[env-trinity] Cold, Dead Fish And Shiny Steelhead Awards For 2004

Daniel Bacher 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 nation’s 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 agency’s 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 
don’t own!

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 
Fishermen’s 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 
dance”at 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 I’ve 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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