[env-trinity] Cold, Dead Fish And Shiny Steelhead Awards For 2004
danielbacher at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 14 10:50:05 PST 2005
Cold, Dead Fish And Shiny Steelhead Awards For 2004
by Dan Bacher
2004 was one of the strangest years for fishery conservation I can remember.
The Klamath River tributaries, such as the Scott, Salmon and Shasta, saw
record low returns of wild chinooks in the fall, the legacy of the juvenile
fish kill of 2002 that preceded the adult fish kill in September 2002.
In contrast, the Sacramento, Feather and American saw big returns of adult
king salmon and Mother Nature prevented a potential fish kill from
happening on the low, warm waters of the American when the American
watershed received early, cold rains in October.
On the legislative front, the signing of anti-trawl legislation and the
California Ocean Protection Act by Governor Schwarzenegger in September
highlighted the year. Tom Raftican, president of United Anglers of Southern
California said, When it comes to major victories for recreational anglers,
2004 may go down as the best year ever.
While California marine fisheries received increasing protection, the Bush
administration seemed to do every thing on the federal level to stop
fisheries recovery. The administration, together with the State Department
of Water Resources, proposed increasing water diversions from the Delta. The
federal government released a plan to slash up to 90 percent of critical
habitat for endangered and threatened salmon in California and included
both hatchery fish and wild fish under the same Endangered Species listing.
Now for the Cold, Dead Fish awards to those who did their best to thwart
fishery restoration and destroy the environment.
In March, over 100 members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe joined local supporters
to march on the offices of the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) in
Roseville to pressure them to pull out of a lawsuit blocking Trinity River
restoration. In spite of the protest and a peace offering of kippered
salmon by tribal leaders, NCPA stayed in the lawsuit with the Darth Vader of
California water policy, the Westlands Water District. To honor their
refusal to budge from the lawsuit, the NCPA receives a Rotting Coho award.
NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency supposedly dedicated to providing and
preserving the nations living marine resources and their habitat, on
October 22 released a report giving the "scientific" green light for more
Delta water to be exported from Northern California to Southern California.
Higher-ups in the agency overruled biologists to change the biological
opinion from no-jeopardy to a jeopardy opinion for five species,
including the endangered Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon,
threatened spring-run chinook and threatened Central Valley steelhead.
To make things worse, the same agency in December released a proposal that
would slash habitat protection for endangered and threatened salmon stocks
in California and the Northwest. The proposals could reduce up to 90 percent
of critical habitat set aside for the fish in California and as much as 80
percent of the habitat in the Pacific Northwest, according to Jim Lecky, the
assistant regional manager for the agencys Southwest Region. For this
reason, Lecky and Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries administrator, gets the
Political Science, Not Natural Science award.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation receives a Wild and Wacky Scheme award for
proposing in 2004 to raise Shasta Dam anywhere from 6 to 200 feet. This
would result not only in the loss of precious cultural resources to the
Winnemem Wintu Tribe, but would inundate marinas and facilities in place for
decades on the lake. And the dam expansion, designed to divert more water to
Southern California and San Joaquin county growers, would result in less
water for salmon, steelhead, and other fish.
Although NOAA Fisheries and Bureau outdid themselves this year, the most
prestigious anti-fish award; the Cold, Dead Fish award. is presented
to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Bush Administration on Tuesday,
December 21 agreed to pay San Joaquin Valley farmers the Tulare Basin
Water District - $16.7 million as compensation for water diverted for
endangered salmon and Delta smelt. Senator Diane Feinstein, State Attorney
General Bill Lockyer and fishery conservation groups adamantly opposed the
ruling, since it establishes bad precedent requiring taxpayers to compensate
water users with millions of dollars for a public trust resource that they
On the positive side, we have the annual Shiny Steelhead awards, designed
to award those who did great things for our fisheries. In July, the Hoopa
Valley Tribe, Friends of the River and Friends of the Trinity River
celebrated one of the most significant legal victories of the year when the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the release of flows mandated under
the Trinity River Record of Decision.
They receive the Bright King Salmon award for 2004 for fighting this
battle, both in court and by successfully urging communities around the
state including Healdsburg, Alameda, the Port of Oakland, Palo Alto and
SMUD to pull out of the lawsuit.
The Environmental Working Group receives the Corporate Welfare Exposed
award for writing a groundbreaking study, released on December 15, on the
cost to taxpayers and the environment of agricultural subsidies in the
Central Valley. The investigation concludes that the CVP is providing up to
$416 million of subsidized water at the expense of fish and the environment.
Randy Fry, the Western Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing
Alliance, posthumously receives the Passionate Activist award for his
dedication to fighting for the rights of recreational anglers in California.
To the shock of anglers throughout the state, a great white shark fatally
attacked Fry the day after a RFA fundraiser in Fort Bragg in September.
Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), Oceana, United Anglers of Southern
California, United Anglers of California and the National Resources Defense
Council pushed through legislation curtailing the impact of trawling in
California, signed by the Governor in September. Alpert and these
organizations also successfully lobbied for passage of the California Ocean
Protection Act (COPA),which gives priority to access by recreational
anglers. For these big legislative successes, Alpert and all four groups are
granted the Clean Healthy Ocean award.
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermens Associations, is known for his hard-hitting, colorful statements
when speaking before state and federal agencies. At an October 7 meeting in
Sacramento, he drew lots of laughter from the audience when he nicknamed
NOAA Fisheries as No Fisheries, earning him the Fish Quote of 2004
Fish advocates and environmental groups won a huge legal victory on August
27 when Judge Lawrence Karlton of the Eastern Federal District Court ruled
that the Bureau of Reclamation illegally dried up the San Joaquin River when
Friant Dam was built in the 1940's. The ruling means that the bureau will
have to release water from Friant for the first time in 55 years. For this.
Karlton, is given the Let The River Flow award.
Calleen Sisk-Franco and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in September held a war
danceat Shasta Dam to protest the Bureau of Reclamation plans to raise the
dam level, which would have dramatic impacts on their sacred cultural sites
and fishery resources. They did what others have wished to do for a long
time declare war on the Bureau of Reclamation! For this reason, they
receive the Shiny Steelhead of 2004 award.
In addition, I have two special awards for 2004. The first goes to
Coastside Fishing Club for writing a concise, hard hitting press statement
on the threat to fisheries by proposed water diversions by the state and
federal governments the best Ive seen on this complex and difficult
topic. Coastside is bestowed the Stand Up to the Diverters award.
And the second special award, the Fearless Whistleblower trophy, goes to
retired federal biologist Felix Smith of the Save the American River
Association and Mike Healey, DFG biologist, to bringing to my attention the
deaths of over 181,000 salmon before spawning in the American River in 2001,
2002 and 2003. Thanks, guys!
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