[env-trinity] Sacramento Bee June 29 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Jun 29 09:06:09 PDT 2009

Editorial: It's not only fish vs. people

Published: Monday, Jun. 29, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 15A 

The  <http://topics.sacbee.com/National+Marine+Fisheries+Service/> National
Marine Fisheries Service has issued a
<http://topics.sacbee.com/wake-up+call/> wake-up call on the dangers facing
the  <http://topics.sacbee.com/Central+Valley/> Central Valley's salmon and,
ultimately, the  <http://topics.sacbee.com/water+system/> water system they
depend on. It should be mulled and acted upon.

The  <http://topics.sacbee.com/wake-up+call/> wake-up call came in the form
of a "biological opinion" that the fisheries service filed earlier this
month. Prompted by a federal court ruling on a lawsuit by environmentalists
and fishermen, it found that the ways the state and federal water projects
operate threaten the survival of endangered chinook salmon and steelhead,
and it required that they change their policies.

The changes the agency envisions include finding ways to get the fish around
the dams and other barriers that currently stop them as they migrate
upstream to spawn. With immense structures like
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Shasta+Dam/> Shasta Dam spanning the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Sacramento+River/> Sacramento River, and
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Folsom+Dam/> Folsom Dam the American, this will
not be a simple task. It will require the construction of fish ladders, or
elevators, or perhaps truck-and-haul operations. Experts aren't sure if any
are feasible. The estimated price tag starts at $1 billion. 

The price of not acting, however, will likely be steeper.

To begin with, the winter- and spring-run chinook salmon of the Sacramento
River and the steelhead of the American are almost certainly doomed if their
journeys to spawning habitat continue to be blocked.

That probably won't take salmon off diners' plates, although there are
persistent questions about the taste, healthfulness and environmental impact
of what's produced on fish farms.

But if these natural populations vanish, they will likely take with them the
state's commercial salmon industry, which has already been shut for two
years in the wake of the fish population's crash. The
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Fish+and+Game+Department/> Fish and Game
Department estimates that in 2008, the shutdown cost $255 million in revenue
and more than 2,200 jobs.

Beyond that, the federal fisheries service's opinion is a
<http://topics.sacbee.com/wake-up+call/> wake-up call on the need for a
major reassessment of state water policy. Pretty much everyone involved in
the current system recognizes that it's broken, unable to store excess
supply in wet years or deliver needed supply in dry ones.

The new federal rules, which will likely face a court challenge, don't
require an immediate solution. The current blueprint requires studies
starting later this year, trials of fish-moving procedures by 2012 and a
decision on an ultimate answer by 2020.

Water officials should use that time not only to find the best way to get
the fish around the dams but to explore cheaper ways to save them. One
possibility being pushed by a Placer County group called
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Save+Auburn+Ravine+Salmon/> Save Auburn Ravine
Salmon and Steelhead seeks the restoration of 600 small creeks between
Modesto and Redding. The group says these creeks were once the sites of
significant fish runs and offer a much less expensive way to provide
spawning habitat than laboriously transporting fish around dams.

Whatever solution is ultimately embraced, the region will likely never
return to the days when so many salmon choked the Sacramento River that
Indians and settlers could catch dinner with their hands. But a revived
commercial fishing industry, and an answer to one relatively small piece of
the state's water policy puzzle, is a pretty good consolation prize. We
should try to seize it. 


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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