[env-trinity] San Francisco Chronicle June 29 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Jun 29 09:24:58 PDT 2009

Water czar named to help state deal with drought

Tracie Cone, Associated Press

Monday, June 29, 2009



(06-29) 04:00 PDT Fresno -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced several
steps on Sunday that he hopes would ease the toll of the state's water
shortage on farmers, and said he would assign a top deputy to help find



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At a spirited town hall meeting in California's agricultural heartland,
Salazar told a packed auditorium that Deputy Interior Secretary David J.
Hayes will "bring all of the key federal agencies to the table" to
coordinate efforts.

Salazar said he wanted to direct $160 million in Recovery Act funds for the
federal Central Valley Project, which manages the dams and canals that move
water around the state, and will expedite water transfers from other areas.

Members of the San Joaquin Valley congressional delegation told Salazar that
three years of drought were forcing farmers to fallow hundreds of thousands
of acres and to idle farmworkers.

"The time for meetings and talk is over," said Rep. George Radanovich,
R-Fresno. "We need action now." Farmers packed into the auditorium at Cal
State Fresno erupted into loud applause.

The congressional delegates and other agriculture industry representatives
asked Salazar to hasten the environmental review of the so-called Two Gates
proposal, which would place removable gates in the central Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta to block threatened fish, such as the tiny smelt, from getting
killed by the pumps.

"We hope to make an expedited review of that project," Salazar said after
the meeting.

The cause of the state's water shortages is not simply due to three years of
below-average rainfall. Federal protections for threatened fish has limited
the transfer of water from lakes Shasta and Oroville through the Delta into
the state's system of aqueducts.

Searing 109-degree temperatures on Sunday underscored the need for water,
and farmers appealed for action.

On the west side of Fresno County, the most prolific agricultural county in
the nation, farmers have been told they would receive just 10 percent of
their allocation this year, news that forced them to fallow hundreds of
thousands of acres.

The farmers argued that cutting water deliveries to farms in the San Joaquin
Valley oversimplifies the problems threatening salmon and smelt in the
largest freshwater estuary in the west. They have asked for Salazar to ease
enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, something he said he was
reluctant to do.

"At this time, that would be admitting failure," Salazar said.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, told Salazar that farmers were bearing full
responsibility for environmental problems also caused by wastewater
discharges from cities and by invasive species that eat native fish.

Lost in the chorus of catcalls and applause were the voices of environmental
groups, fishermen and coastal communities impacted by the collapse of the
salmon season. They were there to remind Salazar that the North Coast
fishing industry had been hard hit by a decline of salmon in the delta,
which has resulted in the cancellation of commercial fishing season for the
past two years.

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations, said that 23,000 commercial and recreational
people were unemployed because California's salmon fishery is shut down,
which has cost the economy $1.4 billion.

Researchers at UC Davis estimate that as of May, water shortages in the San
Joaquin Valley have cost roughly 35,000 jobs and $830 million in farm

Comedian Paul Rodriguez, who owns 40 acres of nectarines near Dinuba and
heads the Latino Water Coalition, mocked environmentalists' argument that
the decline in smelt is the "canary in the coal mine" warning of a declining

"The canary is there so it will perish and the miner can live, but these
people got it backward: They want the fish to live so we can die," Rodriguez
said as audience members stood and cheered.



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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