[env-trinity] Sac Bee July 8 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jul 8 11:22:37 PDT 2009

We might need salmon czar, too

Sacramento Bee-7/8/09



Faced with a pitchfork rebellion in the San Joaquin Valley, Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar last month appointed a "water czar" to deliver extra
water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farmers in certain districts
south of the Delta.


That prompts a question: Will the Obama administration also appoint a
"salmon czar" to help bring relief to the North Coast fishing industry,
which is dependent on healthy flows in the Delta so salmon can migrate and


So far, Salazar's water agenda in California has focused almost completely
on Fresno-area farmers, whose wealth and clout tend to demand attention. 


That's why Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes has been tasked to bring
together federal agencies to expedite certain Delta projects, including a
pair of gates that would block imperiled smelt and salmon from being sucked
into pumps that deliver water to the south.


It's commendable that Salazar, a former congressman from Colorado, would
want to wade into the swamp of Delta politics. For the last four years, the
Bush administration barely got its toes wet.


Yet because they are not from this place, Salazar and Obama may not
understand the need for a balanced approach to resolving conflicts over
water and natural resources. They also should be careful not to fuel certain
myths that make resolution more complicated.


Some of these myths:


. The Endangered Species Act and related court rulings are the main causes
of the water shortages in the San Joaquin Valley. Not true. As of the end of
April, the water content in the state's snowpack was 66 percent of normal,
the third dry year in a row. Drought is the main cause of water cutbacks in
the San Joaquin Valley.


. All water districts in the Valley are suffering. Again, not true. Some
water districts have senior water rights, meaning they get first dibs on
available supplies. While holders of junior water rights, such as the
Westlands Water District, have been cut back severely, other districts are
close to their normal allotments.


. Central Valley salmon are suffering only because of ocean conditions.
Another falsehood. Salmon runs have bounced around but have generally
declined since the 1960s, even with gyrating ocean conditions. Clearly,
their habitat in the Valley has degraded - a habitat that is dependent on
clear, cold, abundant water.


Through improved conservation, water banking, groundwater storage and other
projects, California can help its farms and cities weather the dry periods
while rebuilding a healthy fishery. That will take a cooperative approach.


Yet if certain farm districts and their congressional representatives choose
to point fingers and inflame myths, cooperation will be hard to come by. The
challenge for the Obama administration will be to bust through those
falsehoods and serve as a moderating force for a more efficient and
equitable use of water in California.# 





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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