[env-trinity] State of Bay-Delta Science Book: Fact or Fiction (Updated Article!)

C. John Ralph cjralph at humboldt1.com
Fri Oct 24 21:20:12 PDT 2008

Dear Tom,
   Thank you for a complete and incisive visiting of the document.  As
usual, you have cut to the somewhat rotten core of the problems facing us.
   Keep it up!    cheers, c.j.
                                               -----Dr. C. John Ralph
--- U.S. Forest Service, Redwood Sciences Laboratory,
          1700 Bayview Drive, Arcata, California 95521.
(707) 825-2992 (fax: 825-2901)  home: 822-2015   cell: 499-9707
  cjralph at humboldt1.com  cjr2 at humboldt.edu  cralph at fs.fed.us


Tom Stokely wrote:
> ----- Original Message ----- *From:* Dan Bacher
> <mailto:danielbacher at fishsniffer.com> *Sent:* Thursday, October 23,
> 2008 5:28 PM *Subject:* State of Bay-Delta Science Book: Fact or
> Fiction (Updated Article!)
> State of Bay-Delta Science Book: Fact or Fiction?
> by Dan Bacher
> The CAL-FED "Science" Program yesterday published a book, the "State
> of Bay-Delta Science, 2008," supposedly summarizing the "significant
> new knowledge" gleaned from eight years of research into water supply
> and water quality, ecosystems and levee fragility in the California
> Delta, according to a CAL-FED news release.  However, the question is
> whether the book is a non-fiction publication based on scientific
> fact - or actually a highly compromised work of science fiction.
> For those not familiar with CAL-FED, it is the joint-state federal 
> agency, formed after a "Water Summit" by the state and federal 
> governments in Sacramento in 1994, that has presided over the
> dramatic decline of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt,
> longfin smelt, green sturgeon, white sturgeon, striped bass,
> threadfin shad and other fish in the California Delta-San Francisco
> Bay Estuary.
> The collapse of these species has huge implications for fisheries up
> and down the West Coast, since the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
> is the largest and most important estuary on the Pacific Coast.
> Recreational and commercial salmon fishing is closed in ocean waters
> off California and Oregon for the first time in history this year,
> due to the collapse of Central Valley fall run chinook salmon
> populations.
> Those of us aware of the numerous examples of political manipulation
> of science to serve corporate agribusiness and water developers under
> the Schwarzenegger and Bush administrations have become very wary of
>  "political science" masquerading as "natural science" in reports
> such as this one. For example, the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task
> Force, a supposedly "independent" body appointed by Arnold
> Schwarzenegger, released a report last week advocating the
> construction of a peripheral canal and more dams to "restore" Delta
> fisheries, even though they would certainly further imperil
> collapsing populations of Central Valley chinook salmon and Delta
> fish.
> The CAL-FED publication was released on the eve of the 5th Biennial 
> CALFED Science Conference, initiating the gathering of 1,200 San 
> Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta scientists, managers and 
> policy makers at the Sacramento Convention Center. The effort was led
> by Michael Healey, a former CALFED Lead Scientist and Science Advisor
> to the Governor’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force.
> “This is a landmark publication summarizing our current understanding
> of the Delta by the most knowledgeable experts on the estuary,”
> claimed Cliff Dahm, CALFED Lead Scientist. “I envision this as a
> go-to book for managers and policy makers, as well as interested
> members of the public that are working to gain a better understanding
> through science of forces at work in the Delta."
> One of the key findings, in an apparent attempt by "political 
> biologists" to exonerate the Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations
>  from their role in engineering the Pelagic Organism Decline, as well
> as the collapse of Central Valley salmon populations, appears to
> dismiss water exports as a primary cause for the unprecedented
> fishery collapse.
> "Since 2001, both public and scientific attention has focused on the
>  unexpected decline of several open-water fishes (delta smelt,
> longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass, and threadfin shad)," the
> report claims. "It is clear that export pumping is only one of
> several factors contributing to the decline. Other factors include
> changes in food supply, loss of habitat and toxic chemicals. (Chapter
> 4).
> Even worse is this statement in the same chapter, "Nevertheless,
> there is no conclusive evidence that export pumping has caused
> population declines. The lack of unequivocal evidence of pumping of
> large effects of pumping on fish populations does not rule out such
> effects, and for rare species such as Delta smelt, caution dictates
> that potential effects should not be ignored (p. 89).
> The report admits on Page 87 that "Export pumping has been blamed in
>  part for the declines of species such as striped bass (Stevens et.
> al 1985), Chinook salmon (Kjelson and Brandes 1989), and Delta smelt
>  (Bennett 2005). However, the document then goes on to say "no 
> quantitative estimates have been made of the population level 
> consequences of the losses of fish caused by export pumping."
> Now doesn't it make sense that if the CAL-FED scientists were going
> to do a truly scientific study of the reasons for fish collapses,
> they would engage in an all-out effort to develop "quantitative
> estimates" of the losses of fish destroyed by the operation of the
> massive state and federal pumps that export water to subsidized
> agribusiness and corporate water developers?
> As Patrick Porgans, independent natural resources consultant so 
> accurately points out, "if the scientists developed quantitative 
> estimates of fish population losses that unequivocally demonstrated
> the huge impact of the pumps on imperiled fish populations, that
> would be the kiss of the death for the operation of the pumps. After
> all, this is not really about fish, but about the mega corporations
> that receive subsidized water from the state and federal projects
> only to sell the public back its own water."
> The report fails to mention that some of the largest annual water
> export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet),
> 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 percent. The Pelagic
> Organism Decline and the year classes of Central Valley chinook
> salmon in collapse correspond directly to the years of record
> exports, but I couldn't find anywhere in the publication where this
> crucial bit of scientific data is mentioned.
> Other "key findings"of the report include:
> • The Delta of tomorrow will be very different than it is today. 
> Intensifying forces of change, such as land subsidence, rising sea 
> level, species invasions, earthquakes and regional population growth,
>  virtually guarantee that current land and water use in the Delta
> cannot be sustained. (Chapter 1).
> • Many toxic chemicals are a concern in the Delta. Organisms can
> often be affected by very low concentrations of contaminants. Effects
> can be magnified though concentration up the food chain or
> synergistic effects of mixtures. (Chapter 3)
> • With climate change, California will become warmer, more
> precipitation will fall as rain and less as snow, the snowpack will
> be much reduced, and there will be less groundwater recharge. These
> changes will challenge the capacity of California’s water management
> system to provide reliable, high-quality water to satisfy human and
> environmental needs. (Chapter 6)
> Other areas of the book deal with Delta history, science, geophysics,
>  water quality and supply, aquatic ecosystems, levees, climate
> change, policy development and some themes that are crosscutting
> across areas and issues.
> The conference where the book was unveiled features seminars on the 
> Pelagic Organism Decline, salmon management and ecology, estuarine
> food webs, water quality, riparian habitat and a host of other
> topics. Again, the topic of export pumping is curiously absent from
> the conference sessions, as far as  I can tell, with the exception of
> two sessions, one entitled "Evaluation of Daily Delta Flows and Delta
> Smelt Salvage Density Patterns" and "Splittail Population Dynamics
> and Water Export from the Delta."
> Ironically, as the conference presentations are being made, our
> public trust fisheries continue to collapse. CAL-FED, a joint
> federal-state agency, has spent hundreds of dollars on scientific
> studies, conferences and "restoration" programs, but has been a
> dismal failure to date.
> The reason for its failure is that the state and federal governments
>  have constantly resisted taking the drastic measures needed to
> restore salmon and other fish populations, including dramatically
> reducing water exports from the California Delta and taking drainage
> impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley out of
> production. The CAL-FED Process to date has produced nothing but the
> collapse of Central Valley salmon fisheries and the Bay-Delta
> ecosystem.
> The CAL-FED process has been an elitist process where the people most
>  impacted by fishery declines - recreational anglers, commercial 
> fishermen and California Indian Tribes - have been excluded from the
>  decision making process. Meanwhile, those who have presided over the
>  destruction of public trust fish populations - the Bureau of
> Reclamation and the California Department of Resources - have
> completely bent over to serve the needs of corporate agribusiness and
> the state water contractors.
> Although I think there is some interesting information available at 
> conferences like this and in the CAL-FED book, the problem is that
> there are lot of agency staff and consultants making good salaries
> incessantly "studying the issue," often with apparently
> pre-determined conclusions, while failing to stop the decline. The
> state and federal governments have set up a de-facto "restoration
> industry," in cooperation with some corporate funded NGO's, that
> extracts hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers with
> fishery collapses the only concrete result!
> Patrick Porgans often refers to CAL-FED as "CAL FED UP." This is an 
> appropriate term to describe his and my view of the agency that has 
> squandered hundreds of millions of dollars with only unprecedented 
> fishery collapses, yearly conferences and questionable documents to
> show for all of the money spent while it refuses to study the
> quantitative impact of the operation of the pumps on fish
> populations.
> Copies of the The State of Bay-Delta Science, 2008, will be available
> to attendees of the CALFED Science Conference October 22-24, at the 
> Sacramento Convention Center. Hard copies are available by contacting
>  Rhonda Hoover-Flores at rhondah [at] calwater.ca.gov. You can also 
> download a copy of he report by going to 
> http://www.science.calwater.ca.gov/pdf/publications/sbds/sbds_2008_final_report_101508.pdf
> <http://www.science.calwater.ca.gov/pdf/publications/sbds/sbds_2008_final_report_101508.pdf>
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