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Water shortages, flood disaster in historical drought: Has California gone nuts?

 Patrick Porgans, founder and project coordinator of, exposes the dichotomy between flood disaster proclamations and drought proclamations in California as 1.6 million acres of water-hungry almonds now consume four more times than the 19 million customers (1.3 million acre-feet) served by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California. 

February 13, 2023

Members of the California Legislature have raised concerns about these conflicting dichotomies, prompting an investigation by the State Auditor’s office of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). Below is the complete press release from Porgans:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: For more information, contact Patrick Porgans (916) 833-8734 

 California officials claim we are in the grip of a major drought, as the Governor issues a flood disaster proclamation requesting presidential aid, while he claims the State is running out of water. Critics are raising questions, “is it because California has gone nuts?”

In every major drought, since the turn of the 21st Century, tens-of-thousands of acres of almonds were planted. The current total of 1.6 million acres consumes almost four times more water than the 19 million customers (1.3 million acre-feet) served by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of southern California.  While 90% of Californians were under a flood emergency warning,  “Gov. Gavin Newsom threatens mandatory water cuts if Californians don't use less water.” Newsom repeated this threat during the January floods.

Legislative members raised concerns about these conflicting dichotomies, prompting an investigation by the State Auditor’s office of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). They are the two entities entrusted to supply flood protection and to assure the public of a safe sustainable supply of drinking water. Assemblyman Adam Gray, a member of the California Legislative Joint Audit Committee, launched the Auditor’s investigation. Gray said: “California’s water management strategies are outdated, heavily flawed, increasingly dangerous to the health of humans and the environment alike. As extreme drought conditions persist for longer periods and then are followed by severe and unpredictable downpours, the effect of climate change on California’s water supply has only just begun.”  

The Auditor’s report is due to be available soon. The DWR Director Karla Nemeth opposed the Auditor’s investigation. DWR’s managerial actions, during earlier droughts, are the subject of the Auditor’s investigation. During the 2012-2016 drought years, at Governor Brown’s directive  the SWRCB imposed mandatory cutbacks on urban users and relaxed the Bay-Delta Estuary water quality standards. A total of 3.2 million acre-feet of water were conserved, according to the SWRCB. 

Relaxation of the Bay-Delta water quality protections was the result of the SWRCB’s approval of DWR’s petition to reduce the standards. DWR officials claimed they did not have enough water in upstream storage to meet the standards. They used this same tactic during the 1976-1977 and the 1987-1992 droughts. The Board ignored considerable evidence that DWR officials had drawn down the  State Water Project’s (SWP) Oroville Reservoir to increase water exports to SWP contractors south of the Delta prior to submission of the petition. 

The SWRCB approval to relax the standards led to the mortality of 95% of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon. No one was held accountable for the death of those listed ESA species, which if committed by a citizen is a federal offense. Farmers in the Delta suffered cutbacks, forcing third-generation families out of business, because their soils were damaged and deprived of a usable supply of water that DWR and the SWRCB are legally required to provide them.Ironically, DWR purchased 90% of the 10,000-acre of Sherman Island and received a bonus. It gets to hold onto the amount of water needed to irrigate those lands to make up for its overcommitted SWP water contracts. While urban water users pay higher rates for less water, the Bay-Delta estuary experienced an ecological collapse, while state and federal water projects absconded with the conserved water,  a good portion went to supply their agricultural contractors in central and southern California, to keep the almond trees alive.

The SWRCB did not impose mandatory cutbacks on agriculture, which consumes 85% of the State’s annual applied water supply and only contributes 2.8 percent of the State’s $2.87 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Currently, California has the fifth largest GDP on the planet. Presently, there are 1.6 million acres of almonds planted, and 80% of the almonds are exported. It requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce one almond. The State’s so-called water shortage is due to the fact it is exporting the public’s water and energy, at the expense and to the demise of urban users and small farmers. Each time the Governor declares a disaster, he appeals to the federal government for emergency funding to be bailed out and then approves expenditure of billions of dollars funded from General Obligation (GO) bonds for flood and drought relief. Those funds are grants, free money, for applicants, such as Donald Bren, who owns Irvine Ranches 90,000 acres in Orange County, including 40,000 which are farmed. In earlier droughts DWR set up meetings at the Irvine Duck Club, aiding applicants to get this money. 

Repayment of the GO bonds come from the State’s General Fund, which are paid for by taxes on all Californians and are backed by the full-faith and credit of the State. Each dollar borrowed requires an added dollar in interest payments. This free money is drowning Californians in a sea of rising debt, while officials cry wolf about the severity of the drought.

California has a mandate to put the waters of the State to the highest and best use, which includes agriculture. However, critics argue it should not be to the detriment of the public’s water supply. It raises the question should the state cut off its nuts and cease allowing the exportation of the public’s water to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of billionaire Agri-conglomerate factory farmers, like the Resnick family, who own 26.5 square miles of almonds, according to a CBS 60 Minute interview.  Like other billionaires, they benefit directly from the issuance of billions of dollars of General Obligation bonds, where the public pays them for water projects they own and reap further profits by selling the public back its own water, while receiving windfall profits of “free” bailout money!

Climate change dictates that the outdated, debt-ridden water policies that Assemblyman Gray raised are not only dangerous, but they are also a threat to our way of life and national security.  If DWR and the SWRCB are not compelled to resolve their inherent conflicts of interest, California will continue to be bogged down in a quagmire of a government-induced merry-go-round, until it meets its “Waterloo.” 

Critics claim that the public can put an end to this orchestrated cabal, by simply stopping voting for the issuance of new GO bonds until they cut off thousands of acres of nuts. #  

This is the first of a series of articles: Next, 1: How government-induced crises amass fortunes at the public’s misfortune. 2: Almond glut gets unsuspecting public to foster urban sprawl by billionaire property owners. 3: GO bond phenomenon. 4: How to get rich selling the public back its own water.

About the author: Just Google or EDGE for Patrick Porgans Water


Gov. Newsom Suspends Laws that Protect Fish

“Governor Newsom’s executive order perpetuates the lie that water in rivers flowing to the ocean is wasted. Really, how is this any different than what Donald Trump said about the Delta?”
- Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta

– CalMatters 2/14/2023

Facing an onslaught of criticism that water was “wasted” during January storms, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday suspended environmental laws to give the go-ahead to state officials to hold more water in reservoirs.
The governor’s executive order authorized the State Water Resources Control Board to “consider modifying” state requirements that dictate how much water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is allowed to flow into San Francisco Bay….
Doug Obegi, a water law attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called Newsom’s order the latest action in “a breakdown of law and order in the Delta.” In every critically dry year since 2012, Obegi said, the state’s flow rules and water export restrictions have been waived.
“Now, it seems, we’re going to start waiving them in average years,” Obegi said, adding that it’s the first time that the state has waived Delta outflow standards in a year that isn’t designated critically dry. 
“The executive order seems to signal the governor’s intention to put his thumbs on the scale in favor of extinction in the Delta….”
Changing the rules is “like having a speed limit in a school zone except when you’re in a hurry,” said Jon Rosenfield, science director of the San Francisco Baykeeper. 
“We’ve got a violation of water quality standards, a petition (by a state and federal agency) to waive those standards, and a governor’s executive order encouraging the board to waive those standards through his executive order.
“There’s not much difference between a world without environmental laws and a world where, at the stroke of a governor’s pen, environmental laws are eviscerated,” he said.


Legendary California Fishery and Water Quality Activist Bill Jennings Dies at Age 79

The Following Article Reports of The Loss Of Bill Jennings. He was a Giant in the Water Wars. I first met Bill over 20 years ago when I began at- tending meetings of the State Water Resources Control Board, Fish & Game Commission Meet- ings and Department of Water Resources meet- ings. I considered him a Friend and Colleague. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Rest In Peace my friend.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the fish of California lost Bill Jennings on December 27, 2022. Above all, Bill was a relentless activist. For over 40 years, he used the law, meticulously documented data, an irascible wit, and a stinging pen to defend and protect his beloved Bay-Delta Estuary and all the rivers that feed it.

Bill was chairman of CSPA's board of directors since 1988 and its executive director since 2005. He led CSPA in decades of battles to increase flows into the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta and through to San Francisco Bay. He campaigned tirelessly against multiple incarnations of canals and tunnels around the Delta. Through his "Watershed Enforcers" pro- gram, Bill chased down stormwater, wastewater, and agricultural polluters all over the state.

Bill went through hundreds of regulatory processes at the State Water Resources Control Board, regionalwater quality control boards, and other agencies. He showed up, presented data, and demanded solutions. Bill was swift and sure with litigation when agencies fell short.

Born in Kentucky in 1943, Bill grew up in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio. He attended the Uni- versity of Tennessee, where he became active in the Civil Rights Movement. For several years during the Vietnam War, Bill was also a leading figure in draft resistance in Tennessee.

As a young man, Bill spent many years traveling back and forth across the country, selling pipe tobac- co products out of his van. He spent several summers in West Yellowstone, Montana, where he learned to fly fish. Later he spent many summers camping in Yosemite Valley.

Bill settled in Stockton in the '80s, where he opened and ran a store that doubled as a fly fishing and to- bacconist shop.

In the late '80s, Bill helped form and became presi- dent of the Committee to Save the Mokelumne Riv- er. Following multiple fish kills in Camanche Reser- voir and the lower Mokelumne River, he initiated a dizzying series of actions at the State Water Board, San Joaquin County Superior Court, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. As a result, the East Bay Municipal Utility District cleaned up the Penn (copper) Mine, increased river flows in the lower Mokelumne River by a factor of five, and added oxy- gen to the water supply of an upgraded Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery. Today, the Mokelumne River is one of the most important sources of salmon in Cali- fornia.

From 1995-2005, Bill was the head of Deltakeeper, which deployed several vessels to monitor water quality throughout the Delta. Bill and his team analyzed many of the collected samples in the kitchen and other rooms set up in Bill's waterfront office and home. The data they collected also provided evidence for regulatory and legal actions. In 2005, Del- takeeper dissolved, and Bill became CSPA's executive director. Under his leadership, CSPA expanded its Watershed Enforcers program, carrying 5-10 wa- ter quality lawsuits at any given time. The program has cleaned up dozens of wastewater and industrial stormwater sources of pollution. It has also generated millions of dollars in settlement fees that have provided grant funding to watershed, fishing, and en- vironmental nonprofit organizations.

Bill led CSPA in developing extensive evidentiary records in the State Water Board's 2010 Delta flow criteria hearings and in 2015-2018 hearings on the proposed "twin tunnels" that would have diverted water under the Delta. He also led two sets of law- suits against the State Water Board's changes to flow and water temperature requirements during droughts; two of these lawsuits are ongoing.

For over three decades, Bill had his finger on the pulse of California water politics and policy. He was known throughout the broader California wa- ter community as blunt and gruff, but personally congenial. He was a board member of the Califor- nia Water Impact Network and served for many years on the Restore the Delta board.

Bill was also very well known in his home town of Stockton and throughout San Joaquin County, where he was active in socially progressive causes.

Bill received countless awards and honors. He was recognized by San Joaquin County, the California State Legislature, and the U.S. Congress. He received awards from the California Department of Fish and Game and the American Fisheries Society. He was recognized formally and informally by many fishing groups, and spoke at many public functions. In early 2022, Bill was elected to the California Outdoors Hall of Fame.

Bill leaves an enduring and unique legacy of pro- tecting California fisheries, habitat, and water quality. The breadth and depth of his achievements are unlikely to be equaled.
Contributions in Bill's memory can be made to the Stockton-based organization he directed, the Cali- fornia Sportfishing Protection Alliance, whose mailing address is P.O. Box 1061, Groveland, CA 95321.
 Donations can also be made to CSPA online here.

"We are deeply saddened to share that Cali- fornia Sportfishing Protection Alliance has released a statement that activist and legend- ary water leader Bill Jennings, died on De- cember 27, 2022. Bill was a co-founder of Restore the Delta, Board Member Emeritus of our organization, mentor and friend. Bill will be deeply missed."

- Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive direc- tor, Restore the Delta

The Bay-Delta Estuary:

California's two largest rivers – the north-flowing San Joaquin and the south-flowing Sacramento – come together in an inverted delta in the Central Valley east of San Francisco. Fresh water from these rivers and their tributaries mixes with salt water in an estuary that connects to the San Francisco Bay, eventually flowing out to the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate. This Bay-Delta region is the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, a crucial environment for Bay and Pacific Northwest fisheries. This region is home to over 4 million people, both rural and urban. San Joaquin County, Contra Costa County, Solano County, and parts of Sacramento and Yolo County are in the Delta.
"The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is on the brink of environmental disaster. The fish, wildlife, drinking water, and the many other uses it provides are all declining due to massive water exports. Currently, the State allows more than half the water needed for the delta's ecological health to be diverted away for unsustainable Big Agriculture on the west and south San Joaquin Valley." – Restore the Delta

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a land of stunning open spaces fed by five major rivers. A maze of creeks and sloughs spreads finger-like through some of California's most important habitat, especially for Chinook salmon and Greater Sandhill Cranes. It also contains over 500,000 acres of prime farmland devoted to diversified agriculture. The Delta is home to a $5.2 billion agricultural economy and to a fishing, boating, and recreation economy worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The Delta's cultural diversity and rich historical legacy add vibrancy to regional tourism.
Fisheries, agriculture, and people within the region and throughout the state are dependent on the Delta's fresh water supply. Although other factors affect Delta water quality, water management policies that help to maintain flows of fresh water into and through the Delta are of great environmental and economic importance to all Californians.

Until the middle of the 19th century, runoff from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers frequently flooded open Delta wetlands. Beginning with reclamation for farming in the late 1800s, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was divided into tracts (islands), as farmers began building levees that protected the larger islands from flooding. The levees that that were built over time gave the Delta its present shape, and transformed the region. This is why future habitat restoration efforts must carefully balanced protecting people and communities with creating space for species.
Today just under 1000 miles of Delta levees, the majority re-designed to modern engineering standards, protect agricultural and urban communities, natural habitat, and infrastructure worth billions of dollars to the state's economy: power lines, highways, oil and gas pipelines, and deepwater shipping channels. Thus, revitalizing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is essential to California's overall environmental and economic health. Learn more about the Delta Tunnels.

To see a detailed map of the Delta and the Delta Tunnels alignment, click here.


ICYMI 1/11/21 — Smelt Extinction and Westlands Land Sale ...and commentary from Restore the Delta

2021: Is this the year that wild delta smelt become extinct? – CA Water Blog
"The program to net adult delta smelt for captive brood stock caught just one smelt in over 151 tries. All signs point to the Delta smelt as disappearing from the wild this year, or, perhaps, 2022."

Schuil & Associates, Inc. and New Current Water and Land, LLC Collaborate to Counsel Investors on Land Purchases in Westlands Water District – PR Newswire
"It is important that those interested in purchasing farmland in California, particularly on the Central Valley's Westside, be provided excellent counsel on water issues," said Marc Schuil, Principal and Agent, Schuil & Associates. "With our relationship with New Current Water and Land and their decades of water experience, we are better able to help clients navigate this critically-important sector."

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta:
"When are Federal and State regulators going to end this madness?
We are on the verge of permanently losing the Delta's canary in the gold mine, the Delta smelt. Meanwhile, Westlands continues to hype farming on dry land with Delta water. Governor Newsom should understand that all his climate change programs will become meaningless if he fails to get serious about water availability and planning."
ICYMI 1/8/21: New Delta Tunnel documents from DWR

State Report Says Salmon and Steelhead Are Near the Brink of Extinction


Jan 18, 2021

A new report from the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office shows a number of salmon and steelhead populations in Washington state are teetering on the brink of extinction, according to a Thursday press release by the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

The report, titled 'State of Salmon in Watersheds,' shows that 10 of the 14 populations of salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered in Washington under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) are not making progress. Of the 10, five are in crisis.

"We have come a long way in addressing the factors killing salmon," said Erik Neatherlin, the executive coordinator of the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office. "Some salmon populations are strong and nearing recovery. Unfortunately, many challenges are outpacing restoration efforts, holding back recovery of the majority of salmon."

The report noted that salmon populations are expected to worsen as the climate warms and mountain glaciers, which feed cold, clean water to salmon-bearing streams in the summer, continue to disappear. In addition, Washington's human population is expected to grow from 7.6 million to 9 million people by 2040, adding the equivalent of three more Seattles to the state.

"More people means more demand for water and for land along waterways, both of which conflict with what salmon need," Neatherlin said. "It's important to remember that Washingtonians rely heavily on salmon to support jobs in the fishing and tourism industries, as a food source and for traditional tribal culture and for recreation."

Cause and Effect

The report comes one month after the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced that all but one coastal river (Quillauyute) was expected to have below the expected returns for steelhead. That prompted the WDFW to prohibit fishing for salmon and steelhead in coastal rivers from floating devices and the use of baits and scents, starting Dec. 14, 2020. The department is also closing coastal rivers sooner than usual, ranging from Feb. 1 to April 1, depending on the river.

On Monday, the Olympic National Park announced it will close the Queets River for steelhead fishing on Feb. 1 to protect the native run. The 2020-21 forecast for Queets wild steelhead is expected to be well below the escapement goal of 4,200 fish. Queets wild steelhead have failed to meet their escapement goal in each of the last four years, and returns in recent years were among the lowest on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration approved an application on Aug. 14, 2020 to expand a program to kill sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin. The removal includes up to 540 California sea lions and 176 Stellar sea lions through 2025.

Finding a Solution

In 1991, Snake River sockeye salmon were the first salmon population in the Pacific Northwest to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, 14 species have been listed in Washington. No species have been added since 2007, when Puget Sound steelhead were added to list, which included more than 50 stocks of summer- and winter-run steelhead.

"We are making progress," Neatherlin said. "However, we still are losing more ground than we're gaining. We must come together and we must step up our actions. We know what needs to be done and we have the people in place to do the work, we now just need to make saving salmon a priority across Washington and provide the funding and resources to get it done. We must save salmon."

The report and accompanying website recommend a list of actions geared toward reducing the many factors that kill salmon. Following are a few of the report's recommendations:

• Adapt land-use and other regulations to accommodate salmon. Integrate and give priority to the needs of salmon and other natural resources in land-use plans, long-term infrastructure planning processes and related regulatory programs. The report also calls for increasing compliance and enforcement of existing land-use laws.

• Ensure clean, cold water in streams by reconnecting floodplains and protecting sources of groundwater and cold springs, which feed salmon-bearing streams in the late summer and during droughts.

• Improve fish passage by removing barriers to migration and re-introduce salmon to places above dams where they've been blocked.

• Work with Indian tribes in Washington to establish a statewide standard for protecting fully-functioning and healthy land along streams and rivers for salmon.

• Fully-fund salmon recovery, which currently receives only 22 percent of the estimated need.

A Step in the Right Direction

Washington has been making steady progress restoring habitat in recent years. Since 2005, 20,013 acres of riparian areas have been treated and 12,008 acres of estuaries and near-shore areas have been treated.

Following the removal of the Elwha Dam in 2012, steelhead and all five of the native species of salmon in the Clallam County river have been making recoveries.

Other in-state dam removals on Trout Creek, Middle Fork Nooksack, Pilchuck and White Salmon rivers have boosted salmon and steelhead populations in those respective areas. There are currently efforts underway to improve passage at Mud Mountain Dam near Enumclaw, and to place salmon above dams where they have not been for nearly 100 years, such as at Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport and Grand Coulee Dam near the town of Grand Coulee.

"Salmon are key indicators of the health of our environment," Neatherlin said. "We are at a crossroads, and as we look forward, we need to come together to find solutions that work for salmon and people. Just as we develop long-range plans for roads, powerlines, development and other infrastructure, we need to begin to do the same for salmon if we want them to be around in the future."

For more information and to read the full report, visit

Incredible Benefits of Community-Managed Freshwater Reserves

January 11, 2021

Protected areas have long been a cornerstone of marine fisheries management, and numerous studies have revealed key insights into how these reserves should be designed to optimize success. Despite their proven effectiveness in oceans, reserves have not been widely implemented or studied in freshwater. In fact, freshwater ecosystems are very underrepresented within protected areas, and are often only incidentally included in terrestrial protected areas. Freshwater protected areas are a targeted approach to address overharvesting which threatens food security for hundreds of millions of people. A study recently published in the journal Nature describes an assessment of community-based reserves in a river in Thailand. The research revealed that freshwater protected areas dramatically enhanced the species richness, density, and biomass of the fish communities that they protect (Koning et al. 2020).

The Salween River is the largest remaining free-flowing river in Southeast Asia, and the watershed of its tributary the Mae Ngao is home to thousands of people who heavily depend on the river for food. Over the last few decades, the communities along the river have voluntarily established dozens of fish reserves in an effort to conserve and improve the river's fishery. This grassroots reserve network includes protected areas of different ages and sizes, varying enforcement levels, and different distances from the villages that created them. All of these factors are known to have an impact on the success of marine reserves, and thus the Mae Ngao reserve network provided an ideal opportunity for the researchers to test how these factors influenced reserve success in a freshwater setting. To collect data on the fish communities present inside and outside of the protected areas, the researchers performed paired snorkel surveys of 23 different reserves and nearby unprotected sites. The clear water of the river in the dry season allowed the team to visually gather data on the abundance and variety of fish species present. In addition, they estimated the lengths of observed fish to estimate the total biomass present in each site. They also collected information on depth and substrate type at each site to verify that habitat did not influence differences in the fish community inside and outside of reserves.

Analysis of this data revealed that, relative to the unprotected control sites, the reserves contained an average of 27% more fish species, 124% higher fish density, and an impressive 2,247% more fish biomass. These improvements in total species and fish density were similar to those reported in marine protected areas, but the improvements in biomass detected in these freshwater reserves were six times higher than those typically observed in an ocean setting. This difference in biomass within the reserves was so substantial that the researchers could discern the boundaries of the protected areas simply by looking at the abundance of large fish visible from above the water's surface. The authors suggest that these remarkable biomass improvements within protected areas in the river are likely due to the heavy fishing pressure that occurs in the non-protected parts of the river.

The extent of reserve benefits varied by fish functional traits like fish size and trophic role, with larger bodied and herbivorous fish showing the greatest improvements. But overall, reserve size, enforcement, and connectivity with other reserves were the three most important indicators of reserve success. Importantly, the fact that this study identified a linear increase of fish diversity and biomass with increasing reserve area suggests that even modest expansions of the boundaries of existing reserves could yield substantial ecological benefits. The improvements provided by these protected areas have created a positive feedback cycle of improved fisheries, which offer communities an incentive to create and enforce reserves. As more studies demonstrate the effectiveness of freshwater protected areas from the Amazon to the Mekong, scientists are learning more about how to design the most effective freshwater reserves. This study demonstrates that allowing communities to manage their own local resources can yield incredibly effective results, and may be the key to achieving ecological, economic, and social resilience in natural resource management.


                                                                                                           Hot and Crowded:
                                                                 Where and When Salmon Spawn on the Stanislaus River

January 4, 2021

Salmon that lay their eggs in the Stanislaus River have evolved to take advantage of a narrow time window when spawning is most likely to be successful. Spawn too early, and river temperatures may be too warm for sensitive, incubating eggs; spawn too late and temperatures may be too warm for outmigrating juveniles. But what happens when thousands of years of evolution run into a prolonged and historic drought at the southern extent of the Chinook salmon spawning range? This question was explored in-depth by FISHBIO in an article published in the journal Fisheries Management and Ecology (Peterson et al. 2020), which describes where and when salmon spawned in the Stanislaus over a seven year period and is summarized in a new video. The study found that at the height of drought conditions in 2014 and 2015, salmon spawned in water that was warmer than critical thresholds, which likely hampered egg survival. Salmon also tended to build their redds, or nests, in a few key areas year after year, often on top of other redds, even if other habitat is available. These findings can help inform water management and river restoration efforts to benefit salmon.

The study investigated Chinook salmon spawning behaviors in the Stanislaus River using data collected from spawning surveys conducted from 2009–2015, a time period that encompassed a variety of flow conditions, including a record-breaking drought, as well as highly variable fall-run Chinook salmon escapement. Throughout the study period, the total number of redds ranged from 488 in 2009 to 2,358 in 2015, despite 2015 being the warmest year studied. Spawning occurred slightly later during drought years (6–10 days later compared to wet years) primarily because of a delay in migration as opposed to salmon waiting on the spawning grounds. In 2014 and 2015, nearly all spawning occurred in water temperatures above the threshold of 55.4ºF recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for spawning – and half the spawning in those years occurred at temperatures of 58–61ºF. This reflects that female Chinook salmon have a fixed amount of energy and cannot simply wait for the water to cool down; they are quickly forced to spawn despite poor conditions for their offspring.

Superimposition, or salmon building redds on top of each other, was observed every year throughout most of the spawning reach, but was more frequent when larger numbers of fish were present (in 2012 and 2015) and at spawning areas closer to the upstream migration barrier at Goodwin Dam. Superimposition appeared to occur in the same riffles throughout the study period, even at relatively low redd densities, suggesting that superimposition may be driven by salmon habitat preference rather than an absence of suitable spawning locations. During the years of highest salmon abundance (2012 and 2015), more than half of the redds in the prime spawning habitat experienced superimposition. The estimated probability of superimposition was 16% across the entire spawning reach for 2012–2015.

It appears that suboptimal spawning conditions during the drought and the inability to adjust spawning behaviors may have contributed to record low juvenile abundance (or recruitment) in the spring of 2015 and 2016. In those years, the estimated number of recruits (i.e., fry, parr, and smolts) per female spawner observed from FISHBIO's monitoring program were 109 and 84, respectively, well below the long-term average of 551 (range 84 – 1,155). Overall, the lack of flexibility that Chinook salmon demonstrated to adjust their spawning activity to avoid warm water temperatures may be due in part to large numbers of hatchery-origin strays in the Stanislaus River. Although no hatchery program exists on the Stanislaus, an estimated 66–83% of adult Chinook spawners from 2011 to 2013 were of hatchery origin (Palmer-Zwahlen and Kormos 2013, 2015). Local adaptation is much less likely to occur for a population that receives an annual influx of hatchery-origin fish. Key management recommendations from this study include reducing the impacts of hatchery fish on the Stanislaus, maintaining a cold-water pool in upstream reservoirs in order to release cold water during salmon spawning, and designing habitat restoration projects to mimic the characteristics of spawning "hotspots" where superimposition was frequently observed. The observed lack of spawning flexibility suggests that Chinook salmon are not well poised to cope with climate change. However, careful management could help the species persist in spite of environmental changes.

In Memoriam

Captain “Jolly” Jay Sorensen

September 28, 1937 – June 22, 2020

The Delta mourns the loss of one of its strongest advocates.  Jay Sorensen of Stockton California passed away peacefully in his sleep.  After successfully beating throat cancer 5 years ago he valiantly lived with complications from the radiation therapy that left him unable to take nourishment by mouth.

A lifelong Stockton resident, he was an avid fisherman and guided thousands of people fishing on the San Joaquin River including celebrities, sports figures and even politicians.  It is estimated he spent 10,000 days fishing over his 50 years as a guide.  The nickname “Jolly” came from his penchant for humor and joke telling.

He was the first to sound the alarm in 1974 about the deteriorating Delta ecology and fisheries.  He no longer saw Striped Bass spawning in the San Joaquin River as they had for decades.  This was just 14 years after the State Water Project went on line in conjunction with the Federal Central Valley Project.  Jay rallied his fishing friends and founded the California Striped Bass Association to advocate for the fishery and the Delta.  The Association expanded and currently has 5 active Chapters.  It is the oldest continuously operating fresh water fishing organization in the State.

 He authored “Let’s Go Fishing” in the Rio Vista Herald for over 20 years as well as writing for other publications.

 To raise the profile of the Delta in 2009 Jay became heavily involved with the Delta Visitors Center and Farmers Market located on Highway 12 at Highway 160.

 Jay was awarded the Hal Schell Award by the Bay/Delta Yachtsman in 2015.

 On January 4, 2019 he was inducted into the California Outdoor Hall of fame joining the likes of John Muir, Ansel Adams and fellow Stocktonian Pete Otteson.

 For the past 14 years Jay strongly supported Restore the Delta, attended our fund raising events and made generous contributions.

 One of Jay’s favorite sayings was, “The Delta is my Sistine Chapel”.

 Rest in Peace Jay, smooth sailing and good fishing on your Sistine Chapel in Heaven.

Fact Sheet About Responding to County and Tribal Requests on Recreational Fishing During Public Health Emergency - April 11, 2020

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) confirms the following facts:
• Neither CDFW nor the Fish and Game Commission has proposed a statewide closure of recreational fishing. Neither intends to do so.
• The proposal is based on formal requests from local counties to consider restrictions to address health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Given the dynamic nature of this public health emergency, CDFW and the Commission simply seek a faster, streamlined ability to be responsive to local counties and Tribes.
• The proposal is specific and narrowly tailored. For a short time (only until May 31, 2020), CDFW would have an improved ability with limited authority from the Commission to respond to local counties and Tribes. This emergency regulation would expire far sooner than emergency regulations are typically effective (which is 180 days).
• The CDFW Director could only act in consultation with the Commission President, and only after considering public health and safety guidance from local and Tribal governments.
• After all those criteria, CDFW could temporarily suspend, restrict or delay sport (recreational) fishing. That's it. Temporarily.
• If CDFW used this limited ability, it is required to report back to the Commission and the public in the Commission's April and May 2020 meetings.
• This proposal is based on specific requests from counties concerned about the April 25, 2020 trout season opener, which is an annual event that typically draws many thousands of people to Inyo, Mono and other counties in the Eastern Sierra. This situation raises a legitimate concern at the local level regarding potential transmission of COVID-19 from outside areas, especially considering the limited health infrastructure in the small towns hosting these openers. Please see letters from Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties.
• If the Commission approves the emergency regulation for this limited effort, the CDFW Director has been clear that the focus is on being responsive to these three counties.

• It would be irresponsible for the CDFW and Commission to NOT be responsive to local needs in this public health emergency, where we must do all we can as Californians to help each other make it through this emergency together.
• CDFW has taken NO steps to limit any current hunting seasons nor would this regulation allow that.
• CDFW would act to reopen any suspended or delayed fishing seasons promptly, based on the same commitment to local, county and Tribal public health and safety input.
• Similar emergency ability during droughts has been in place since 2015 that also allows CDFW, in consultation with the Commission, to close fisheries based on environmental and fish population-based criteria. Since then, CDFW has only invoked one closure (Merced River) as the use of that authority is taken very seriously and only used as a last resort.
• The angling community has risen together before to do the right thing. We know that we can count on them now too.

                            California Moves Forward With Water Project Without Federal Guidance

March 31, 2020 NICK CAHILL FacebookTwitterEmail
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — In the latest break between the Trump administration and California on environmental policy, officials cemented plans Tuesday that will give the state unprecedented control over a project that delivers water to more than 27 million residents.

Site of the potential intake for the delta tunnel project in the north Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, near Freeport. (Katie Cahill /CNS)
For decades California and the federal government have collaborated on rules intended to supply farmers, fish and cities with enough water to survive the state's boom and bust rainy seasons. As managing partners of California's intricate water infrastructure — the feds largely keep farmers' fields green while the state focuses on parched cities like Los Angeles and San Diego — the two sides routinely cooperated on a framework to ensure the survival of Chinook salmon and other endangered species.

The federal government operates the Central Valley Project and California manages the State Water Project, with both sourcing water from the drainage point of the state's largest rivers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

But under President Donald Trump's administration, the seemingly solid relationship has crashed and the sides are now suddenly setting their own playbooks when it comes to California's prized water supply.

The feds initially reviewed the impact of their proposed changes to fish species such as salmon and smelt in July 2019 and concluded excess water deliveries to farmers would harm the populations of imperiled species. But the administration pulled that document within two days of its publication and two months later reversed course by claiming it was possible to increase farmers' take without killing fish.

Last month, Trump traveled to California to make good on a campaign promise to "open up the water" to Central Valley farmers and inked the plan critics warned was a death sentence for the state's iconic species.

"As a candidate for president, I promised to help solve the water crisis that was crippling our farmers due to the chronic mismanagement and misguided policies," Trump said, taking a shot at California water managers and environmentalists.

California responded one day later and slapped the Trump administration with a lawsuit challenging the new biological opinions. It believes the lax pumping requirements could result in a lack of fresh water for fish during the summer and fall.

With communication and cooperation at a standstill, California on Tuesday for the first time issued a new operating permit for its water project without guidance from the federal government.

The heads of the state's natural resources agencies defended the move in a joint statement, claiming it was necessary to install new pumping limits in order to protect salmon.

"California's water operations need to support our communities while protecting our fish and wildlife," said Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth and Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham. "Most importantly, it ensures that our state water infrastructure operates in a manner protective of fish species listed under the state's endangered species law. It does so in many ways, including by dedicating water for delta outflows during drier periods when fish and habitat need it the most."

According to the state, the incidental take permit relies on new scientific data and modeling and will provide a sorely needed update to old laws governing when and how much water can be pumped out of the delta. It says the goal is to make the water system more flexible and allow up to an additional 250,000 acre feet of water to be released during the spring and summer when conditions are right. The State Water Project delivers an average of 2.9 million acre feet to its contractors annually.

Meanwhile, environmental groups have been critical of both the government pumping plans.

A collection of groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Restore the Delta and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance argue the state plan does not accurately account for climate change impacts like brackish water and reduced river flows. They have long fought for stricter pumping limitations and roundly oppose the state's permit.

"Climate change sensitivity analysis is likely not sensitive enough to the effects of climate change," the groups wrote to state regulators. "The environmental impact report provides no sea level rise analysis for long-term operations of the State Water Project as it would affect delta operations."

Doug Obegi, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the state's version fails to protect the delta's ecosystem and is likely to spark litigation.

"I expect that conservation and fishing groups will be forced to go to court to challenge these unlawful decisions, in order to prevent these species from being driven extinct and to protect the thousands of fishing jobs that depend on a healthy delta," Obegi wrote in a blog post late Tuesday.

Public water agencies, including Friant Water Authority which operates a 152-mile canal in the Central Valley, echoed Obegi's prediction of new court battles.

Jason Phillips, Friant CEO, called the state's decision to disregard the feds' biological opinions "disappointing."

"While we are still evaluating the full impact of the state's permit, we fear the inconsistency with the federal opinion and the failure to acknowledge the best available science will throw California's water operations into a tailspin, causing unnecessary disruptions to the operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project," Phillips said in a statement. "It's very difficult to envision a path forward that doesn't include litigation, public bickering and finger-pointing, and water shortages and uncertainty for family farms, disadvantaged communities, and municipalities throughout the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere in California."

As is often the case in California, the courts will ultimately have a major say in determining how much and often water should be pumped out of the delta. But for the time being, the sides are planning to abide by two sets of rules regardless of the confusion that may come. "Operating to different criteria creates challenges for both real-time operations and seasonal and long-term planning," the Bureau of Reclamation warned in January.

For Immediate Release: 2/12/19

Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta,


Governor Newsom Ends Twin Tunnels
Restore the Delta Responds

Stockton, CA – At the State Capitol in Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom gave his first State of the State Address today. In a highly-anticipated decision, Governor Newsom pulled the plug on the decade-long proposal known as the California Water Fix (Twin Tunnels.)

On water issues, Governor Newsom said: “There are no easy answers. But let me be as clear as I can be. I do not support, the WaterFix as currently configured, meaning I don’t support the Twin Tunnels.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta responds:

“We are grateful to Governor Newsom for listening to the people of the Delta, and California, and putting an end to the boondoggle WaterFix, twin tunnels project.

“We look forward to working with his administration and the State Water Resources Control Board to create and enforce policies that will restore Delta water quality and quantity, lessen water dependence on the Delta, and promote clean drinking programs and regional self-sufficiency for the benefit of all Californians.

“As we testified under oath at the State Water Resources Control Board, we will re-evaluate any proposed new conveyance projects for their merits and weaknesses and share our findings with Californians.”

Restore the Delta Applauds Bills to Create a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area - February 5, 2019

Stockton, CA – Restore the Delta today applauds the introduction of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Act in the U.S. Senate today. Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) recently introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill would establish California’s first National Heritage Area, a designation that already exists in many states. The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area provides a great model.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a National Heritage Area would be managed by the Delta Protection Commission. The bill authorizes $10 million to local governments and nonprofit organizations to develop a National Heritage Area management plan that promotes environmental stewardship, heritage conservation, and economic development projects throughout the Delta.

The bill would have no effect on water rights, water contracts or property rights and creates no new regulatory authority or burden on local government or private citizens. The bill would also have no effect on fishing and hunting within the National Heritage Area.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said:

“We applaud this effort to protect Delta culture and history. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is truly the heart of California. It is the state’s fruit bowl, water supply, and historical hub. This bill will put this vital ecosystem on the map and help bring visitors, and economic investment to the region, while respecting the needs of the region’s landowners.”

2018 Crab Feed Update

Our Crab Feed took place on April 7th.  We want to thank everyone who attended this great event and particpated in our live auction and raffle.  We want to especially thank the gentleman who spent close to $3,000.00 on the auction and raffle tickets.

Restore the Delta Pens Potent Letter Calling for Abolition of Delta Stewardship Council

 CSBA Founder Jay Sorensen Inducted into the California Outdoor Hall of Fame.  Information from Dave Hurley.

My highlight at the ISE Show on January 20th was watching Jay Sorensen inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, and typical Jay style, he took the opportunity to speak his mind about our responsibility as stewards of the resource during the presentation. Despite his weakened state from his three-year recovery from throat cancer, he was on target. You can see the video of the presentation to Sorensen from Tom Stienstra on my Facebook Page – USA Fishing Hot Sheet. Sorensen and It is excellent to see the respect that Sorensen received from fellow fishermen as we made a pass through the main fishing hall, and there were a number of people who wanted to take their picture with him. One party boat captain offered to set up a trip to get him back out on the water once again, and for the first time in at least 8 years, Sorensen agreed to go on the boat. The picture with Dick Pool is significant as important as Sorensen has been to striped bass, Pool has been equally important to salmon – both as a tackle innovator with Scotty Downriggers and Pro-Troll products and his constant advocacy through Water4Fish, the Golden Gate Salmon Association, and the numerous state and national committees of which he is a representative. These are special individuals who have shown us how to keep our priorities in order.
From Restore the Delta January 2018
The Trump Administration’s recent announcement to increase Delta exports to Central Valley farmers poses an imminent threat to the emblematic California fish species under the watch of Governor Brown. With only two Delta smelt identified in the last fish survey, state and federal agencies need to focus time, money, and energy on restoring smelt populations instead of turning up the pumps.
If the Delta smelt are gone, it will be that much easier for tunnels proponents to build CA WaterFix—a system that when operated will usher in the extinction of Delta smelt if they are not completely wiped out during the project’s construction. The Delta smelt is our small but mighty canary in the coal mine; it is an indicator of the health of the Delta ecosystem. If it goes, the future impacts to the health of humans and to other Delta fish and wildlife would be devastating.

The Delta smelt could be the first fish species to become extinct in the United States since the Endangered Species Act was signed in 1973. We can’t let this happen under our watch. In the wake of this environmental crisis, we need to push our elected officials, regardless of their past or current behaviors, to speak up against the Trump Administration’s plan. If we remain silent, we become complicit in the first extinction of a fish species since the enactment of the Endangered Species Act.
Can you also contact our Californian elected leaders to let them know that the Delta is worthy of protection? When you call your elected officials, let them know that:

‣ The people of California want state and federal government entities to invest time and money into researching how to improve management of the Delta cross channel and how to create non-physical barriers that direct fish back to Suisun Marsh, instead of the continued pursuit of the costly Delta Tunnels. The tunnels will NOT save the Delta smelt, and if no other solutions are pursued, we will lose this tenacious fish forever.
‣ Taking more water out of the Delta is a direct violation of the Delta Reform Act of 2009 which mandates that all future water solutions MUST reduce reliance on the Delta.
‣ We refuse to be complacent in the extinction of Delta smelt which could be the beginning of a collapsing food chain for the Delta, the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, and coastal fisheries at large. Protecting the Delta smelt does not mean sacrificing the needs of humans—it is a necessary act to maintain the ecosystems that shape our livelihoods.
‣ If the Delta smelt are gone, it will be that much easier for tunnels proponents to build CA WaterFix—a system that when operated will usher in the extinction of Delta smelt if they are not completely wiped out during the project’s construction.
Governor Jerry Brown
(916) 445-2841 | E-mail | Tweet
Senator Diane Feinstein
Washington D.C. (202) 224-3841
District Offices: (310) 914-7300, (415) 393-0707, (559) 485-7430
E-mail | Tweet
Senator Kamala Harris
Washington D.C. (202) 224-3553
District Offices: (213) 894-5000, (415) 355-9041, (559) 497-5109
E-mail | Tweet



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