[env-trinity] Sac Bee Opinion Letter 8 1 2010
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Aug 2 17:06:26 PDT 2010
Viewpoints: Delta's bounty is a shared treasure - except when greed cuts
ahead in line
By Brett Baker
Special to The Bee
Published: Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010 - 11:37 am
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Brett+Baker/> Brett Baker holds a degree in
wildlife, fish and conservation biology from
<http://topics.sacbee.com/UC+Davis/> UC Davis and divides his timeworking on
his family's farm and for Restore the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./>
Delta and the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Central+Delta+Water+Agency/>
Central Delta Water Agency.
My family has been farming in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta since 1851. The Sierra's Gold Rush lured
my ancestors to <http://topics.sacbee.com/California/> California - but the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta made them stay. Gold played out in
a few years, but the resources of the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./>
Delta have sustained our region of the state for over 150 years now. The
rich soil and the reliable flows of fresh, sweet water from the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Sacramento/> Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers
yielded a bounty of crops that brought prosperity to the region's farmers
and fed <http://topics.sacbee.com/Sacramento/> Sacramento and the cities of
the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Bay+Area/> Bay Area.
We're still at it today. I represent the sixth generation of my family to
farm the land on <http://topics.sacbee.com/Sutter+Island/> Sutter Island
directly adjacent to Steamboat Slough. We continue to farm 30 acres of pears
and sell them at local farmers' markets and throughout the country.
Continuing my family's 160-year vocation is a tradition I hope to pass down
to my own children.
My business is farming, but my education is in biology. I earned a degree in
wildlife, fish and conservation biology from the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/University+of+California/> University of
California, Davis, and spent summers working for my professor
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Peter+Moyle/> Peter Moyle. I went on to the
California Department of Fish and Game in the agency's
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Heritage+Wild+Trout+Program/> Heritage Wild Trout
Program and as an adviser to then Lt. Gov.
<http://topics.sacbee.com/John+Garamendi/> John Garamendi on water and
agriculture issues. As a result, my perspective on
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta water controversies is perhaps more
nuanced than many. I don't view water as a zero-sum game - we have enough
for agriculture, our cities and our fisheries.
But I also think we have to change the way our public water is distributed.
We can't continue exporting in excess of 7 million to 8 million acre-feet of
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta water a year, selling it at
subsidized rates to a handful of corporate agribusiness enterprises in the
western <http://topics.sacbee.com/San+Joaquin+Valley/> San Joaquin Valley.
This relentless hijacking of the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta's
water threatens the hundreds of <http://topics.sacbee.com/family+farmers/>
family farmers who cultivate the region's 750,000 acres of cropland,
destroys our precious salmon fisheries and actually undermines
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Southern+California/> Southern California's urban
reliance on the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta/> Delta.
The <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta's fisheries are in immediate
and dire jeopardy. This affects more than the fish - the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/chinook+salmon/> chinook salmon, steelhead,
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta smelt and other native fishes faced
with extinction. It is also devastating the families and small towns that
depend on commercial and sport fishing.
For years, "Westside" corporate farmers have claimed water exports are not
the primary cause of the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta's
ecological collapse. They have made the disingenuous argument that fish
don't need more water - instead, they blame the decline on invasive species,
urban run-off, agricultural chemicals and inadequate sewage treatment -
anything that might divert attention from the impact the pumps continue to
have on the system.
I agree that all these factors play a role in the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta./> Delta's struggling ecosystem, but they
are all tied to overpumping, which either causes them or makes them worse.
Export pumping is by far the biggest problem. This point was made explicitly
in a recent staff report from the
California Water Resources Control Board, which concluded water exports must
be cut by half to allow sufficient freshwater flows necessary for the
survival of these critically <http://topics.sacbee.com/endangered+species/>
It's really that simple: If we want to resuscitate our once-mighty salmon
runs, we have to allow twice as much water as is currently flowing through
the <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta/> Delta.
In my opinion these flows should be observed as part of the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta+Stewardship+Council/> Delta Stewardship
Council's Interim <http://topics.sacbee.com/Delta+Plan/> Delta Plan.
Specific biological responses or target fish populations should be developed
and be observed before any additional conveyance structures are considered.
Should these flows elicit a favorable response, they should be considered as
part of any conservation measure by the
<http://topics.sacbee.com/Bay+Delta+Conservation+Plan/> Bay Delta
Conservation Plan (BDCP).
Corporate farmers in the western
<http://topics.sacbee.com/San+Joaquin+Valley/> San Joaquin Valley are
pillorying the water board report, and this is understandable. They are
obtaining taxpayer-subsidized water at incredibly low rates, and they are
selling much of it to south state cities at enormously inflated prices. They
understand their future is in marketing water and building homes, not
growing crops. Their interests are not the interests of the people of
<http://topics.sacbee.com/California/> California, including most farmers.
The state Water <http://topics.sacbee.com/Resources+Control+Board/>
Resources Control Board's staff report is founded on sound science and
consistent with previous state board findings. For example, the 1978 Water
Right Decision 1485 on supplemental water calculations declares: "To provide
full mitigation of project impacts on all fishery species now would require
the virtual shutting down of the project export pumps." Sadly, this report
was shelved and never saw the light of day because of this inconvenient
Given the charged political climate, we must commend the staffers who had
the courage to support the data instead of yielding to prevailing pressures.
We need to stand behind them- and we must do everything we can to ensure the
flow recommendations in the report are honored and given the consideration
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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