[env-trinity] CVPIA Review CC Times April 23 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 23 09:35:47 PDT 2009

Scientists rip federal agencies for implementation of landmark Delta, salmon
protection law 
By Mike Taugher
Contra Costa Times 
Updated: 04/23/2009 06:17:01 AM PDT 

California's federal water managers favored farmers over the needs of salmon
and failed to take seriously a law that was supposed to overhaul the state's
water delivery system and improve the environment, an independent scientific
review of the 17-year-old law says.


The report casts a harsh light on the two federal agencies charged with
implementing the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act and said the
science panel was "flabbergasted" at how agencies reduced the amount of
water that was supposed to shift under the law from farms to fish. 


Nearly $1 billion spent led to some improvements, the panel said. 

But while salmon populations collapsed and the Delta ecosystem spiraled
downward, federal agencies let the programs that might have slowed or
reversed the declines languish at low levels in their bureaucracies,
isolated from each other and from state-led efforts to address the Delta's
numerous problems.


"This suggests the CVPIA program is not viewed as a high priority within
either agency or Department of Interior as a whole," said the report, which
was requested by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.


The act, signed by the first President Bush, was meant to be a sweeping
reform of the 76-year-old Central Valley Project that should have doubled
salmon populations, redirected water to environmental purposes and created a
fund for habitat improvements.


It was considered the top environmental achievement in Rep. George Miller's
34 years in Congress. Miller, D-Martinez, has made environmental protection
in the Delta and reform of federal water projects in the West one of his
highest priorities. 


He could not be reached for comment Wednesday. 

A spokesman for the reclamation bureau, which received the harshest
criticism in the report, did not return a phone call by deadline. 


"The independent panel confirms what we've known for some time, that the
environmental water authorized by the CVPIA has not provided the
environmental protection originally intended by the law," said Spreck
Rosekrans, a senior analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund in San


One of the key tools to double salmon populations was a provision that
redirected 800,000 acre-feet of water a year from San Joaquin Valley farms
to environmental purposes.


That provision led to bitter resentment among farm districts, and how that
water is accounted for has been the subject of years of litigation with the
most significant ruling to date going in favor of water users.


The panel assumed, however, that the provision meant 800,000 acre-feet of
water would be moved from reservoirs and through the Delta to improve
conditions for fish.


"We were flabbergasted to learn this is not how the agencies implement this
provision," the report said. 

Instead, the agencies never determined how much water should flow through
the river and Delta system and does not even ensure that water released into
the environment stays there. About half of the water is released from dams
to increase river flows, but then taken back out of the Delta later for use
on farms or in cities.


The rest of the requirement is satisfied when other environmental rules
restrict the bureau's ability to pump water out of the Delta.


The bureau's method of satisfying the law has passed muster in the courts,
but the science panel said it did not make sense.


"This approach seems fundamentally at odds with the intent and language of
the legislation," the panel concluded. 

The report, "Listen to the River: An Independent Review of the CVPIA
Fisheries Program," is available at www.cvpiaindependentreview.com 



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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