State Water Board to hold hearing on Suspension of Delta Protections Feb. 17CSPA vehemently opposes this attempt at an end run around the Environmental Species Act and will strongly object to the implementation of this ill thought plan
by Dan Bacher, editor of the FishSniffer
Representatives of fishing and environmental groups are urging the public to attend a public hearing in Sacramento on February 17 regarding a proposal by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to relax freshwater flow standards on the California Delta to allow increased water exports to corporate agribusiness out of the estuary in February.
The Department of Fish and Game's fall 2008 midwater trawl survey on the California Delta documented the lowest ever recorded abundance of Delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, threadfin shad and American shad and an alarmingly low abundance of longfin smelt and juvenile striped bass. Salmon fishing was closed in 2008 off the California and Oregon coast and in Central Valley rivers, with the exception of a two month season on a short stretch of the Sacramento River, due to the collapse of the Central Valley fall chinook salmon population spurred by record water exports and declining water quality.
"Over the last several years, CSPA has repeatedly cautioned the State Water Board that DWR and the Bureau were cannibalizing storage from Northern California Reservoirs without regard for the likelihood of successive dry years," said Bill Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance in a letter to the Board. "We urged the State Water Board to proactively pursue actions that would ensure that threatened and endangered species would not bear the consequences of gross mismanagement by DWR and the Bureau. The state and federal projects are required to operate on a multi-year timeline regarding temporary relaxation of the February Delta Outflow and the San Joaquin River Flow Objectives in response to current dry conditions."
"DWR and Bureau contracts anticipate that water deliveries may be reduced or even unavailable under certain circumstances," Jennings continued. "While D-1641 provides for some relaxation of standards during drought conditions, DWR and the Bureau's mismanagement should not be rewarded by further relaxation, especially considering that several species are hovering on the brink of extinction. CSPA believes there is still storage in San Luis Reservoir that is available to meet X2, San Joaquin flow requirements and southern Delta salinity standards. Finally, any unilateral decision suspending X2 and river flow requirements would contravene fundamental provisions in federal endangered species biological opinions."
The State Water Resources Control Board has issued notice of a public hearing "to consider taking an emergency drought-related water rights action on a Petition for Temporary Urgency Change filed by the Department of Water Resources and the United States Bureau of Reclamation regarding temporary relaxation of the February Delta Outflow and the San Joaquin River Flow Objectives in response to current dry conditions."
We can't allow the state and federal governments to pit salmon against smelt - both need a healthy estuary to thrive! The Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation's release of their cynical proposal to sacrifice smelt to "help" salmon occurred at the same that Congressman George Radanovich (R-Mariposa) introduced legislation, H.R. 856, to temporarily suspend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as it applies to the California Delta pumping facilities during times of drought. We must stop both attempts to undermine environmental laws in order to deliver subsidized water to drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, land that should have never been irrigated and must be taken out of agricultural production!
The Public Hearing will commence on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, following the State Water Resources Control Board Meeting, but no earlier than 1 p.m. in the Byron Sher Auditorium at the Joe Serna, Jr./Cal-EPA Building located on 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA.
For more information on this issue, go to http://www.calsport.org.�