[env-trinity] House members to Feinstein on ESA Waiver

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 18 09:55:33 PST 2010

Signed by Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mike Thompson
(D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), David Wu (D-OR), Norm Dicks (D-WA), Earl
Blumenauer (D-OR), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Doris Matsui
(D-CA), and John Garamendi (D-CA).

Link to signed pdf: http://go.usa.gov/lEc

Text below.

February 18, 2010

The Hon. Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Feinstein:

We write in strong support of Chairwoman Grace Napolitano's request that you
withdraw your recent draft proposal to legislatively override protections
for the threatened and endangered fisheries of the San Francisco Bay-Delta
system. We believe that the approach outlined in your draft amendment is
inconsistent with your record of pursuing compromise solutions to
environmental conflicts, and we urge you not to move forward with the
proposed legislation. Simply put, by undermining existing protections, the
"Emergency Temporary Water Supply amendment" unveiled last week would drive
California's and much of Oregon's salmon to extinction, and it is a severe
threat to the thousands of jobs that depend on the fishing industry in the
San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California, and across the Pacific Coast.

As you know, the Sacramento River chinook salmon population is lower today
than it has ever been. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council,
fewer than 40,000 chinook salmon returned to the river this year, down from
more than 750,000 in 2002. This collapse, due in considerable part to
excessive water diversions, has had devastating economic consequences for
our constituents. The repeated cancellation of the salmon fishing season has
led to an estimated 23,000 jobs lost, with significant negative economic
effects along the Pacific coast, including adverse impacts to small
businesses in the Bay Area, the North Coast of California, and Oregon.
Pushing salmon and steelhead populations closer to extinction, which is a
certain consequence of legislatively undermining federal protections without
any scientific basis, would only exacerbate this economic pain.

Further, we are deeply concerned that the amendment undercuts the
multi-stakeholder negotiations over the California state legislature's work
last year and the ongoing process to develop a Bay Delta Conservation Plan
(BDCP). The state's legislative package was based on the principle that a
reliable water supply and a restored natural ecosystem need not be in
conflict. By increasing water withdrawals from the Bay-Delta regardless of
the effect on threatened and endangered fisheries, your draft amendment
risks undoing the agreements that led to this comprehensive plan. Similarly,
although we have not endorsed the BDCP, it is very clear that if this
amendment goes forward, the BDCP process cannot be considered a legitimate
forum in which to make long-term decisions about water policy, meaning the
time, energy, and funds expended by the water agencies, governments, and
NGOs on the BDCP will have been wasted.

We understand that your proposed amendment is intended to remedy the effect
of the ongoing drought on irrigation districts in the western San Joaquin
Valley. After all, it is the sustained drought, not environmental
protections, that is responsible for the overwhelming majority of water
supply cuts in the last few years. Yet even during this drought, according
to California's Department of Water Resources, the Westlands Water District,
was able to amass more than 990,000 acre-feet of water - 86% of its average
annual supply - through transfers, groundwater, and other sources. And a few
miles away, the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors received 100% of
their contract supply. Despite the drought, then, it is reasonable to assume
that there may be additional opportunities for those with less secure water
rights such as Westlands to obtain alternative water supplies this year,
without having to preempt science-based processes or to legislate
unsustainable water export levels out of the Bay-Delta. In addition, we are
concerned that the proposal to guarantee a supply to certain contractors
regardless of environmental consequence would severely undermine the
allocations of water under decades of state and federal water law, and
create a precedent elsewhere in the West for riders that reallocate water
away from statutory and contractual purposes.

Again, we urge you to withdraw the recently announced draft "Emergency
Temporary Water Supply amendment" and instead meet with us to work out other
solutions that do not put the fishing jobs and economy of the West Coast in



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

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