgill sharks, soupfin sharks, Dungeness crabs, starry flounder, Pacific anchovies, Pacific herring, Pacific sardines and other species need a healthy bay and estuary to survive and thrive.

To read the bill, go to: denham.house.gov/...

Note: the bill hasn't been assigned a number yet.

 

FW: Northern CA House Democrats Support Non-profits' Efforts to Get Answers on 'WaterFix' Tunnels Funding

Reps. McNerney, Huffman, Matsui, DESAULNIER, Thompson, and Garamendi, lend a hand to help get answers to the tunnel funding questions.

For Immediate Release:

February 18, 2016

Contact:  Mike Naple

202-225-1647 (o)

202-570-5978 (c)

Mike.Naple@mail.house.gov

Northern CA House Democrats Support Non-profits' Efforts to Get Answers on 'WaterFix' Tunnels Funding

Washington – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09), along with Northern California House Reps. Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Mike Thompson (CA-05), and John Garamendi (CA-03), sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in support of the efforts of four statewide non-profit organizations, looking for answers about the Bureau's funding and federal assistance grants to the California Department of Water Resources to support Governor Jerry Brown's "WaterFix" tunnels plan.

The non-profit organizations include: the Planning and Conservation League, the Southern California Watershed Alliance, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and the California Water Impact Network. You can read their original letter to the Bureau of Reclamation here.

Full text of the Congressional letter:

February 18, 2016

David Murillo, Regional Director

Mid Pacific Regional Office

Bureau of Reclamation

Federal Office Building

2800 Cottage Way

Sacramento CA 95825-1898

Dear Mr. Murillo:

Thank you for your efforts in managing very challenging water supply allocations in California over the span of the drought. We support the collaborative approach between federal and state agencies, but we remain concerned with the level of federal participation in Governor Jerry Brown's "WaterFix" tunnels plan.  We must diligently vet an incredibly expensive, major water infrastructure project especially when our constituents will be affected for years to come and many of our questions about the plan remain unanswered.

We recently sent a letter to Governor Brown outlining our concerns regarding premature allocations of state funding to the WaterFix plan. We support the attached statewide non-profit constituent letter that seeks to find answers to important questions raised about Bureau of Reclamation's funding and federal assistance grants to the California Department of Water Resources in support of the Waterfix Tunnels Plan. We request that your agency provide answers to the attached letter in a timely manner so that we can more accurately address our constituents' concerns.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

_____________________________                             _____________________________

JERRY MCNERNEY                                       

JARED HUFFMAN

Member of Congress                                                Member of Congress

_____________________________                             _____________________________

MARK DESAULNIER                                    

DORIS MATSUI

Member of Congress                                                Member of Congress

__________________________                                 _____________________________

MIKE THOMPSON                                         

JOHN GARAMENDI

Member of Congress                                                Member of Congress

In January of this year, these same Northern California House Democrats sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown regarding his budget proposal as it relates to the "WaterFix" tunnels plan. Specifically, the letter asked how the $3.6 million allocation will be used, and requests a more detailed discussion with the Brown administration as to why budgetary funding was deemed necessary for the regulatory review of the WaterFix tunnels at this time.

Rep. McNerney, whose district contains a majority of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, has long opposed Governor Brown's tunnels, an ill-advised plan that would devastate the Delta's fragile ecosystem and hurt families, farmers, and businesses in the region.

###

Perspective: The Challenges And Opportunities Facing Recreational Fishing

 

BY MARKO MLIKOTIN/SPECIAL TO WESTERN OUTDOOR NEWSPublished: Jan 22, 2016

The California Sportfishing League (CSL) was formed to serve as the anglers’ government watchdog. Our mission is simple. Protect the angler’s right to fish by making sure it is both accessible and affordable. 

In 2015, CSL released an unprecedented study that revealed that since 1980, annual fishing license sales decreased over 55%. This troubling trend would not only have a profound impact on state fisheries and conservation programs that depend on fishing license revenue, but also communities dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism for jobs. What’s more, the leading contributor to this decline, according to anglers, is cost. With permits, California’s annual fishing licenses are the most expensive in the country.

One would think that our study would set off alarms within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). It did not. In fact, the director of DFW doubled down, claiming that the department’s fishing license system was financially sound and strongly positioned to support the recreational needs of California anglers for years to come.

Yet, when faced with public criticism for reducing the number of stocked trout and failing to conduct the required assessments that could reopen Marine Protected Areas to fishing, the department claimed poverty. Clearly, DFW can’t have it both ways.

This kind of inconsistency and the (needless) government imposed challenges recreational fishing faces in 2016, only fuels the speculation that the State of California is purposely discouraging anglers to fish.

As a leading advocate for California anglers in the State Capitol, we will continue the fight as anglers face both opportunity and challenges in 2016;

Fishing License Reform: Senator Tom Berryhill has introduced Senate Bill 345 that will provide anglers a better bang for their buck by making fishing licenses valid for a full 12-months, as opposed to the current calendar year system. Other states that have implemented such reforms have witnessed increased fishing license sales, and more revenue for state hatcheries and conservation programs. (note to DFW)

Marine Protection Areas: The California Fish and Game Commission is considering a plan that would postpone 5-year assessments on existing fishing moratoriums, leading many to believe the so-called “temporary” MPAs that ban fishing in over 800 square miles of ocean may simply become permanent.

Fishing Gear Ban: Without any scientific analysis, the State is considering new regulations and a potential ban on common fishing gear that include such metals as lead, zinc and copper. While CSL has raised repeated concerns associated with the merits and legality of the action, the state has not reversed course. If implemented, watch your wallet. The cost of some fishing gear could increase 20-fold.

Fish Hatcheries: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, professing poverty, has decreased the size of trout, infuriating not only fresh water anglers, but communities dependent on outdoor tourism. Disease, accidental fish kills and California’s lingering drought only exasperates the problem.

Fish and Game Commis­sion: In 2016, don’t expect Governor Jerry Brown to appoint any anglers to a commission that regulates your right to fish, even as commissioners continue to resign or not seek reappointment.

El Niño: Only so that we can close on a high note, we remain hopeful that continued rains swell our rivers and lakes, and stimulate even bigger catches off our coast in 2016!

Please accept our wishes for 2016 — and lots of tight lines!

Marko Mlikotin serves as the California Sportfishing League’s executive director, www.SportfishingConservation.org




 

Hatchery Salmon Counts Don’t Reflect High Ocean Abundance Estimates
 
by Dan Bacher December 28, 2015
 
National Marine Fisheries Service ocean abundance forecasts released in February, 2015 indicated there would be approximately 652,000 adult Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon and 423,800 adults from the Klamath River fall run in the ocean this year. That’s a total of 1,075,800 salmon.  

 

Yet preliminary figures from Central Valley fish hatcheries reveal that the numbers of salmon that have returned to Sacramento River tributaries to date are below the large numbers projected by the federal government earlier this year.

The numbers of salmon that have been counted this fall dovetail with the spotty commercial and recreational fishing reported on the California coast this year.

In the coming two months, state and federal government fishery managers will be tallying up the data on spawning escapement in the Central Valley rivers and hatcheries to be used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council  (PFMC) when it crafts the 2016 ocean and river seasons.

The good news is that the numbers of jacks and jills (two year old fish) that the fishery managers largely base their abundance on are larger than those counted last year on the Sacramento, Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers.

The Coleman National Fish Hatchery reported that the amount of salmon counted in Battle Creek is less than half of last year’s numbers. “This year a total of 17,328 salmon were counted in the creek, whereas last year a total of 45,000 salmon were counted,” said Brett Galyean, the hatchery’s acting project manager.

Fortunately, the jack and jill count this year, 1802, is above that of last year’s numbers, 831 fish. The hatchery has trapped 14,498 total fish total this season. In addition, the hatchery has enough eggs to meet its annual smolt production goal.

The Feather River Fish Hatchery trapped approximately 16,349 adult salmon and 7,763 jacks and jills, a total of 24,112 fish this season. That compares to 24,893 adults and 6,620 jacks, a total of 31,513 fish, in 2014. That puts the run 7401 fish below last season.  

The hatchery has taken enough eyed eggs, 11-1/2 million, to produce their goal of 8 million smolts, according to Anna Kastener, hatchery manager.

“The fish were really healthy, although they appeared to be smaller than normal. We saw a lot of jacks and jills this season,” she observed.   

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American River has also finished spawning salmon for the season.

The numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon, including jacks and jills (two-year—old fish) showing at Nimbus are above those trapped last year. The facility has trapped 9,716 salmon, including 7,326 adults and 2390 jacks and jills this season.

Last year hatchery staff counted a total of 8,343 salmon, including 7,048 adults and 1,295 jacks and jills.

The hatchery has taken 8 million eyed salmon eggs. “Overall, the numbers of salmon are typical of those we’ve seen here in recent years,” said Gary Novak, hatchery manager.

“The water at the hatchery was warm in the beginning, but the cold snap we got cooled the water down and brought up fresh fish from the Sacramento,” he said.  

The Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in Clements has trapped a total of 6,199 fall-run Chinook salmon, including 3,822 adults and 2377 jacks and jills, according to the latest available data. The numbers for last year to date weren’t available at press time. The Mokelumne is a tributary of the San Joaquin River.

“We got all of the eggs we need for our production goal this year,” said Eric Barrow, office technician at the hatchery. “We’ve taken a total of 6 million eggs so far — and fresh fish keep coming into the hatchery. It’s a late run this year.”

The number of salmon counted in the river over Woodbridge Dam in Lodi in 2015 is 10,857 fish. That compares to around 12,000 fish last year at the same time

Fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmentalists and public trust advocates have criticized the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources for mismanaging Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs during the drought. Over the past three years, the federal and state water agencies have drained the reservoirs to record low levels to divert water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.

The result is that over 95 percent of the winter-run Chinook salmon juveniles have perished over the past two years in lethally warm water conditions.  

Fish advocates point out that the spring and fall runs of salmon have also suffered greatly, due to mismanagement by the state and federal water agencies.

“The drought has severely impacted the wild salmon populations,” said Dick Pool, administrator of Water for Fish. “A successful fishing outlook for 2016 and 2017 and maybe even 2018 is very much in question. Lethal egg temperatures in the rivers and tributaries destroyed 95% of the incubating eggs in 2014 and likely did the same in 2015 when mismanagement of the Shasta Reservoir let the temperatures again go lethal.” 

“In addition, millions of fall-run eggs were dewatered in the mainstem Sacramento River when the flows were dramatically dropped by the Bureau of Reclamation after the fish had spawned along the edges of the river. There is plenty of blame to go around for these problems and the lack of responses. We will pay the price in 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Pool noted.

I will update you on the abundance estimates for the upcoming ocean and river salmon seasons as soon as the data comes in – and the CDFW holds their annual salmon fishery Informational meeting in Santa Rosa.

American River Steelhead Numbers Rebound From Last Year

by Dan Bacher  December 22, 2015

 

Rancho Cordova) The number of steelhead showing now at Nimbus Fish Hatchery is greatly improved from last season, in spite of continuing low releases of 500 cfs from Nimbus Dam into the lower American River.

This year is much different from last season, when a total of only 154 steelhead were trapped by hatchery staff from December through mid-March.

In contrast, the hatchery has trapped over 148 steelhead as of December 22. Last season only 10 steelhead had been trapped by December 29.

“There are lots of steelhead in the hatchery, said Gary Novak, Nimbus Fish Hatchery manager. “I’m floored.”

The hatchery has spawned a total of 27 pairs to date compared with only 31 pairs all of  last season.

“The males are above average size and the females are also large,” he said, leading to speculation that some of the steelhead may have stayed out in the ocean for an extra year and have come up the river as 4-year-olds.

We won’t know for sure until scale samples of the steelhead are analyzed by biologists. Most steelhead return to spawn as three-year-olds on the American River.  

The number of eggs taken from the fish to date is 198,278. That’s more than the total for the entire season last year, 192,278 eggs.

“We averaged about 6,000 eggs per female last season,” he said. “This season we’re seeing over 7,000 eggs per fish.”

The numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon, including jacks and jills (two-year—old fish), showing at the hatchery are now also above those trapped last year. The facility has trapped 9,716 salmon, including 7,326 adults and 2390 jacks and jills,  this season.

Last year hatchery staff counted a total of 8,343 salmon, including 7,048 adults and 1,295 jacks and jills.

The hatchery has taken 8 million eyed salmon eggs to date. “Overall, the numbers of salmon are typical of those we’ve seen here in recent years,” said Novak.

“The water at the hatchery was warm in the beginning, but the cold snap we got cooled the water down and brought up fresh fish from the Sacramento,” he explained.

He noted that they have already sent 2 million eggs to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery, in addition to the eggs they have on hand at Nimbus, as insurance against any unforeseen disaster

 

Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Funds For Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels 

 by Dan Bacher  December 17, 2015

The Brown and Obama administrations are not the only ones pushing for the construction of the Delta Tunnels under the California Water Fix, as evidenced by the inclusion by Congress of a provision to fund the widely-contested project at taxpayer expense revealed today by Restore the Delta (RTD). 

“Deep within the 2009 page Omnibus Spending Bill, up for a vote in Congress on Friday, is a provision called the CALIFORNIA BAY-DELTA RESTORATION starting on page 401 and referenced again on page 409. This would once again allow some $37 million in federal tax dollars to help plan and build massive export tunnels that would take essential freshwater and export it to irrigators south of the Delta,” reported Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.   (http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf

“Funding for the tunnels export project was to be paid for by water users, (i.e. the water districts that support industrial-scale crops for foreign export and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,” she said.  

She noted that over $257 million has been spent so far on the delta water export tunnels. “More than $73 million has been funded by the federal taxpayers, with the most recent federal grant of $17 million received under false presences—for a habitat conservation plan that was dropped months before and now is a tunnels only project,” she explained.    “Archaic, outdated projects that will not serve ratepayers and taxpayers shrouded in 'restoration' language is meant to deceive, not to fund real solutions,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. "The President and Congress need to invest in sustainable, strategic and cost effective water strategies to effectively deal with the drought instead of continuing to invest in outdated projects that produce little water and lubricate water exports to a few rich industrial irrigators on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley.”  

She said riders that will have the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill to fund the water export tunnels, contained deep within federal omnibus spending bills, flaunt California state law Water Code Section 85089, which requires beneficiaries to pay for the project, not taxpayers.

Among the beneficiaries of this taxpayer-funded boondoggle are Beverly Hills agribusiness billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of The Wonderful Company. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/06/03/influential-ag-firm-changes-name-corporation-to-the-wonderful-company-gov-brown-wants-to-change-tunnels-to-pipes)

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels. They have become known as the "Koch Brothers of California Water" for the many thousands of dollars they contribute to candidates and propositions in California every year. 

For example, Stewart Resnick contributed $150,000 to Jerry Brown's Proposition 1 water grab in the 2014 election (www.dailykos.com/...

“The Resnicks are already looking to secure additional water sources,” she said. “The couple could score big if a $15 billion water tunnels export project championed by Governor Jerry Brown is officially approved in the next few years.”  

Tunnels opponents, including family farmers, Tribal leaders, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents and Southern California ratepayers, say the project would grab more than half of the flow of the Sacramento River watershed, one of the last remaining sources of freshwater essential to the health of SF Bay-Delta Estuary.

The tunnels, a boondoggle that would cost Californians up to $67 billion to build a “monument” to Jerry Brown’s “legacy,” would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also imperil struggling populations of salmon and steelhead on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, fish populations that are an integral part of the culture of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk tribes.

“Much of the freshwater is taken for export by industrial irrigators and delivered south to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. About 70 percent of Delta estuary water is exported to these irrigating giants, some of the largest in the Nation where the water is, used to grow water intensive almonds and pistachios on unsustainable desert soils for lucrative overseas exports,” she concluded.

In addition to delivering subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side, the tunnels would also provide water for fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in Kern County. 

The exposing of the ominous provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill takes place the day after the California State Water Resources Control Board failed to protect the flows and management of the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta Estuary.

“They have the legal authority to do so, but they are Governor Brown appointees and lack courage to do the right thing,” commented Barrigan-Parrilla. “They continue to give the Bureau of Reclamation and DWR leeway on how to manage the system during this extreme drought for the benefit of water takers like Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms.”   

Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Congress to pass a dangerous drought bill, HR 2898, that could result in the pumping of more water from the Delta. For more information, go to: restorethedelta.org/... 

Water provider moves forward on Delta land purchase  (MWD of LA)

 

By Alex Breitler, Stockton Record Staff Writer, Nov. 11, 2015

 

The largest provider of treated drinking water in the U.S. may soon become a substantial landowner in the Delta, after the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California gave its general manager permission Tuesday to negotiate an option to buy four large islands.

If finalized, the deal could cost Metropolitan anywhere from $150 million to about $240 million. That’s based on other, smaller real estate transactions in the Delta, which have ranged from $7,500 to $12,000 per acre, said Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.

The islands in question total about 20,000 acres, or about 31 square miles, 3 percent of the entire Delta and an area half the size of Stockton.

Metropolitan intends to first negotiate a one-year option, giving it time to fully evaluate the properties before deciding for certain whether to move forward with the purchase, Kightlinger said.

Northern California interests have fought Los Angeles over water exports from the Delta for decades. Some shiver at the notion of L.A.’s powerful water provider owning a chunk of the estuary for the first time, saying it reminds them of the surreptitious purchase of land and subsequent draining of the Owens Valley in the early 20th century.

“It’s like having Al Capone move into your neighborhood and promise that he’ll look out for your interests. They’re about as welcome as sin here,” said Bill Jennings, head of the Stockton-based environmental group California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

Kightlinger said he understands the trepidation. But one of the primary drivers behind the potential land purchase is actually to help the Delta’s struggling environment, which in turn could boost water supplies, he said.

For 25 years, the current owners of the private islands — a company called Delta Wetlands, owned by Swiss investors — have been working on a plan to convert two of the bowl-like islands into reservoirs, and two more into wildlife habitat. During wet times, water from the new reservoirs could be pumped south and stored underground for dry times.

Metropolitan is interested in a similar plan, though the details have yet to be worked out.

“We’re more interested, frankly, by the environmental pieces of it than we are the water supply pieces,” Kightlinger said.

That’s because Metropolitan believes simply allowing more water to flow through the Delta to San Francisco Bay will not reverse the estuary’s collapse, he said.

“Our belief is you have to restore habitat,” Kightlinger said. “Ninety-eight percent of the Delta marsh has disappeared.”

How does that tie in with Metropolitan’s interests? The crashing Delta ecosystem has forced officials to cut back on the amount of Delta water that can be pumped south. Fixing the ecosystem could help Metropolitan obtain a more reliable supply of water. Wednesday, November 11, 2015 Mid Week Report Hot Sheet

 

The land acquisition could also facilitate construction of Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels, a project that Metropolitan supports. The tunnels would pass below two of the islands, Bouldin and Bacon.

“That would be valuable,” Kightlinger said.

Metropolitan ownership would facilitate drilling studies needed to evaluate the suitability of the soils before investing huge amounts of money in the $15 billion project. It could also prove useful for storing soil excavated while the tunnels are built.

And if state officials need to acquire land on those islands to build the tunnels, Metropolitan could sell it to them rather than the state having to go through the lengthy process of eminent domain.

Some challenges remain. Using the two islands as reservoirs will require the Southern California district to get water rights from the state, which the current owners are already trying to do. Jennings’ environmental group has formally protested that effort, arguing that the diversion of water and the flooding of the islands could harm water quality.

In the past, the owners of neighboring Delta islands have also expressed concern that flooding the two islands could increase flood risk on their own properties. A lawsuit focused on that issue was settled two years ago, with the Delta Wetlands company agreeing to take certain precautions to protect the other islands.

Kightlinger said Metropolitan attorneys will review that settlement to see if those requirements would stay in place if his district takes ownership.

Bruce Blodgett, director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, said the islands haven’t been well-managed by their current out-of-area owners and suggested control by Metropolitan isn’t likely to help matters.

“The bottom line is what is best for this region?” Blodgett said. “We’re concerned that Metropolitan may not have in mind what’s best for our region.”

Kightlinger counters that the current Swiss owners aren’t exactly local family farmers. Their business, he said, is to sell water to people outside the Delta.

“I don’t understand how an insurance firm based out of Zurich is somehow a better investor than a California public agency trying to make things work for all of California,” Kightlinger said.

— Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or abreitler@recordnet.com. Follow him atrecordnet.com/breitlerblog and on Twitter @alexbreitler.

 

  • By The Record, Stockton Record
  • Scientists question twin tunnels report


Posted Oct. 7, 2015 at 4:05 PM

An independent team of scientists renewed its criticism of Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels plan this week, saying that the massive documents justifying the project are “incomplete and opaque.”

The Delta Independent Science Board isn’t judging whether the $15 billion tunnels are a good idea or a bad idea.

Rather, the board is criticizing the environmental documents that are supposed to explain — to experts and the general public — what benefits the tunnels would provide and what impacts they might have.

And to that end, the report falls short, the scientists said.

“We do not attempt to determine whether this report fulfills the letter of the law,” they wrote in

  • their 21-page comment letter. “But we find the current draft sufficiently incomplete and opaque to deter its evaluation and use by decision-makers, resource managers, scientists and the broader public.”

Last year the scientists questioned a previous version of the tunnels plan. The latest version is better, they said, but many of the same problems remain.

A spokeswoman for the California Natural Resources Agency said Wednesday that the state looks forward to incorporating the scientists’ comments, as appropriate, into the final tunnels plan.

Among their criticisms:

• The reports lack details on how officials would adjust or change course if unexpected results occur after the tunnels are built (a process known to scientists as “adaptive management”).

• The report lacks enough detail on the subjects of climate change, sea level rise, levee failures and water deliveries to areas south of the Delta. Nor is there enough information about how well the new fish screens to be built at the entrance to the tunnels would work.

• The report lacks readable comparisons and summaries to help people understand its contents. The scientists said they’d been asking for such aids for three years.

State officials have defended the documents in the past, saying, among other things, that they have used videos and summary documents with charts and graphics in an attempt to help the public understand the project.

Federal bill will eradicate striped bass, other non-native fish in Bay-Delta

by: Dan Bacher

Thu Sep 17, 2015 at 17:27:06 PM PDT

 

Federal bill S. 1894, introduced by Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, would mandate the eradication of all non-native fish, including striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish and other species, from the Bay-Delta Estuary, while failing to deal with the fundamental problems that have been so destructive to the estuary and our native fishes. Here is the press release from the Allied Fishing Groups:

MEDIA RELEASE: September 7, 2015

S.1894, to eliminate Striped Bass, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass and other non-native fisheries from the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and Tributaries

Contact:
John Beuttler, Allied Fishing Groups, 510-526-4049, JBeuttler@aol.com
Dave Ostrach, Allied Fishing Groups, 530-219-1451, djostrach@gmail.com
Mike McKenzie, Allied Fishing Groups, (209) 772-9398, stripermike@earthlink.net

Senators Feinstein and Boxer recently introduced federal legislation to provide short-term water supplies to drought-stricken California and projects to help recover salmon. This legislation mandates the eradication of all non-native fish from the Bay Delta Estuary, and its tributaries.

Specifically, the bill would authorize the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce, in concert with State and Federal fishery agencies, to conduct projects to reduce invasive aquatic vegetation, and non-native fish which allegedly contribute to the decline of native salmon and steelhead protected by State and Federal Endangered Species Acts.

While some worthy species such as Asiatic clams and Brazilian water weed are targeted for destruction, so are valuable sport fisheries including striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, white and channel catfish. Unfortunately, also included for eradication are species that constitute a substantial and integral part of estuary's food web, such as silversides, thread fin shad and gobies. The bill would also mandate a Pilot Program to "protect" salmon and steelhead by the removal of striped bass from the Stanislaus River.

Under the semblance of alleviating problems caused by the drought, the senators have unfortunately missed the massive environmental impacts that occur due to exporting vast amounts of the estuary's water by the State and Federal Water Projects. These projects have been found to be the primary cause for the declines of salmon, delta smelt, steelhead, striped bass and sturgeon and for the extensive degradation of the productivity of estuary's ecosystem.

The bill's authors failed to use the best available science on the estuary's fisheries and ignores the extensive peer-reviewed science on non-native fisheries that found fish predation to be the least important stressor on the estuary's fisheries and one that does not have an impact on the estuary's ecology or the population levels of the fish species listed under the State and Federal Endangered Species Act. The State's foremost experts on Delta's fisheries, including respected fisheries scientist Dr. David Ostrach, agree that the peer reviewed science demonstrates striped bass predation does not impact delta smelt and salmon populations listed under the ESA and, there is little evidence of impacts from other species that has passed the standard of being peer reviewed science by qualified fishery scientists. Prior to the building of the State and Federal water projects facilities, all the estuary's fishery resources thrived together as did the productivity of the estuary's food web.

John Beuttler, Conservation Director of the Allied Fishing Groups states, "Prior to the building of the State and Federal water projects facilities, all the estuary's fishery resources thrived together as did the estuary's food web. It is critical for our government to stay focused on the problems that significantly impact the estuary's fisheries and aquatic ecosystem. State and Federal government must be compelled to find the funding and the wisdom necessary to address the impacts caused by the massive export of water from the Delta by the water projects. Unfortunately, this legislation fails to provide meaningful assistance in solving the significant problems that caused the collapse of the estuary's food web and the serious population declines to our salmon, steelhead and striped bass fisheries. Instead, it proposes to eradicate publicly owned fisheries in the Delta that still generates a huge amount of sportfishing recreation and hundreds of millions of dollars to local, state and national economies annually."

This legislation would decimate the striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass and other recreational fisheries throughout the Bay and Delta region, while failing to deal with the fundamental problems that have been so destructive to the estuary and our native fishes.

Dan Blanton, a nationally-recognized author and sportfishing expert sums up the legislation: "While well-meaning to help drought stricken California and its native species, this legislation is misguided by attempts of certain corporate growers to remove anglers from the water equation.  Remove the fish, the anglers lose interest, the fishing-related businesses go bankrupt, and our vocal opposition to irresponsible Delta water exports ends. Fortunately, that is not how it will work. The growers and some of our legislators have grossly underestimated our dedication to preserving the unique Bay-Delta environment that includes intentionally introduced sport fisheries that provide important economic and recreational benefits."

The Allied Fishing Groups is requesting all recreational anglers engage to inform your Senators in congress of your opposition to this legislation unless it is amended as recommended by the Allied Fishing Groups. Please call, email or write Senators Feinstein and Boxer at:

The Honorable Barbara Boxer The Honorable Diane Feinstein
112 Hart Senate Office Building 331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-0505 Washington, D.C. 20510
Fax: (202) 224-0454                                    Fax: (202) 228-3954
Phone: (202) 224-3553                                   Phone: (202) 224-3841

The Allied Fishing Groups are a voice for California's two million recreational anglers. We represent some 36 sport fishing organizations across the state working to save, protect and restore Northern California's fisheries and their habitat. We are guided by science and our many years of direct experience in fishery management. Our Steering Committee is comprised of fishery professionals, scientists and dedicated anglers. We work with sport fishing business, government and sport fishing organizations to implement practical and lasting solutions to the serious problems facing our fisheries and their habitat.

Allied Fishing Groups
6597 Cane Lane / Valley Springs / CA 95252 / 209.772.9398

Allied Fishing Groups:
Black Bass Action Committee / Bass Classics of Santa Clara / California Fly Fishers Unlimited
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance / California Striped Bass Association / Chico Flyfishers
Coastside Fishing Club / Delta Fly Fishers / Diablo Valley Fly Fishermen / E.C. Powell Fly Fishers
Fishery Foundation of California / Fly Fishers for Conservation / Fly Fishers of Davis
Friends of Butte Creek / Granite Bay Flycasters / Gold Country Fly Fishers / Grizzly Peak Flyfishers
Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club / Golden West Women Flyfishers / Hi's Tackle Box / ICON Products Inc.  
Lock Lomand Bait / Mission Peak Fly Anglers / NCC - Federation of Fly Fishers / NORCAL Kayak Anglers
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assoc. / Pasadena Casting Club / Peninsula Fly Fishers
Recreational Fishing Alliance / Salmon Restoration Association / Santa Cruz Fly Fisherman
Shasta Fly Fishers / SWC- Federation of Fly Fishers / Striperfest / Tracy Fly Fishers /
Tri-Valley Fly Fishers / USA Fishing / Wilderness Fly Fishers

 

Lots of stripers out there, George Wights Fishing Report of August 17, 2015

I went out to fish primarily with swim baits.  Caught  about 40 Striped Bass on a 4 in. hammer pearl w 3/8 head. Most were shorts but 7-8 were 18 to 22 in., fish all came from 8 ft or less.  Later went for larger fish.  Drifted bluegills in deeper water for a 28 and a 30 inch Stripers.  All the fish were caught on a outgoing tide.

 

VIDEO:

Restore the Delta Sends Public Comments to 
President Obama and Secretary Jewell 

Sacramento – Today, Restore the Delta sent public comments in the form of two DVD videos to President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

 
Watch the Video

Read the Letter

On July 28, 2015 the agencies boosting the Delta Tunnels Plan/CA Water Fix (formerly, Bay Delta Conservation Plan) presented their new plan to the public at a hotel in Sacramento.
 
Booster agencies were determined to avoid a traditional public hearing where public statements are made before listening to decision-makers. Instead, the agencies and their consultants presented the Delta Tunnels plan as an “open house” science-fair-like setting. The public was invited to walk from display to display and ask questions of experts who were fully briefed with talking points. It was a sales pitch any conventioneer would recognize.
 
Restore the Delta (a grassroots organization based in Stockton, CA with 25,000 supporters) decided to put the “public” back into the process. Outside the sham public hearing a video crew recorded comments directly from the 300 people who came to express their concerns. Their concern centered on the proposed 40-foot tunnels to be dug beneath the Delta that will suck freshwater from the Sacramento River that every farmer, resident, and vanishing species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary needs for survival.
 
The letter to Jewell and Obama makes 4 major points.
The California Water Fix does not address the environmental, public health or economic impacts of the proposed Delta tunnels project. The plan also ignores alternatives that would save California tax and ratepayers billions of dollars, while investing in the jobs and local water sources that build sustainability.
 
Additionally, the letter points out that the new version of the plan still violates Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act which prohibits federal agency actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or that “result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of [listed] species.” 

Fishing Report From George Wight August 15, 2015

I went out Sat. 8/15.  Flat calm river for a change.  I caught 8 stripers from 4 to 10 lbs. drifting bluegills, two by West Island and others on the main river.The fish were caught in 15-17 ft water. Released all of the fish.

Restore the Delta - July 11, 2015

California friends,

This is the last of two public hearings on the Delta boondoggle tunnels project. They are making it an open house so that they don’t have to listen to public comments or respond to the outrage of hundreds of thousands of Californians who oppose the destruction the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas.

Help us transform the open house.

Our goal: a video of how large we really are to share with the Secretary Jewell at the Department of the Interior and with President Obama. We will provide you with insightful questions to ask, help you craft your own thoughts, and plan some spirited, yet respectful activities to transform their dull open house into a party to oppose the tunnels. Buses available from Antioch, Discovery Bay, Stockton and Oakland! RSVP to Jennifer@RestoretheDelta.org. Let’s win this thing once and for all! We need to pack the “public hearings” on the Delta Tunnels!!

Let’s show Governor Brown how many people oppose the Delta tunnels and let’s have fun doing it. And if you drive to us from other parts of the state, please contact our office (209-475-9550) if you need help with accommodations.

Mark your calendars for July 28 Sacramento — that’s where we will be. If you cannot make the July 28 date from 3:00p to 7:00p, there is a second public meeting on July 29 in Walnut Grove (see below). We will have buses on July 28 to turn out people for the public hearing in Sacramento.

Buses will depart from these locations at 1:30 PM sharp (Please arrive at least 15-20 minutes before departure time) to the “public hearing” location at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel:

• Stockton: A.G. Spanos Building, 10100 Trinity Parkway, Stockton, CA 95219
• Antioch: Lauritzen Marina, 115 Lauritzen Ln, Oakley, CA 94561
• Discovery Bay: Safeway Parking Lot, 14840 Hwy. 4, Discovery Bay, CA 94514
• Oakland: TBD

To reserve a bus seat for July 28, e-mail Jennifer@RestoretheDelta.org with your bus depart location, your cell phone number (or best number to reach you), and the number of guests who will be boarding the bus with you (if any).

Stay connected with us for more important details to be determined!!! Starting today and in the upcoming week, look out for alerts from us via e-mail, social media, or our website for helpful information on how you can participate in this public comment process.

SACRAMENTO

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm (Please join us from 3:00 to 5:30 PM!!)
Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, Magnolia Room
1230 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

WALNUT GROVE

Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Jean Harvie Senior and Community Center
14273 River Road, Walnut Grove, CA 95690

 Draining of Folsom Lake forces evacuation of American River and Nimbus Fish Hatcheries

 by Dan Bacher June 25, 2915

 The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced on Thursday, June 25, that it is moving fish out of the American River and Nimbus hatcheries for the second year in a row, blaming "a fourth year of extreme drought conditions" for "reducing the cold water supply available" when in reality it is the mismanagement of Folsom Lake and other Central Valley reservoirs during a drought that has led to to the evacuations.

 As the hatcheries are being evacuated, the Bureau of Reclamation continues to drain Folsom Reservoir by releasing 2750 cfs from Nimbus Dam into the American River to export water south of the Delta through the Central Valley Project's Delta Mendota Canal and the State Water Project's California Aqueduct. 

 The evacuations of steelhead from Nimbus Fish Hatchery will have a huge impact on this struggling fish, listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, while the evacuation of rainbow and brown trout early from the adjacent American River Fish Hatchery will impact the fisheries at a multitude of lakes, reservoirs and streams in the North Central Region.

 The CDFW news release claims, "Bureau of Reclamation models suggest water temperatures at the hatcheries could be at lethal levels for cold water fish by August The CDFW has already begun to stock American River Hatchery rainbow and brown trout into state waters earlier than normal."

 "These fish range from small fingerlings to the larger catchable size. The accelerated planting schedule will continue through mid-July when all the fish in the raceways are expected to be evacuated. This includes all the fingerling size rainbow trout that would normally be held in the hatchery to grow to catchable size for next year," the release said.

 The CDFW said a "new, state-of-the-art" building at American River Hatchery, completed in early June using emergency drought funds, will enable CDFW to raise Lahontan cutthroat trout through the summer for planting into eastern sierra lakes and streams. 

 "The new building will also enable CDFW to hold a small group of rainbow trout fingerlings that are scheduled to be stocked in west side sierra put-and-grow fisheries by airplane in July," the release stated. "The new hatchery building utilizes water filters, ultraviolet sterilization techniques and large water chillers to keep water quality and temperatures at ideal levels for trout rearing. However, the new technology is limited to the hatchery building and not the raceways, which will limit capacity to include only the Lahontan cutthroat trout once the fish start to grow to larger sizes."

 In addition, the CDFW said Nimbus Hatchery has already begun relocating some 330,000 steelhead to the Feather River Hatchery Annex to be held through the summer. 

 "When the water temperature at the Nimbus Hatchery returns to suitable levels in the fall, the steelhead will be brought back to Nimbus to finish growing and imprinting then will be released into the lower American River. The Feather River Hatchery Annex is supplied by a series of groundwater wells that maintain cool water temperatures throughout the year," the agency said.

 The fall run Chinook salmon from Nimbus Hatchery have all been released into state waterways. If necessary, the chilled American River Hatchery building will be used this fall to incubate and hatch Chinook salmon from Nimbus Hatchery.

 “Unfortunately, the situation is similar to last year,” said Jay Rowan, Acting Senior Hatchery Supervisor for CDFW’s North Central Region. “We have begun to implement contingency plans to avoid major fish losses in the two hatcheries. We want to do the best job we can to provide California anglers with good fishing experiences and communicate when there will be deviations from normal practices. With that in mind, we want to let anglers in the area know that a lot more fish than normal will be going out into area waters served by American River Hatchery.”

 Rowan said that the number of fish planted at various water bodies will increase as the planting timeframe decreases, so the fishing should be very good through the summer at foothill and mountain elevation put-and-take waters. Early fish plants now mean there won’t be as many fish available to plant in the lower elevation fall and winter fisheries, so the fishing may drop off later in the season if the fish don’t hold over well.

 American River Hatchery operations focus on rearing rainbow and Lahontan cutthroat trout and kokanee salmon for recreational angling, predominantly in waters within the North Central Region, according to Rowan. Nimbus Hatchery takes salmon and steelhead eggs from the American River and rears them to fish for six months to a year, until they are ready to be put back in the system. 

 "Annually, CDFW works with the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure its operations provide suitable conditions for fish at hatcheries and in the river. This year, conditions are forecasted to be dire with little flexibility in operations. Similar to last year, low reservoir storage and minimal snow pack will result high water temperatures over summer and very low river flows by fall. Fall and winter rains, if received in sufficient amounts, will cool water temperatures enough to allow both hatcheries to come back online and resume operations," concluded Rowan.

 CDFW is not mentioning the real reason for evacuations - abysmal water management 

 Unfortunately, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, under the leadership of Director Chuck Bonham, is failing to tell the truth about the real reason why the hatcheries are being evacuated - the continued daily operation of the Delta export pumps during the drought. 

 Under pressure by the Metropolitan Water District and the Kern County Water Agency that serves Beverly Hills Billionaire Stewart Resnick and other wealthy growers, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) mismanaged the Bay Delta Estuary and California’s reservoirs during the drought so that these agencies could continue to export as much water as possible, despite the devastating impacts on the Bay-Delta Estuary, according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD)

 Barrigan-Parrilla said the Department and Bureau failed to hold back enough water for continued drought conditions despite warnings to do so by fishery and environmental water groups throughout the state. 

 “As the weeks go by, it becomes clearer and clearer that the only way to stop the over pumping of the SF Bay-Delta estuary, and Governor Brown’s planned tunnels project, is for an adjudication of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed,” she said. “The problem is that we do not have the water to meet the insatiable demand of special interest growers in California, like those in the Kern County Water Agency, or the Metropolitan Water District, which used up the majority of its three-year stored water supply in 2014, and only began to get serious about conservation this year." 

 

During 2013 and 2014, the state and federal water agencies systematically emptied Trinity Reservoir on the Trinity River, Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, Lake Oroville on the Feather River and Folsom Lake on the American River, in spite of it being a record drought. The agencies delivered massive amounts of subsidized Delta water to corporate mega-growers, Southern California water agencies and Big Oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County. (http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2014/02/state-and-feds-drained-northern.html) 

 In violation of numerous state and federal environmental laws, the state and federal agencies are draining the reservoirs once again this year. Folsom Reservoir could reach a record low of 10 percent of capacity by the end of the summer, endangering both local water supplies and fish.

 It must be noted that a record low number of adult steelhead, 143 fish, returned to the American River’s Nimbus Fish Hatchery this season - and you can expect to see another dismal return next year if the mismanagement of Folsom Lake and the American River continues on its current path to disaster. 

 Salmon, steelhead and a host of other fish species are being driven closer to extinction by low, warm water conditions on the Sacramento and Trinity River systems spurred by the draining of reservoirs during a historic drought. 

 But as the Brown administration mandates that northern California urban water users slash their water use by 25 percent and as Delta farmers voluntarily agree to a 25 percent in their water consumption, thirsty billionaire growers like Stewart Resnick brag about how they have expanded their almond, pistachio and walnut acreage during the drought. In fact, USDA statistics reveal that almonds have EXPANDED by 150,000 acres during the current drought.(http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/05/15/californias-thirsty-almond-acreage-grows-by-150000-acres-during-record-drought) 

 RTD, CSPA charge numerous violations of key water and environmental laws 

 The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and RTD revealed the stunning scope of this mismanagement on Wednesday, June 24, when they made detailed comments at the State Water Resources Control Board workshop on drought management of the Delta and the State’s water system. Both organizations charge that the SWRCB is violating key laws in its management of the system during the drought. 

 In an extensive presentation, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance’s (CSPA) presentation to the Board revealed that the Board in its management of the Delta and water system during the drought is operating in violation of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the constitutional prohibition against the waste and unreasonable use of water.

 

CSPA’s Executive Director, Bill Jennings stated, “Sacramento River water temperatures are already exceeding lethal levels and it’s beginning to look like this year will be a repeat of last years debacle that obliterated an entire brood year of Chinook salmon.  Delta and longfin smelt are teetering on the precipice of extinction. And the State Water Board is again preparing to weaken legal water quality standards that are critical to the very existence of these species. It is both unreasonable, illegal and a moral sin to send species that thrived for millennia into extinction simply to provide millions of acre-feet of water to irrigate pasture, alfalfa and other low value crops in the desert.” 

 Jennnings noted that excessive water deliveries to the Sacramento Valley settlement contractors  are exhausting the cold water in Lake Shasta, forcing the agencies to shift to using water from the American River to meet the Delta salinity standards.

 "As a consequence, the agencies are now are evacuating the hatcheries on the American," said Jennings. "And as result of this mismanagement, they're not only going to cook salmon and steelhead this year in the Upper Sacramento River, but in the American River as well. The drought crisis we are now in has been exacerbated by the mismanagement by the state and federal projects."

 Restore the Delta policy analyst, Tim Stroshane, pointed out to the Board that the Temporary Urgent Change Petition (TUCP) and the installation of False River Barrier, which the Board approved to lift Delta water quality standards for continued water exports, violated the Delta Reform Act of 2009.  

 Stroshane charged, “The State Water Board has ignored managing the system for the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem and protecting the Delta as a unique place. It has violated this key law through its short term water management decisions made this year.  Furthermore, by favoring water exports over Delta fisheries and communities, the Board has given the State and Federal governments an escape hatch from reducing reliance on Delta imports to meet California’s future water needs as mandated by the 2009 legislation.”

 RTD also provided slides showing how the TUCP and the installation of False River Barrier dividing the Delta into regions of poorer and better water quality.  The determining factor is whether a given area in the Delta is in the path of water being taken for exports at the pumps.

 Barrigan-Parrilla concluded, “The hardened demand for water caused by the expansion of permanent crops planted in the west side of the San Joaquin Valley during four years of drought has brought us to the breaking point for the Bay-Delta estuary.  The present crisis in the Delta is compounded by mismanagement by the State who failed to bring water demand and availability into balance in anticipation of historical drought.”

 

The crisis that that has led to the evacuation of the hatcheries - and has put winter run Chinook salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt on the scaffold of extinction - is one that could have been avoided if the state and federal governments hadn't so badly mismanaged our precious water resources during the drought.

 View the presentations here:

 1) http://restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Stroshane-RTD-Presentation-20150624.pdf

 2) http://restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/CSPA-SWRCB-Workshop-June-2015.pdf 

 

Troubled Delta System Is California’s Water Battleground

BYRON, Calif. — Fighting over water is a tradition in California, but nowhere are the lines of dispute more sharply drawn than here in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that is the hub of the state’s water system.

Giant pumps pull in water flowing to the delta from the mountainous north of the state, where the majority of precipitation falls, and send it to farms, towns and cities in the Central Valley and Southern California, where the demand for water is greatest.

For decades, the shortcomings of this water transportation system, among the most ambitious and complex ever constructed, have been a source of conflict and complaint.

Thirsty Billionaires File Complaint to Raid Delta Water  

 by Dan Bacher June 21, 2015

 The phrase “No good deed goes unpunished,” originally attributed to playwright Clare Boothe Luce, could accurately the current situation of farmers on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

A couple of weeks after the State Water Resources Control Board approved a voluntary  proposal by Delta farmers to voluntarily reduce the water use by 25%, the State Water Contractors (SWC), including powerful billionaire and millionaire corporate growers in the San Joaquin Valley, filed a complaint on June requesting the same Board take action to “protect” State Water Project releases from what it claimed were “unlawful diversions” in the Joaquin Delta (Delta). 

 A statement from the water contractors claimed, “Every day this summer, public water agencies will release billions of gallons of freshwater from storage to maintain environmental and water quality standards in the Delta. “

 The group accused diverters south of the San Joaquin River of “substantial, unlawful diversions” that would to “increase the burden on limited stored water supplies, affecting both the environment and other water users.” 

 “These landowners in the Delta have long-standing water rights that entitle them to water when nature provides it—but those rights do not entitle them to stored water paid for by others and intended for the environment. If nature ran its course, the Delta would not be suitable for drinking or farming this summer,” said Stefanie Morris, acting general manager of the State Water Contractors.

 She further alleged that landowners that continue to divert water from within the Delta are taking the stored state and federal water project supplies needed to meet water quality requirements. 

“We’re depending on stored water to meet environmental needs, but without action from the state, keeping the Delta water fresh this summer will be like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom. We’ll be depleting reservoirs to make up for what diverters south of the San Joaquin River are taking out,” added Morris.  

The California Sportfishing Alliance (CSPA) responded to the complaint by pointing out the irony of the Water Contractors claiming that Delta farmers, senior water rights holders, are “stealing” water that “belongs” to the contractors.  

“State and Federal contractors, who have been illegally storing water that belongs to others for years, should not accuse Delta farmers of stealing some of their stolen water, on the basis of a seriously flawed study, with a long list of unsupported assumptions,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), noted that “the pumps for the State Water Project have yet to be turned off one day during the drought while water quality standards are being violated in the Delta each and every day this year, impacting Delta urban water users and family farms.” 

“We are perilously close to losing Delta smelt, and our iconic salmon fisheries, and despite Delta family farms already taking a voluntary 25 percent reduction in water use, the State Water Contractors believe the Delta should be made into a complete sacrifice zone for their water exports,” she.

 At the same time that the water contractors are demanding that Delta farmers stop raiding “their water," water-thirsty almond acreage in the San Joaquin Valley has increased dramatically in recent years, in spite of water contractor claims that protections for Delta smelt and salmon have made the Valley into some sort of modern-day “Dust Bowl.” 

 In fact, growers statewide expanded their almond acreage by 150,000 acres during the current drought. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/05/15/californias-thirsty-almond-acreage-grows-by-150000-acres-during-record-drought  

t this year’s annual pistachio conference that Paramount Farms hosted, Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire agribusiness tycoon, revealed his current efforts to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during the drought.  

During the conference, Resnick also gloated about the increase in pistachio acreage over the past ten years: 118 percent — even more than the 47 percent increase for almonds and 30 percent increase for walnuts. 

Under pressure by the Kern County Water Agency that serves Resnick and other wealthy growers and the Metropolitan Water District,  the Delta and California’s reservoirs have been mismanaged by the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation during the drought so that these agencies could continue to export as much water as possible despite the negative impacts on the Bay-Delta Estuary, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.

Barrigan-Parrilla said the  Department of Water Resources  and Bureau of Reclamation failed to hold back enough water for continued drought conditions despite warnings to do so by fishery and environmental water groups throughout the state.

“As the weeks go by, it becomes clearer and clearer that the only way to stop the over pumping of the SF Bay-Delta estuary, and Governor Brown’s planned tunnels project, is for an adjudication of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed,” she said. 

"The problem is that we do not have the water to meet the insatiable demand of special interest growers in California, like those in the Kern County Water Agency, or the Metropolitan Water District, which used up the majority of its three-year stored water supply in 2014, and only began to get serious about conservation this year," Barrigan-Parrilla concluded. 

During 2013 and 2014, the state and federal agencies systematically emptied Trinity Reservoir on the Trinity River, Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, Lake Oroville on the Feather River and Folsom Lake on the American River, in spite of it being a record drought. The agencies delivered massive amounts of subsidized Delta water to corporate mega-growers, Southern California water agencies and Big Oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County. (http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2014/02/state-and-feds-drained-northern.html)

Salmon, steelhead and a host of other fish species are being driven closer to extinction by low, warm water conditions on the Sacramento and Trinity River systems spurred by the draining of reservoirs during a historic drought.

 n case you missed it... 

Los Angeles Times

Capitol Journal: Gov. Brown preaches adaptation but ducks big fights

By George Skelton 6/14/15

EXCERPT: 
"...As for the drought, Brown told Beutner that Californians need to "take water and use it and use it again and use it again. The metaphor is spaceship Earth. In a spaceship you reuse everything."

OK, but where's the state's crash recycling program?

And about all we've heard from the governor regarding adaptation to less water use are lectures to cut back on lawn sprinkling, taking shorter showers and not flushing as much.

If we stopped all that completely, it would save less than 10% of our developed water. And we'd be pretty cranky.

Agriculture accounts for 80% of human water use in California while generating only 2% of the economy. If we really must adapt or perish, why isn't Brown seriously considering regulating which thirsty crops can be grown and where?

Nut and fruit orchards in the semi-arid San Joaquin Valley require significantly more irrigation than the same trees in the wetter Sacramento Valley. Some land should be converted to solar farming.

In much of the San Joaquin, aquifers are being dangerously over-pumped and, in spots, the land is precipitously sinking. Brown signed legislation last year to regulate groundwater pumping. But that won't kick in for two decades. Why not expedite it?

"We're moving forward," Brown said. "Whether it's fast enough, ask me in another year."

The two 35-mile, 40-foot wide tunnels that would carry water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — a $17-billion project paid for on consumers' water bills — are necessary, Brown asserted, because levees could collapse in an earthquake or as the sea rises in global warming. That could draw sea water into California's primary fresh water pool.

Never mind that no earthquake in history has seriously harmed a delta levee. But if the levees are that fragile, where's the urgent effort to bolster them? And if the sea rises that much, it also will wreak havoc with Malibu and Newport Beach, among other coastal communities. What are we doing about that?

Those tunnels are just another version of the old Peripheral Canal that Brown's father, Gov. Pat Brown, first proposed half a century ago and Jerry promoted when he was governor the first time. Voters rejected it.

"This is the time, now or never, to get it done," the governor said. "If we don't get it this time, it'll be another 40 years."

Here's an idea: Try something new that's smaller, less expensive and more acceptable. Adapt."

Anti Striper, Bass, Catfish, Panfish Legislation Making Headway in the HOUSE

Here we go again! The water mongers are trying to pin the blame of the Delta’s woes on striped bass instead of the real issue! Friday, June 12, 2015 Weekend Best Bets Report Hot Sheet

 

This time around, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) today offered an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act for 2016 which would “ensure an appropriate focus on predation control efforts” in an attempt to recover fish listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“In the Central Valley, predator fish represent a constant threat to native populations such as steelhead and salmon,” said Rep. Denham. “While we’re spending millions trying to save the lives of these fish, which play a huge role in the allocation of water, we must also be working to eliminate the threat that predator fish pose. My amendment would require the NOAA to prioritize controlling non-native predators so we can save salmon and steelhead.”

This, of course, is simply a way to divert attention from the fact that a lack of water and poor water quality are the number one reasons all the fish on that list are Endangered.

All you have to do is take a look at a graph of Delta fish populations. Fish like salmon, steelhead…and Striped Bass are all in a nosedive. The common denominator? Water…not predation!

This, of course, isn’t the first time Republican lawmakers have tried to eradicate striped bass from California. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) introduced anti-striper Bills in 2009 and 2010, both of which got smashed. I’ve been saying all along, however, this fight is far from over.

House Passes Denham Amendment to Require Predator Fish Suppression

Jun 3, 2015

Press Release

Issues:

Water

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) today offered an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act for 2016 which would increase the effectiveness of recovery plans for species of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 by ensuring an appropriate focus on predation control efforts. The House passed Rep. Denham’s amendment with a vote of 245-181. Friday, June 12, 2015 Weekend Best Bets Report Hot Sheet

 

“In the Central Valley, predator fish represent a constant threat to native populations such as steelhead and salmon,” said Rep. Denham. “While we’re spending millions trying to save the lives of these fish, which play a huge role in the allocation of water, we must also be working to eliminate the threat that predator fish pose. My amendment would require the NOAA to prioritize controlling non-native predators so we can save salmon and steelhead.”

Predation has long been recognized as a source of significant mortality for endangered and threatened species. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), non-native species are cited as a cause of endangerment for 48 percent of the species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Numerous federal and state agencies have agreed that non-native predator species a negative impact on the health of native fish in California.

For example, in 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service found protection of salmon and steelhead required “significantly reducing the nonnative predatory fishes,” and that reducing the number of non-native predatory fishes was necessary to “prevent extinction or to prevent the species from declining irreversibly.”

Based upon its findings, in 2010 the National Marine and Fisheries Service (NMFS) asked the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to propose regulation directed at reducing the effect of non-native fish on Federally-protected salmon and steelhead. Although CDFW did propose changes to bag and size limits for striped bass, those recommendations were rejected by the California Fish and Game Commission.

The State Water Resources Control Board of California has recommended that state and federal fish agencies pursue programs to determine the impacts of predation by non-native fish on salmon and steelhead as far back as their 1995 water quality control plan for the Bay-Delta. Despite calls for such programs, none currently exist in California.

 

JD Supra Business Advisor
Lawsuit Filed Over State Water Board’s Temporary Modification of Water Quality Objectives

6/10/2015 by Stephanie Clark  | Nossaman LLP

Consistent with Governor Brown’s Drought Proclamation and Executive Orders, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) sought and obtained a temporary modification of certain water quality objectives from the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) in order to allow for increased exports of water from the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta).  On June 3, 2015, environmental groups, including the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance, and Restore the Delta, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), USBR, DWR, and the State Board, alleging that the State Board’s approval of the temporary modifications and the subsequent operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project violated various state and federal laws.  (Complaint, pdf.)

In the complaint, plaintiffs allege that the increased exports will cause water temperatures and salinity to rise, thereby adversely affecting native fish species, including the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), and Central Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), which are all listed under the Endangered Species Act.  Among other things, plaintiffs claim that the modifications are unlawful because they do not conform to the standards established under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act (Cal. Water Code §§ 85000, et seq.).

The lawsuit is the first challenging the State Board’s attempts to address the impacts of the historic drought conditions in California, and, if successful, could preclude future exports from the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

 

                                                                        May 21, 2015

Dear Restore the Delta friends, 

A heartfelt thank you to all the good Delta people who sat through 9 hours of the State Water Board workshop on the TUCP and Delta drought measure to advocate for the Delta. Your testimony is part of the public record and weighs into their decision making. We are grateful for your thoughtful, caring analysis. Well Done!

Please check out these important news of interest below on Delta water and the Governor's tunnels plan.  

  • First, Delta farmers volunteered to cut their water use by 25% yesterday at the State Water Board workshop, read at San Francisco Chronicle, "Delta farmers offer to take 25 percent less water."

    “We’re also trying to help,” Herrick added, noting that some growers realize they haven’t been hit by the drought as hard as others and want to make a concession. “It’s nice to have delta farmers cast in a good light.” 
  • Our press release with statements to the State Water Resources Control Board Water Board, "Gov. Brown Trampling Laws, Water Quality & Habitat Under Cover of Drought Emergency."

    "The California drought is a fifty-eight county drought,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director for Restore the Delta. 

    “Previous workshops in front of the SWRCB have focused primarily on efforts to get water to a handful of the 58 counties in California, and less than equal time has been spent on the impacts of drought management on the five Delta counties, Delta fisheries, threatened species, and water quality standards. The five Delta Counties are donor counties to the water export system, and have already suffered the negative impacts from the export of hundreds of millions of acre-feet of water over decades.."

     
  • In case you missed it: Our op-ed in the East Bay Express, "The Bipartisan Opposition to the Tunnels."

    "Fighting with a well-liked governor with whom we agree on many issues has not been easy. While our board of directors and membership base is politically left, right, and center, my team members and I are unabashed environmental progressives. Our staffers are registered Democrats and Greens, challenging a much-loved Democrat. Many of our members, meanwhile, are conservative Republicans and libertarians. United by our common opposition to the twin tunnels, both staffers and members muffle our personal views daily to keep our coalition united."
     
  • And lastly, watch and share our new video release "Water is Life: Will it be San Joaquin Valley almonds or the Bay-Delta estuary?

 

 

George Wight’s Fishing Report of May 29, 2915

After a week of great bass fishing at Shasta lake, I returned to the windy delta. John harris and I put the boat back in at Lauritzens and noticed the wind was way down.  We took 10 bluegills and went to Sherman lake. We caught 8 or 9 stripers from barely keepers to two about 7-8 pnds. The wind started howling

And the river was really rough on  way back in.

 Delta Counties Coalition has a few choice words for the governor

 

STOCKTONCentral Valley Business Times
May 13, 2015 9:03pm

 

•  Say they will not ‘shut up’ about governor’s tunnels scheme

•  “For him to tell us to 'shut up' and 'read it' is insulting”

 

The Delta Counties Coalition is not exactly telling the governor to “shut up,” as he told critics of his $68 billion Delta tunnels crusade last week, but it does have a few firm words for the aging executive.

“The studies are clear: Twin tunnels won't create more water for drought-thirsty California," says Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli. "Rest assured, we will continue to voice our legitimate concerns and promote alternatives to the tunnels, including more storage, conservation and desalinization."

Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., now 77, who when he was governor in the 1980s had his Delta peripheral canal scheme rejected by voters, has been pushing a plan to dig two 40-foot in diameter tunnels beneath the Delta to siphon fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it could flow into the Delta and pipe it to buyers of the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project.

"Delta stakeholders have invested countless hours over the past seven years pouring through three separate versions of the governor's tunnel plan and for him to tell us to 'shut up' and 'read it' is insulting to millions of people in our Delta communities and those whose livelihoods depend on protecting its fragile ecosystem," says San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller. "Our message remains the same: this multi-billion dollar, taxpayer-funded twin tunnels plan doesn't pencil out from a scientific, economic or environmental standpoint.”

Ms. Miller adds that the plan violates state and federal environmental law, would “cause irreparable harm to the Delta and ultimately it won't deliver a single drop of new water."

The Delta Counties Coalition calls for a plan that:

• Improves the ability to move water around as needed with water system improvements;

• Increases storage capacity;

• Reinforces the Delta levee system;

• Promotes local storage, increased conservation plans, water reuse and recycling and desalination.

Adds Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, "Clearly the state water contractors, who receive export water based on junior water rights, are dominating the decision-making and clouding the state's judgment.”

 

Tunnels-Only BDCP: Gov. Abandons Pretext of Saving Fisheries
Ignores “Co-Equal Goals” Requirement; End-Runs EPA
Water Use: The Top 1% Water-Takers vs. 38 Million Residents

News from Restore the Delta April 20, 2015

Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD) and other opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build massive underground water tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today said in a news teleconference that Gov. Brown’s abandonment of habitat restoration in his BDCP tunnels project “violates the statutory ‘co-equal goals’, end-runs the EPA and other federal scientists who refused to issue permits for the project, and makes the tunnels project a simple water grab for industrial mega-growers,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. “You cannot have successful habitat or restore fisheries while draining the Delta of its water. The governor has now abandoned that as a co-equal goal of building the tunnels. BDCP is now a naked ‘tunnels-only’ water grab for the unsustainable mega-farms in Westlands and Kern.”

Chelsea Tu, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The new plan is a giant step backward. If it goes through, this massive project’s boosters will be able to build these tunnels without having to do anything to protect our wildlife and waters — and will neatly sidestep input from the public. This backdoor process will waste more taxpayer money and kill more Delta species like endangered salmon and smelt.”

“As drought becomes the new normal, California cannot afford to continue to lose Delta species that are already on the brink of extinction,” said Tu. “Instead of spending $25 billion to take more water from the Delta to fuel speculative sprawl and export agribusinesses, California should invest money in proven water conservation, efficiency, reuse and recycling strategies for both cities and farms.”

“We must change how the public’s water is used. While urban families are being required to cut water use by 25%, billionaire Stuart Resnick and others continue to plant thousands of acres of new almond trees during the drought. Mr. Resnick uses as much water for his almonds as the amount of water 38 million Californian’s are now required to conserve,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “While farmers make their own decisions on what to plant, the public is paying the price for poor decisions made by greedy mega-growers, who plant permanent crops where there is no water. That is not sustainable and the tunnels would subsidize unsustainable agriculture.”

Jonas Minton, water policy advisory for the Planning & Conservation League, said, “After wasting $250 million on failed public relations, they have mutated this into something even worse for water users, taxpayers and environment.”

Conner Everts, executive director of the So. Cal. Watershed Alliance, said that the failure of the BDCP to meet our water challenges or conservation goals means we must abandon the tunnels and invest in conservation opportunities.

“Local water solutions are the most cost effective and responsive solution to our water challenges, and that is where we should invest, instead of in tunnels that produce no new water,” said Everts. “Despite passing a large water bond, there is little available funding specifically targeted for conservation: just $250 million out of $7.545 billion from bond measures and $1.1 billion from the Legislature. Conservation funds will have to be allocated locally, and through state and federal resources. That funding should not be diverted for tunnels. There is not money for local infrastructure, and it is well known that trunk and main water lines must be repaired. We are losing 10% of our treated drinking water to leaking pipes. We can’t afford to sink billions into tunnels. Instead, we must invest in conservation, repairing our infrastructure, and becoming drought-proof.”

The tunnels opponents released new information from Public Records Act requests showing that the State of California is circumventing the contracting rules for state projects and violating the statute enacted so the water takers themselves control design, construction and financing of the tunnels.

“Huge water-takers are manipulating the process with the cooperation of the Brown Administration so they can grab front row seats to deliver that water to themselves,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Prior to even having draft environmental documents for the public to review, the Californian Department of Water Resources (DWR) is poised to sign a ‘secret’ contract enabling a small, select group of water-takers unprecedented control and access out of the public eye, and circumventing state contracting and competitive bidding processes designed to protect ratepayers and taxpayers.”

The State Water Project contractors are trying to circumvent contracting and competitive bidding procedures to control who is in charge, while using DWR’s imprint of a public project. This secret planning process sets up moving forward with a project that has not been approved or permitted by circumventing codes and laws regarding contracting.

This complex process is designed to take decision-making away from DWR scientists who oppose the project, and the Legislature, and give it to a select group of special interests that want to operate a public water project for their benefit.

 

George Wight & Dave Newton’s Fishing Report

 ON FRIDAY 3/6 DAVE NEWTON AND I FISHED WITH  CAPT. STEVE TALMADGE ON HIS BOAT FLASH II.  4 OTHER PEOPLE ON THE BOAT. STARTED OUT IN 30+ FT. OF WATER. LOTS OF STURGEON JUMPING BUT NO BITES.  ONTO THE BIG CUT AND SAME THING. CAPT STEVE MARKED PLENTY OF FISH, NO BITES. BACK TO THE MARTINEZ BRIDGE AREA. SAW A COUPLE KEEPERS CAUGHT ON THE NUMEROUS BOATS. AFTER A WHILE WE FINALLY GOT A KEEPER TO BITE, BUT IT WASN’T DAVE OR I. THE LUCKY GUY GOT A 59 INCHER.  STILL LOTS OF BIG STURGEON JUMPING BUT NO MORE ACTION. CAPT. STEVE DID HIS BEST AND THE FISH WERE THERE BUT IT JUST PROVES YOU CANT MAKE EM BITE.

 

George Wight’s Fishing Report of March 5, 2015

 WENT WED.3/4 T0 SAC OFF SHERMAN ISLAND. 42" STURGEON ON GHOST SHRIMP & EEL.     WENT OUT TODAY WITH SOME JUMBO MINNOWS. DRIFTED IN SHERMAN LAKE,BROAD SLOUGH FOR 6 STRIPERS THEN CAME BACK TO BIG BREAK AREA FOR 3 MORE. ALL SMALL KEEPERS 18 TO 24 INCHES. FINDING SOME CLEARER WATER WAS THE KEY. ALL THE BASS CAME IN 10 TO 16 FT.

 

Editorial: Californians must treat drought as a way of life

Our future entwined with the fish

San Francisco Chronicle

March 1, 2015

 

No one was surprised when the operators of the federal water system in California told Central Valley farmers Friday their water allocations for this year are zero. California is now in a fourth year of drought, supplies carried over from previous years are minimal, and our most significant water storage system- snowpack - is at 19 percent of normal. Sunday's snow flurries won't change that.

 

It has almost been a year since the governor called on Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and the State Water Resources Control Board put in place mandatory restrictions on washing cars and sidewalks. The water board will update its report this week on the effects of these efforts. It is clear Californians must step up their water conservation efforts and ensure there is adequate water for the environment.

 

"You treat drought as a way of life, not an event to just get through," said Jane Doolan, an Australian who helped that nation craft the water policies that led it through the nearly 20-year Millennium drought. That drought had terrible human, economic and environmental consequences. People lost their land to foreclosures. Depression and suicides increased. Stream flows shrank by 80 or 90 percent, threatening wildlife with extinction.

 

We should take a page from Australia's survival guide and clearly establish now that the state will provide enough water to maintain a healthy environment, the underpinning of a healthy economy. Yet much of the political discussion remains focused on relaxing environmental protections for the state's native fish and increasing pumping out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms in the Central Valley.  Hundreds of valley agricultural workers arrived in buses to make the case to do just that during a highly charged 12-hour meeting before the State Water Resources Control Board officials last month.  In the end, the board relaxed the protections but would not authorize increased pumping. Both state and federal water contractors are disputing the decision.

 

No one can dismiss the human misery the drought is causing – unemployment is high in valley towns and demand at emergency food pantries has tripled. That is not, however, an argument to further degrade the largest estuary on the West Coast, the San Francisco Bay Delta.

 

At the hearing, Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho said, "Fresh water that flows through the delta to the bay is not wasted - it is a vital element of the Bay Area and our economy, from our tidal wetlands to our flood protection efforts, to the ecosystem that supports Dungeness crab, salmon fisheries, migrating birds, and many other vital and important species. Adequate outflows are also critical to maintaining water quality for our farmers, cities and industrial users within the five delta counties as well as for the health of the San Francisco Bay."

 

To survive this drought, we need to manage our freshwater supplies to build resilience for people and fish.

 

George Wight's Fishing Report of February 27, 2015

Went out on the Sacramento bouy 8 area for sturgeon. caught 4 on ghost shrimp eel combo. but were all 36- 39 1/2 in. no matter how many times I measured it. It was still 39 1/2.. 30 ft  water.   Went back to same spot on Thurs.    same outgo tide, got another short then the wind came up and blew me out.   .Made some drifts with gobies for stripers around Antioch but no action. waters still a little dirty for drifting. But I have a friend that caught a few this past week.

 

Waiving Environmental Rules Causes Unreasonable Impacts to Bay-Delta's Fish and Wildlife

NDC Switchboard, by Doug Obegi, February 24, 

 California's drought, now in its fourth year, is causing hardships for farmers, rural communities, and fish and wildlife around the state. With so little rain and snow over the past several years (2015 is on track to be yet another "critically dry" water year type), the CVP and SWP announced very low water allocations for farms and cities in 2014, except for agricultural districts on the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Feather, and Stanislaus Rivers who claim senior water rights (most of whom received 75% of their contract amounts in 2014, even as other nearby contractors got zero allocations). Several small rural communities have seen their wells run dry, as nearby farms drill deeper wells and dramatically increase groundwater pumping, leading local governments to truck in water for residential use.

And the state's fish and wildlife are also suffering. For instance, more than 95% of last year's endangered winter run Chinook salmon were killed by lethal water temperatures below Shasta dam (dam operators ran out of cold water, despite state and federal agencies waiving environmental rules to allow for increased reservoir storage to protect those salmon). Other salmon runs, including fall run Chinook salmon (the backbone of the state's salmon fishery that supports thousands of jobs) and threatened spring run Chinook salmon, are also suffering through the drought. And the abundance of Delta Smelt and Longfin Smelt, two native fish species in the Delta that scientists have long considered to be "canaries in the coal mine," declined to record and near record lows, respectively, in 2014.

But the impacts to native fisheries aren't solely because of drought - they are also the result of actions taken by state and federal agencies in 2014 to suspend environmental protections in the Delta for salmon and other native fisheries. Last year, the agencies repeatedly suspended limits on export pumping, allowing greater water diversions by the CVP and SWP than permitted under their permits. The State Water Resources Control Board repeatedly waived minimum flow requirements for the rivers that flow into the Delta, and the Board also approved numerous petitions to waive or weaken the minimum requirements for Delta outflow, the amount of water that is allowed to flow out of the Delta into San Francisco Bay.

Yet despite the devastating impacts to fisheries from drought and operations in 2014, this year the state and federal agencies proposed to worsen conditions in the Delta (filing a petition to increase water exports and further decrease Delta outflow as compared to operations last year). In a workshop last week, the Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board admitted that operations of the CVP and SWP in 2014 had caused "unreasonable impacts to fish and wildlife," which is the legal standard that must be met in order for the Board to waive the environmental requirements attached to the CVP and SWP's water rights. That's why the Executive Director approved most of the petition to suspend environmental standards in the Delta again this year, but disapproved the part that would make things worse than last year's operations. The parts of the petition that the order approved may result in at least 85,000 to 170,000 acre feet of water no longer being required for minimum Delta outflow and environmental purposes as required by the terms and conditions of the CVP/SWP's water rights, thus increasing water supplies for farms and cities (here's a link to the staff presentation).

Delta outflow is one of the most important factors affecting the health of the estuary, affecting the abundance of numerous fish species, the success of invasive species like corbula (Asian clam), and the productivity of the estuary. Delta outflow is also essential to maintain water quality for farmers and cities in the Delta, and ultimately for the CVP and SWP itself: freshwater flowing out of Delta pushes against the tides bringing saltwater upstream, creating a barrier that enables the CVP and SWP to pump fresh water instead of salt water.

Scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and academia all generally agree that the existing delta outflow standards are inadequate to protect the Delta's native fisheries, and that stronger outflow requirements are needed. In 2010, the State Water Resources Control Board, after numerous hearings, adopted a resolution and report finding that the best available science indicated that existing standards are not adequate to protect public trust fishery resources. And in 2012, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended that the SWRCB increase Delta outflows and limit exports in order to protect native fisheries.

To put it in context: from February to June of 2014, the Bay Institute found that approximately two thirds of the natural flow in the watershed was stored or diverted, and only one third made it through the Delta (see graph below prepared by the Bay Institute). In contrast, in its 2010 report, the SWRCB concluded that the best available science showed that 75% of the natural flow in the watershed should flow through the Delta, with only 25% stored or diverted, in order to fully protect public trust resources (this was a non-binding recommendation).

Moreover, according to the SWRCB in water year 2014 the vast majority of the water that was allowed to flow through the Delta was necessary to maintain the salinity barrier that enables farmers, cities, and the SWP and CVP to continue to divert freshwater instead of pumping salt water.

Yet inexplicably, the state and federal agencies proposed to worsen conditions as compared to last year by decreasing delta outflow and increasing exports, despite the wealth of scientific evidence showing that it would harm the health of the estuary in the long term. Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted during the hearing that they did not "consider the effects on the ecosystem as a whole," and they and other agencies didn't even consider impacts to fall run Chinook salmon, starry flounder, or other species that depend on outflow from the Delta.

At last week's workshop, NRDC and other fishery and conservation groups urged the State Water Resources Control Board to better protect the Delta's native fisheries, expressing our opposition to the SWRCB's decision and urging the Board to require the CVP and SWP to meet the existing minimum outflow requirements of the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan if they want to pump more water from the Delta. If last year's operations caused unreasonable impacts on fish and wildlife, it seems clear that we need to better protect the Delta than we did last year, not further weaken protections for its fish and wildlife and the thousands of jobs that depend on a healthy estuary. The SWRCB should strengthen the executive director's order, not weaken it.

Waiving environmental rules in the Delta is causing unreasonable impacts to our fish and wildlife populations, and to the thousands of jobs and communities that depend on a healthy delta. The drought demonstrates that California needs to do more to reduced reliance on water from the Delta and invest in water recycling, water use efficiency, stormwater capture, and other regional and local water supplies, as required by the Delta Reform Act. Proposition 1 provides important funding to help with these efforts, but there's much work to be done and no time to waste.

 

Mercury News editorial: Delta's health should take priority over pumping

Mercury News Editorial
POSTED: 02/24/15, 2:47 PM PST

 
California needs to get serious about protecting the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of Silicon Valley's most valuable water sources. The short-term needs of Central Valley farmers are significant. But they pale in comparison with preserving the long-term water quality of the estuary that provides water for two-thirds of the state's residents.

California took a significant risk when it waived some environmental protections last year for the Delta in order to pump additional water south to save acres of almond orchards. The results were not pretty. Tom Howard, the executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board, admitted last week that he had erred in calculating how damaging the impact would be.

 

The Delta smelt count dropped to the lowest level in recorded history. The impact on salmon was equally horrendous. The state reported that 95 percent of the juvenile Chinook salmon that spawned in the upper Sacramento River died because of the poor water conditions. Rising water temperatures and lower river levels also resulted in the growth of invasive plants that damage water quality.

 

California can't let this degradation of the largest estuary west of the Mississippi continue. The state will determine in March how much water can be pumped from the Delta in the months ahead. Gov. Jerry Brown needs to demonstrate that he has his priorities straight when it comes to the Delta's delicate ecosystem.

 Big Ag critics contend that limiting pumping of additional water from the Delta constitutes putting fish before people. It's a misleading argument. The Delta smelt is merely the canary in the coal mine when it comes to preserving the estuary's health. Further degradation to the Delta will ultimately threaten the quality of the drinking water for Northern California residents.

Central Valley farmers, who suck up 80 percent of the water used in California, have proved that they have an unquenchable thirst for additional water to irrigate their crops. They've already sucked dry their own aquifers and irresponsibly planted thousands of acres of almond orchards without sufficient guarantees that water would be available during California's inevitable drought years.

The public policy makers who will make the crucial decision on Delta pumping in March are the same ones who are also asking state residents to trust them to the care of the Delta with their plan to build two massive $25 billion tunnels to pump even more water south from the Delta.

California's drought shows no signs of abating as the final weeks of the rainy season approaches.

Central Valley farmers need to come up with an alternate plan that does not do further damage to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 

Restore the Delta News Alert

 

Tunnels Opponents React to Field Poll Finding:
Public Opposition Reflects What We've Heard
Governor Has Chance to Rethink a Sustainable Solution

 
Sacramento, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build water export Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today said that the Field Poll finding that two of three voters do not support the massive water export tunnels project called on Gov. Brown to “rethink his water policies and embrace a new, sustainable water solution." 

"Gov. Brown does have the vision and experience to recognize a dead end, and to abandon the doomed BDCP tunnels, which violate the Clean Water Act, degrade Delta families’ drinking water, and threaten salmon extinction,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “For $67 billion, Californians get no new water, lose our fisheries and spend generations paying to subsidize huge, unsustainable industrial agriculture on unsuitable, drainage impaired Westside San Joaquin Valley lands.  That money would be better spent on alternatives that will make more water available to all Californians: recycling, storm water capture, conservation, groundwater cleanup and recharge etc. It’s time for a new, sustainable solution that makes new water, creates long-term jobs, promotes regional water independence and preserves fisheries and sustainable farms.”

Compare                                      Governor Brown's Tunnels                                Sustainable Water Solution

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Cost?                                            $67 billion                                                            $20 billion

___________________________________________________________________________________________

New Water?                                  None                                                                    5 - 10 Million acre feet

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Jobs?                                            10,000 short term construction                        Thousands of long-term jobs

                                                       jobs; destroys thousands of                             installing water-saving devices,

                                                       of Delta farming and Pacific                              replacing infrastructure

                                                       fisheries-related jobs.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Who Benefits?                              Mainly huge west San Joaquin                        All Californians

  

 

 

Sacramento and Klamath salmon return numbers for 2014 released

by Dan Bacher  February 23, 2015
As anglers get ready for the upcoming ocean and river salmon seasons, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) revealed that 212,000 adult fall-run Chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries in 2014. 
About 10,000 adult salmon returned to the San Joaquin River system, including the Cosumnes, Mokelumne, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The 2014 adult salmon return, or escapement, exceeds the minimum conservation goal set by fishery managers of 122,000 to 180,000 fish. 
Representatives of fishing groups, including the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA), are "cautiously optimistic" about the outlook for upcoming ocean and river salmon seasons.
Another 25,359 two year olds, called "jacks" or "jills" by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, returned to the Sacramento Basin.  These sub-adults are capable of spawning, just like the adults are. The state and federal scientists use the "jack" and "jill" return numbers to develop models of salmon abundance for upcoming fishing seasons.
"Only a relatively small percentage of jacks come in from the ocean, with the rest staying out at sea one more year," said John McManus, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. "The number of returning jacks is multiplied to calculate the expected number of three year old adult fish out in the ocean."
"The 2014 jack count is about 25 percent higher than the 2013 jack count," he explained. "Although the multiplier that’s applied changes slightly from year to year, a layman’s analysis suggests there could be about 25 percent more three-year-olds in the ocean now than the 600,000 estimated at this time last year. This suggests there could be close to 800,000 adult salmon forecast for 2015."
The official 2015 forecast will be announced by state officials at a California Department of Fish and Wildlife informational meeting February 26 in Santa Rosa. This number will be used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to propose times and areas where ocean salmon fishing will be allowed off the California coast, according to McManus.
The Council will finalize setting the 2015 season by April.  As of now, the sport salmon season is set to open on Saturday April 4 off the California coast south of Horse Mountain, near Shelter Cove in southern Humboldt County.
"Things look relatively good on the Klamath River," noted McManus. "There, fishery managers were shooting for a minimum escapement of 40,700 natural adult spawners.  Instead they ended up with more than twice that at 95,330. Another 31,000 adult salmon returned to the hatchery." 
The Klamath River barely avoided a massive fish kill like the one that took place September 2002, due to direct action and protests by the Klamath Justice Coalition and members of the Hoopa Valley, Yurok, Karuk and Winnemem Wintu Tribes, along with lobbying and litigation by the Tribes and fishing groups, to release cold water from Trinity River to cool down water temperatures on the Klamath last summer and fall.
The release of the PFMC data took place as water rights attorney and California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) Board Member Mike Jackson warned of the tremendous environmental and economic damage that would result from approval of the Temporary Urgency Change Petitions to increase Delta water exports now before the State Water Resources Control Board. 
He said that 95 percent of endangered winter run Chinook salmon perished last year, due to poor management by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation - and another massive fish kill could take place this  year if the state and federal water agencies mismanage Central Valley rivers and dams and the Delta pumps like they did last year. 
"Evidently after the Bureau of Reclamation’s killing of 95% of the endangered winter-run salmon last year, the Federal government has decided to propose a much worse water plan for 2015," said Jackson. "It’s a much more complicated plan, but if it is approved by the California Water Board it may send both the endangered salmon and Delta smelt to extinction. We will find out soon if the Governor’s office intervenes with the Water Board to help finish off the fish.” 
“Once again, Senator Feinstein (D-Westlands) favors big agribusinesses on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley over the economic and environmental needs of the people who live in the Bay-Delta Estuary," said Jackson. "Commercial salmon fishing is a $1.5 billion economy, Delta farming a $5.2 billion economy, and of course there are the millions of people who live in communities surrounding the estuary. With this drought, we are poised to lose Delta smelt, Winter-run salmon, and steelhead as these fisheries are collapsing." 
How will the massive die of winter-run Chinook salmon impact this year's salmon seasons? "Although we now know that federally protected winter run largely failed to reproduce in the wild in 2014 due to elevated river temperatures, fishing restrictions to further protect them likely won’t kick in until next year when they’re big enough to bite a bait," said McManus.
  
Complete information about the upcoming salmon seasons will be available at the CDFW salmon information meeting in Santa Rosa. The meeting is scheduled on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.
"The public is encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April," according to the Department news release.(https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/cdfw-to-host-public-meeting-on-ocean-salmon-fisheries-2/)
Meanwhile, Jerry Brown, the worst Governor for fish, water and the environment in recent California history, is rushing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history. The tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Meeting to explore emergency dams on 3 Delta sloughs

By Matt Weiser

mweiser@sacbee.com

02/06/2015 7:53 PM

A proposal to temporarily dam three sloughs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a drought emergency measure will be presented at a public meeting Thursday in Clarksburg.

The plan was first proposed last year by the California Department of Water Resources. The goal is to prevent salty San Francisco Bay water from intruding too far into the Delta, which is one possible result of low freshwater outflow in the Sacramento River.

The barriers are proposed on Steamboat and Sutter sloughs, which branch off the Sacramento River near Courtland; and on West False River, in the west Delta near Bethel Island. They would be constructed primarily of large rocks placed across the width of each slough.

DWR halted the project last year after late-winter storms provided adequate runoff to avoid salinity problems. The idea is being revived this year in case drought conditions again make salinity management difficult.

The temporary dams are intended to prevent Delta waters from becoming too salty for the 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland that depend on it. By blocking the three sloughs, according to the plan, more freshwater flow on the Sacramento River will stay in the main river channel, helping to repel salinity downstream.

Some local farmers in the Delta worry the plan could harm their irrigation water supplies, because the dams may cause salty water to back up into the affected sloughs.

If the dams become necessary, they would likely be installed in May and removed in October. A preliminary environmental study has been prepared on the project, available online at http://ht.ly/IDiD8.

Thursday’s meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Clarksburg Community Church, 52910 Netherlands Ave.

Mon Feb 09, 2015 at 08:17 AM PST

State Water Board “Spiteful” Order Avoids Law

By Dan Bacher

 The State Water Resources Board has served for decades as a shill for corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies, big oil companies and other water exporters - and the board's continuing service to the water contractors at the expense of fish and Delta farmers became evident in draft order issued on Wednesday, February 4.

On Friday, Restore the Delta (RTD) added to its Thursday response  to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) draft order issued Wednesday night demanding water diversion data from every riparian and pre-1914 water right holder in the Delta’s Central Valley watershed, starting March 1st "until, well, whenever." Thursday's response is available here: http://www.dailykos.com/...

John Herrick, RTD Board Member and Counsel and General Manager of the South Delta Water Agency, said, "Last year, the SWRCB debated whether or not to (try to) limit senior water rights holders in the Delta under the false proposition that in-Delta use was wrongfully taking (state and federal water) project storage water. In response, we showed the SWRCB that the Delta always has a supply for riparian and pre-1914 right holders, as the channels are never without water."

"The SWRCB responded that the water in the Delta would get worse absent the releases by the projects, and thus, in-Delta diversions were wrongfully taking that released water. We responded that a diminishing quality is irrelevant to the ability to divert under the law, that the projects are obligated under statute and regulation to maintain Delta water quality for us, and that the case law on point clearly shows that if you put your water into someone else's supply (the project’s stored water), you can only remove it if it does not harm those who could have diverted absent the added supply - us," said Herrick.

“Since the exporters and the SWRCB have no factual or legal responses to the above, they developed this current order to avoid the law," emphasized Herrick. "By mandating un-meetable requirements, they can then order you to stop diverting until you meet those requirements, thus accomplishing the shutdown of the Delta farmers; something they could not do under the controlling facts and law.

"If the SWRCB had actually needed the information sought in this recent, horrible order, it would have requested it last year, and given the farmers plenty of time to find the documentation being sought. Instead, they purposefully waited until the last minute so they can be certain the farmers cannot comply in the short time given. This spiteful action by the SWRCB clearly shows it is incapable of carrying out its duties, but simply acts as the shill for the exporters. The SWRCB's sole goal during this drought is to protect the exporters at the expense of the fisheries, and of all other water right holders; the exact opposite of their specified duties," he concluded.

Restore the Delta opposes the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. The project will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and a host of other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Orange County Register

Brown's tunnel vision could sink taxpayers

In his fourth and final term, Gov. Jerry Brown intends to start drilling two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Estimated cost: $25 billion.

Californians might consider the pitfalls of a smaller tunnel project in Seattle, subject of a recent article by the Washington Post. The dig will move two miles of State Route 99 underground and, according the state Department of Transportation, “clear the way for new public space along Seattle’s downtown waterfront.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray support the tunnel, launched in 2009 at a cost of $2.8 billion. The project was slated for completion in 2015, but that is not going to happen.

“Bertha,” a 2,000-ton boring machine created specifically for the project, has advanced about 1,000 feet but quit a year ago with more than 8,000 feet to go. Trouble is, Bertha is unable to reverse itself. Engineers will have to excavate from above and remove the machine for repairs.

This could push the completion date into 2017. On the other hand, local officials estimate that 70 percent of the money has already been spent. Seattle politicians fear they will be stuck with the bill.

Even among supporters, the Route 99 tunnel had sparked comparisons to Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project. “The Big Dig” made news in 2006 when 12 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling and crushed to death restaurant worker Milena Delvalle, 38. But the problems did not start there.

The seven-mile Big Dig, a pet project of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, spanned six presidential administrations and seven Massachusetts governors. The final cost was $14.8 billion, nearly 10 times what politicians initially claimed.

Shortly after the death of Delvalle, Boston University journalism professor Fred Bayles told reporters the Big Dig was “a dangerous and perhaps criminal boondoggle.” That caused no hesitation on the part of the Seattle diggers, and neither project appears to have given Gov. Brown any second thoughts on his tunnels, which make the others look like fence-post holes.

Each tunnel would be 40 feet high, 35 miles long, and, together, they would cost nearly $25 billion, part of the governor’s plan for the state’s water system. If subject to the same sort of cost overruns as Boston’s Big Dig, far from a remote possibility, they could saddle taxpayers with $250 billion.

Gov. Brown appears undisturbed by the financial, environmental and safety concerns of the tunnels. His brand of tunnel vision can’t reverse itself. It prefers to focus on the joys of spending and a glowing legacy down the road. The governor will be long out of office but California taxpayers, and their children, will be stuck with the costs.

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow with the Independent Institute, based in Oakland.

Fishing Report from George Wight dated January 29, 2015

Went out yesterday and today  by light 14 on Sac.   Yesterday 2 stripers  22" 1 small sturgeon, 1 flounder. today  2 more stripers 22 23 " and 1 BIG sturgeon. got to see this one as he cleared the water twice. About a  100 pounder.  Fought him a while. thought I was wearing him out after the jumps. No way.  He went into beast mode and started spooling me so I just clamped down and ripped the hook out.  30 ft of water.  Ghost shrimp with a piece of eel

A Fishing Report from Tom Coss

I went out with Capt Stan on his charter boat QUETZAL Monday Jan 26 for a little afternoon striper fishing.  We fished the Sacramento off Sherman Island and used shad, fishing the last of the outgoing tide. Started fishing about 1 PM and limited out by 4:15. Smallest was just a keeper. Then a 21 incher, then two nice fat fish in the range of 27-28”. It was a beautiful warm day…until the cloud cover closed up and it got cold towards the end of the day. Grilled striper soon.

Drought law: Congress proposals could destroy San Francisco estuary and many species

By Jeanette Howard and Jon Rosenfield

Special to the Mercury News

Posted:   01/23/2015 04:00:00 PM PST

The impacts of California's ongoing extreme drought are felt by everyone in the state. Some in Congress have proposed weakening environmental protections that would divert more of the water flowing to the San Francisco Bay. That would have serious implications for the largest estuary on the Pacific coast of North and South America and the fish, wildlife and people who rely on this unique ecosystem.

Fresh water that flows down our rivers through the Sacramento—San Joaquin River Delta to the bay and its estuary is the lifeblood for many species, such as our iconic Chinook salmon. In the ocean, salmon are consumed by orcas and other marine mammals, and some are harvested by commercial fishing fleets. San Francisco Bay and its estuary are nurseries for salmon, herring, halibut, sturgeon, Dungeness crab and other species that sustain fishing communities and sportfishing businesses from Monterey to Oregon.

If proposals to weaken environmental protections pass Congress and more water is diverted, our fragile estuary will continue to decline.

Few recognize that this ecosystem already is suffering from a decades-long man-made drought. In most years, the winter and spring months are drier than during any natural drought on record because of the extremely high levels of water diversion.

On average, more than half of the fresh water is diverted either upstream or at the southern end of the Delta, with more than 70 percent of it going to agriculture and the rest to cities and industry. When natural drought conditions are added on top of these long-term water diversions, this ecosystem receives an even smaller fraction of the water available.

In comparable estuaries, like the Chesapeake Bay, people are not diverting anywhere close to 50 percent of the water nature supplies. The best available science shows that the health of rivers is degraded when more than 20 percent of their water is diverted.

Recent data confirm this. Last year between February and June--especially sensitive months for native fish--only one-third of the runoff from the Central Valley made it to the San Francisco Bay. Not surprisingly, data released this month showed that the once common Delta smelt reached all-time low populations in 2014, and other species remained near record lows. Last year, juvenile Chinook salmon suffered high mortality as they migrated toward the ocean, jeopardizing all four unique local runs of this culturally and economically important fish.

Increasing water diversions can only make things worse. If we compound the decades-long man-made drought and the natural drought by diverting even more water, we're increasing the likelihood of multiple extinctions. That's what laws like the Endangered Species Act are intended to prevent.

Some claim these laws are not effective because target species have not recovered. But the protections are intended only to prevent collapse and extinction, not to produce thriving ecosystems.

The future of our estuary is being discussed now as Congress considers drought legislation. Elected officials should look to the best available science when making decisions. Recent court decisions support the scientific basis for ecosystem protections that prevent even more dramatic reductions in flows to the bay.

Innovative approaches that reduce the impact of the drought on cities and farms are needed and possible. Our focus should be on improving how we use our limited water supply, not on shortsighted policies that divert even more water from the bay at the expense of native fish and ecosystems and those who depend upon them for their livelihood.

Supreme Court Allows Scientifically Sound Protections for California’s Bay-Delta Estuary to Stand

January 12, 2015

WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--January 12, 2015 – The Supreme Court today let stand a federal plan to protect California’s vital Delta ecosystem. The Court refused to hear an appeal brought by agribusinesses trying to undermine protections for the Delta smelt under the Endangered Species Act.

 Specifically, the businesses were trying to overturn a federal appeals court decision that had upheld the protections (known as a biological opinion or “biop”) – which limit pumping during certain times of the year to protect this imperiled native fish. The protections are crucial to help maintain the health of California’s Bay-Delta estuary and the thousands of fishing and farming jobs that depend on its health. 

Following is a statement from Kate Poole, litigation director of NRDC’s Water Program:

“Today’s decision is good news for the thousands of fishermen, Delta farmers, and everyone who depends on the health of California’s Bay-Delta estuary and its native fisheries and wildlife. After six years of hard fought litigation, today’s Court decision ends debate over the validity of these protections.

“Taking more water out of the Bay-Delta estuary won’t solve our problems. But the untapped potential of California’s sustainable water solutions amounts to millions of acre-feet of new water, far more than has ever been taken out of the Delta. We look forward to working with the State to help implement Proposition 1, the new $7.5 billion water bond, to make significant investments in water-smart solutions.  Improvements to recycling, conservation, groundwater cleanup, and irrigation systems will reduce reliance on water from the Bay-Delta and improve the drought resilience of California’s farms, cities and environment.”

Background:

As a result of the population crash of numerous native fish in the 2000s, following several years of historically high levels of freshwater diversions out of the Delta, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion in 2008 to protect Delta smelt. After agribusinesses and water districts filed lawsuits challenging these protections for the Bay-Delta estuary, NRDC intervened in this litigation to defend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion, and in 2014 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the validity of these protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Even with these protections in place, on average the state and federal water projects will divert as much water from the Delta as they did throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The historic drought in California – not protections for endangered species – has been the overwhelming cause of low water supplies throughout the state in recent years. Water exports from the Bay-Delta account for approximately 8 percent of the state’s total water use.

Today’s decision lets stand the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ March 2014 decision, which sided with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice, The Bay Institute and the federal government. The court determined that protections for the threatened Delta smelt – a bellwether species that indicates the health of the vital San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary – were scientifically sound, fully justified, and necessary to restore the health and water quality of this largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas

These protections have undergone numerous independent scientific peer reviews, including by a panel of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. 

Historically, Delta smelt was one of the most common species in the estuary, but recent surveys showed the lowest abundance index on record after three years of drought. And even with these protections in place, on average the state and federal water projects will divert as much water from the Delta as they did throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

 


 


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