[env-trinity] Hearing on Suspension of Delta Protections Set for Feb. 17

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Thu Feb 12 10:24:40 PST 2009

The Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation are  
attempting to undermine water standards that protect imperiled Delta  
smelt, longfin smelt and other species by allowing the state and  
federal pumps to export more water than would normally be permitted  
this time of year.


Hearing on Suspension of Delta Protections Set for Feb. 17

by Dan Bacher

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.

DWR and the Bureau are asking the California Water Resources Control  
Board to temporarily suspend the standards in an effort to protect  
one endangered species, Central Valley chinook salmon, over the  
imperiled Delta smelt and longfin smelt. The agencies claim they are  
trying to "save" water in Central Valley reservoirs for salmon later  
this year - when it is in fact their pumping of massive amounts of  
water to Westlands Water District and the Kern Water Bank over the  
past two years that have led to the extremely low conditions of  
Shasta, Oroville and Folsom lakes.

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  

"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."

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.

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 notice and other information regarding this hearing are  
available for viewing online at: http://www.waterrights.ca.gov/ 

For more information on this issue, go to http://www.calsport.org. 
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