[env-trinity] Water Exports Are Killing California Jobs and Salmon

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Fri Feb 12 15:27:43 PST 2010



The key issue in the Central Valley salmon collapse has been the  
"reckless" 16 percent increase in delta pumping over the last decade  
above levels of the 1990s, according to fishing groups.





dwr_leaping_salmon.jpg

Water Exports Are Killing California Jobs and Salmon

Sacramento River Fall Salmon Run Reaches New Record Low

by Dan Bacher

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), a quasi-governmental  
body that manages West Coast fisheries, on February 11 released  
alarming numbers showing that California’s once most abundant salmon  
run collapsed to an all-time record low in 2009.

The Council reported that an estimated total of only 39,530 natural  
and hatchery Sacramento River Fall Chinook (SRFC) adults returned to  
the Sacramento River basin to spawn in 2009.

"The 2009 adult escapement estimate is the lowest on record and  
continues the declining trend in SRFC escapement despite the 2008 and  
2009 closures of nearly all ocean Chinook fisheries south of Cape  
Falcon," according to the PFMC report.

Fall Chinook returns to Sacramento River hatcheries totaled 17,435  
adults, while 22,095 adults spawned in natural areas.

In 2008, a record low of only 66,000 fall-run fish returned to the  
Sacramento, American, Feather and Yuba and other Sacramento Valley  
rivers. The minimum escapement for long term sustainability of these  
fish is 122,000.

State and federal biologists had predicted that 122,196 fish would  
return to the Sacramento in 2009, so the actual returns were less  
than one-third of the number forecasted. The Sacramento run, the  
driver of West Coast salmon fisheries, numbered nearly 800,000 fish  
in 2002.

"This year's Sacramento River fall Chinook adult return is a terrible  
disappointment," said Neil Manji, DFG Fisheries Branch Chief. "Over  
the past two years, DFG has collected and analyzed data and worked  
diligently to figure out what steps can be taken to improve our stock  
management, increase future returns and help craft fishing regulation  
packages."

The number of returning fall run "jacks" and "jills" (2-year-old  
fish), 9216, were also lower than anticipated. "The initial jack  
returns looked favorable, but the final returns were very  
disappointing," said Dick Pool, administrator of water4fish.org.

Ocean salmon fishing seasons are based on the return of adult and  
jack salmon to the rivers - and it's very doubtful that there will be  
a season this year, based on the low numbers of spawning fish in fall  
2009. "There's not going to be any season this year from these  
numbers," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast  
Federation of Fishermen's Associations..

Federally protected runs of winter and spring run chinook both came  
in at less than 5,000 individuals each, according to the PFMC.  
Spawner escapement of endangered winter Chinook salmon in 2009 was  
estimated to be 4,483 adults and
54 jacks, while the escapement of spring Chinook 2009 totaled 4,506  
fish (jacks and adults).

The San Joaquin River is in particularly bad shape, with just under  
2,100 fall Chinook salmon representing perhaps the last of their race  
in that watershed.

“Salmon have been part of California for thousands of years and this  
report shows we’re losing them,” said Zeke Grader, executive  
director of the PCFFA. “If we wipe our salmon out, we’ll also be  
wiping out generations of fishing families from the central  
California coast to northern Oregon that have all relied on king  
salmon from the Sacramento River to make a living."

He asked, "Why are San Joaquin agricultural operators selling their  
water to southern California developers and then demanding more water  
from the Delta?”

The last three years of salmon returns have each set new record lows  
and coincide directly with three of the highest years of Delta water  
diversions, according to Grader. Delta pumping kills juvenile salmon  
migrating through the Delta to the sea. It takes three years for  
surviving salmon to return as adults and for scientists to record the  
full destruction caused by the pumps.

“We’re watching our salmon disappear in exact concert with a 16  
percent increase of Delta water diversions over the last decade,”  
said Dick Pool, administrator of water4fish.org. “The full throttle  
pumping of Delta waters is wiping out valuable salmon worth over a  
billion dollars to the commercial and sport fishing sectors.”

Pool noted that with near-record export pumping in the spring, it is  
no surprised that millions of salmon smolts were pulled through the  
Delta Cross Channel Gates and Georgiana Slough into the Central Delta.

"There is no cover, little food and lots of predators in these rip- 
rapped channels and most of the fish are gone by the time the water  
makes it to Clifton Court Forebay," said Pool. "Between river and  
Delta losses, 92 percent of the smolts perish. With only 8 percent  
surviving, we will never recover these species until the Delta is  
fixed."

Pool said that salmon runs and many other fish species in the Delta  
collapsed in 2007 after a dramatic increase in pumping of water to  
points south. As a result, regulators closed all ocean fishing of  
chinook salmon in California and most of Oregon in 2008 and 2009,  
with the exception of a 10 week season for chinook off northern  
California and southern Oregon in 2009, to save the remaining salmon.  
Although the seasons were closed, the collapse had nothing to do with  
recreational or commercial fishing pressure.

The Central Valley fall chinook run typically provides 90 percent of  
all king salmon harvested off California and 60 percent of all king  
salmon harvested off Oregon in both sport and commercial fisheries.

Healthy Salmon Populations Create Thousands of Jobs

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, agribusiness "Astroturf" groups  
including the Latino Water Coalition and Coalition for a Sustainable  
Delta and right wing talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity have  
falsely portrayed the battle to restore salmon and other fish by  
curbing Delta exports as a conflict over "fish versus jobs."

The truth is that massive increases in water exports to corporate  
agribusiness have led to massive job losses in the fishing industry  
and related businesses. The real conflict is one of "people versus  
corporate agribusiness profits," not "fish versus jobs."

"Southwick Associates have estimated that the season closures have  
cost an estimated 23,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in the California  
economy alone," said Pool. "California has over 2,000 small and  
medium businesses that derive most or all of their income from the  
recreational and commercial salmon industry."

These businesses include 1,200 commercial boats, 11 manufacturers,  
seven wholesalers, 904 retailers, 230 guides and charter boats, 74  
marinas and hundreds of boat dealers and marine parts and service  
centers. Oregon has also faced similarly devastating losses.

"Behind those statistics lies enormous suffering by families along  
one thousand miles of Pacific Coast," said Grader. "Boats are tied up  
on docks, marina businesses have closed, homes have been lost to  
foreclosure. West Coast restaurants that once featured locally caught  
salmon are increasingly turning to imported fish as local harvests  
decline."

In contrast, agricultural employment in the seven county area  
impacted by new pumping restrictions intended to protect fish was  
actually up between 2008 and 2009, and the California almond industry  
had record shipments of 1.39 billion pounds in 2008-2009, up 10  
percent over 2007-2008. "Over the same period, the Oregon and  
California salmon industries experienced near total shutdown," stated  
Grader.

On average, San Joaquin Valley agricultural contractors received 80  
percent of their contract allocations last year, although there were  
some localized shortages primarily due to drought. In comparison,  
average Westside deliveries in the past two decades have been about  
60 percent of full allocations.

The "Astroturf" campaign by corporate agribusiness to increase Delta  
exports, build a peripheral canal and construct more dams has  
promoted the myth that crops grown on toxic, drainage-impaired land  
on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley "feed the nation" or "feed  
the world."

The corporate media, right wing talk show hosts and even some  
"alternative" media outlets have bought into this myth in their  
coverage of the California water wars, portraying the conflict as one  
between hard-working farmers like those portrayed in the classic  
Grant Wood painting who only want "feed America" versus "radical  
environmentalists" who want to protect a "minnow" like the Delta smelt.

An examination of the actual economic data compiled by the U.S.  
Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that there is no basis in  
fact for the contention that west side farmers are the "backbone" of  
American agriculture. According to a USDA Chart, US gross farm income  
in 2008 was around $375 billion.

Westlands Water District produces $1 billion annually in gross farm  
income, according to articles by Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee reporter, on  
November 7, 2009, and Garance Burke, Associated Press writer, on July  
31.

"That means Westlands' contribution to the nation's food supply (and  
exports) is about a quarter of a percent," said Lloyd Carter, veteran  
investigative journalist. When subsidies and the cost to the  
taxpayers of cleaning up Westlands' toxic drainage are figured in,  
the contribution of the district to the national agricultural economy  
is even lower.

Feinstein Declares War on Salmon and Jobs

As corporate agribusiness continues to promote its "Big Lies" about  
"fish versus jobs" and "feeding America" in order to stop Central  
Valley salmon and Delta fish restoration, fishing groups say the key  
issue in the salmon collapse has been the "reckless" 16 percent  
increase in delta pumping over the last decade above levels of the  
1990s under the Schwarzenegger administration.

It is ironic that as the salmon return numbers were released by the  
federal government, Senator Dianne Feinstein, announced an  
"emergency" move "to provide more water to farms and avert further  
economic catastrophe in San Joaquin Valley" by stripping protections  
for salmon and Delta smelt.

"I am working to develop an Emergency Temporary Water Supply  
amendment that will simply allow San Joaquin Valley farmers to plant,  
hire and harvest for two years by giving them between 38-40 percent  
of their water allocation totals in a normal water year," said  
Feinstein.

"Over the last few years, 400,000 acres of farmland have been  
fallowed, permanent crops uprooted, and tens of thousands of people  
are unemployed. The situation is untenable," concluded Feinstein.

The increased pumping from the Delta advocated by Feinstein and her  
faithful campaign contributor, agribusiness giant Stewart Resnick of  
Paramount Farms, "would indeed finish off a number of native species,  
help to further destroy the commercial salmon fishing industry in  
California, and significantly worsen water quality for Delta  
farmers," according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director  
of Restore the Delta

Please call Senator Feinstein's staff at the San Francisco Office and  
let them know that they need to defend the Endangered Species Act for  
the fisheries and people of the Delta, as well as the majority of  
Californians who support strong protection of our state's natural  
resources.The number is (415) 393-0707.

As Feinstein was waging her war on salmon, four groups on February 8  
launched litigation challenging the back door renewal of water  
contracts by the Westlands Water District. The North Coast Rivers  
Alliance, Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe, Friends of the River  
and Save the American River Association filed suit in Fresno Superior  
Court demanding "full public disclosure" of the impacts of Westlands'  
contract renewals with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation upon Central  
Valley salmon, Delta smelt and migratory birds. The groups charge  
that Westlands is trying to "lock up" over a million acre feet of  
water a year in exports from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta.

“The Winnemem Wintu, a traditional people of California, see the  
folly of the government’s plans relative to the Delta and pray for  
people of reason to wake up and help protect the estuary from over  
pumping and the damage these plans will wreak upon the water and  
resources of this state,” said Mark Franco, Headman of the Winnemem  
Wintu Tribe. “Water is the lifeblood of our people and we stand  
ready to protect it with our colleagues across California’s social  
justice movement. This rash plan will only serve a few people and  
will impact the rights of our future generations.”

The report of the Pacific Fishery Management Council report is  
available at http://www.pcouncil.org/salmon/salsafe09/salsafe09.html

For more information, call Zeke Grader, PCFFA, 415-606-5140, or Dick  
Pool, Water4Fish, 925-963-6350.
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