[env-trinity] Capitol Press 6 11 09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Jun 12 10:01:38 PDT 2009
Water managers: Federal fish plan flawed
Plan would reduce Delta pumping by about 330,000 acre feet per year
By Wes Sander
Local water managers are calling a new federal plan aimed at protecting fish
misguided and illegal.
Westlands Water District says the National Marine Fisheries Service bypassed
the required environmental-review process, including an examination of
impacts to industry, for the biological opinion it released last week.
The plan would mean greater restrictions on Central Valley water deliveries
as water managers release more water down rivers and into the ocean through
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The long-awaited document lays out water-temperature and flow guidelines
that the service says are necessary for protecting winter and spring-run
Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and the killer
wales that eat salmon.
"We don't even know how devastating it's going to be at this point," said
Westlands spokeswoman Sarah Woolf. "We've been trying to do calculations on
our own, but they're very ambiguous about when their cutbacks are going to
The current opinion is itself the result of a lawsuit. It was ordered last
year by federal Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno, who found that Delta pumping
would harm fish under the agency's previous plan.
The plan calls for reducing Delta pumping by about 330,000 acre-feet per
year, or 5 to 7 percent of water pumped by the federal Central Valley
Project and California's State Water Project, the agency says.
Agricultural water use in California is roughly 30 million acre feet per
NMFS says the plan underwent peer review by the CalFed Independent Science
Board and the Center for Independent Experts, making it "solidly grounded in
the best available science."
"What is at stake here is not just the survival of species but the health of
entire ecosystems and the economies that depend on them," said Rod Mcinnis,
southwest regional director for NOAA's Fisheries Service, in a statement.
The plan won't take effect immediately, the agency says. It factors drought
conditions and health-and-safety concerns into its water restrictions from
year to year, the agency says.
U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein called the opinion a reason to focus on a
long-term water plan that includes new infrastructure for conveyance,
storage and desalination, along with conservation measures.
"The longer we wait, the worse the crisis gets," Feinstein said in a
statement. "So, I firmly believe the solution must be agreed to this year."
Westlands agreed, calling for completion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,
which would cover many of those bases. But the "patchwork" of NMFS's
biological opinion is flawed, and "a violation of the National Environmental
Policy Act and of federal endangered species law," the district said in a
Westlands is planning to sue, as it did last year over a similar biological
opinion targeting the Delta smelt, likely charging the agency with
inadequate environmental review, Woolf said.
"They were notified by other agencies and by (the court) that they needed to
do an environmental review, and they still did not do one," Woolf said.
"What this means moving forward is that our devastating economic situation
... will only continue into the future regardless of hydrology."
Curtis Creel, water resources manager with Kern County Water Agency, objects
to the plan's focus on water flows, saying other factors - like habitat
loss, local Delta diversions, and pollutants from power plants and
discharged water - play parts in fish survival.
Meanwhile, growers already suffering drought conditions will see greater
cuts, Creel said.
"They're ignoring the fact that this has a huge impact on both agricultural
and industrial users in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern
California," he said.
Further cutbacks in wet years would compromise the district's ability to
bank water underground, a practice that brings a measure of reliability to
the district's supplies, Creel said.
"We're disappointed, he said. "We still have a lot of analysis to do, but
our first (impression) is that they could have done a better job on the
science. I don't have any confidence that the actions they're proposing will
have any benefit to the fish, but they will definitely have an adverse
impact on agriculture."
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
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