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“The Coalition’s lawsuit is simply an outrageous and transparent effort to divert attention from the real cause of the Delta’s decline and blame the victims, instead of the perpetrators,”

Bill Jennings

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CSPA, CSBA and NCCFFF Intervene in Striped Bass Lawsuit

May 20, 2008. (Stockton, CA) The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), California Striped Bass Association (CSBA) and the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers (NCCFFF) today intervened in the lawsuit filed by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta et al against the California Department of Fish and Game and Fish and Game Commission (hereinafter DFG).  The Coalition is largely comprised of Kern County water agencies.  That 29 January 2008 lawsuit accuses the DFG of threatening the existence of endangered salmon and Delta smelt through DFG’s striped bass management program.  It alleges that striped bass prey on salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt and that predation has illegally contributed to the catastrophic crash of pelagic and salmonid species populations over the last five years.  It also alleges fishing regulations established by the Fish and Game Commission results in the take of listed species by striped bass.

The CSPA, CSBA and NCCFFF intervention disputes the Coalition’s spurious claims and notes that striped bass populations have plunged to historically low levels over the same period.  Resource agency scientific staff maintain that the principal causes of fishery collapse in the Delta are attributed to significantly increased and unsustainable levels water exports, discharges of agricultural, industrial and municipal pollutants and recently introduced species that have changed the composition of the aquatic food web.

“The Coalition’s lawsuit is simply an outrageous and transparent effort to divert attention from the real cause of the Delta’s decline and blame the victims, instead of the perpetrators,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings.  “Striped bass have coexisted with salmon and smelt in the Delta estuary for more than a hundred years.  The dramatic almost 30% increase in the amount of water exported in recent years is the one clear culprit that has led to population crashes of numerous species; including salmon, steelhead, striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, splittail, threadfin shad, among others” he said.  

At certain times, as much as 65% of Delta inflow is exported to Central Valley agriculture and to southern California via powerful pumps at the state and federal project facilities.  These massive pumps cause reverse flows, kill huge numbers of fish and suck up much of the aquatic food supply.  Water agencies have refused to pay for state-of-the-art fish screens that were required in the 2000 CalFed Record of Decision as mitigation for exporting water.  Some of the largest annual export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet [MAF]), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF and 2006 (6.3 MAF).  Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increased to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30%.  Much of the increased pumping occurred during critical periods for Delta smelt survival.

“Striped bass are a marvelous sport fish and was considered the premier sport fishery of the Bay/Delta estuary prior to its catastrophic decline from 3.5 million adult fish down to 750,000 today.  Studies of population abundance do not demonstrate that striped bass pose a population level threat to salmon or Delta smelt.  Indeed, they show that striped bass, salmon and smelt populations rise and fall in tandem to common threats,” said Cliff Rich, State Board President of the CSBA.  “Much of the predation that does occur can be attributed to man made causes due to the way the Department of Water Resources configured the state project export facilities which created a concentrated predation area in Clifton Court Forebay.  That problem could be significantly remedied if the water agencies, including Coalition members, complied with requirements to install new screening facilities,” he observed.

The sport fishing industry in California is a major economic asset for the state, amounting to over 5 billion dollars each year.  The Bay/Delta sports fishery has been estimated to be worth at least 1.5 billion dollars per year.  By contrast, the members of the Coalition that have sued DFG and the Commission are farmers and industrial-agricultural corporations receiving heavily subsidized water, and in some cases, heavily subsidized drainage services for heavily subsidized non-native and non-food crops that add little to the nation’s food supply in relation to the detriment to the environment and economy of the Bay/Delta estuary.

“It is absurd to suggest that we eliminate a highly valued sports fishery that has coexisted with other fish in the Delta for more than 100 years. We recognize that California has multiple water needs, and we recommend that the state follow it's own California Water Plan Up-Date, and seriously follow its recommendations on conservation, reclamation, ground water banking and other strategies,” said Dr. Mark Rockwell of the Northern California Council, Federation of Fly Fishers.  Additionally, Dr. Rockwell said, "nearly 2 million acre feet of additional water could be available if drainage impaired lands in the west San Joaquin valley were retired. This act alone would reduce toxins filtering into the Delta, and reduce the need to divert this water from the system. The fisheries and other wildlife in the Delta cannot tolerate the high rates of water diversions now in effect."

The South Delta Water Agency and Central Delta Water Agency have also filed for intervention in the lawsuit refuting the Coalition’s allegations.  Their intervention and our intervention will be considered by Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno on 14 July 2008, along with a motion by State of California to dismiss the lawsuit because of a lack of standing by the plaintiffs.

CSPA is a public benefit conservation and research organization established in 1983 for the purpose of conserving, restoring, and enhancing the state’s water quality and fishery resources and their aquatic ecosystems and associated riparian habitats. CSPA has actively promoted the protection of water quality and fisheries throughout California before state and federal agencies, the State Legislature and Congress and regularly participates in administrative and judicial proceedings on behalf of its members to protect, enhance, and restore California’s water quality and fisheries.  CSPA can be contacted through its website at www.calsport.org.

The California Striped Bass Association (CSBA) originated with a Chapter in Stockton, California on April 14, 1974 and is one of the oldest fresh-water fishing clubs in the state of California. The CSBA is a non-profit organization to preserve, conserve and enhance striped bass while promoting recreational sport fishing, environmental awareness and good fellowship. CSBA is one of the largest and most active fishing clubs in California's Central Valley. CSBA works with other fishing groups on legislative matters affecting the fishery, water quality problems, etc. We also work with the California Department of Fish and Game and state legislators making our ideas, views, and suggestions known.

The NCCFFF is a California council of the Federation of Fly Fishers in Livingston, Montana. The Federation of Fly Fishers is a 43-year-old international non-profit organization dedicated to the betterment of the sport of fly fishing through Conservation, Restoration and Education. The Federation of Fly Fishers and its Councils are the only organized advocates for fly fishers on a national and regional level. In California we advocate for wise stewardship of our rivers, streams, lakes and other water resources, and the fisheries that occupy them.

Bill Jennings, Chairman
Executive Director
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
3536 Rainier Avenue
Stockton, CA 95204
p: 209-464-5067
c: 209-938-9053
f: 209-464-1028
e: deltakeep@aol.com

For information:
Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director, 209-464-5067, 209-938-9053 (cell)
Michael Jackson, Esq., 530-283-0712, 530-927-7387 (cell)
John Beuttler, CSPA Conservation Director, 510-526-4049, 510-847-6934 (cell)