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Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Aug 4 12:54:12 PDT 2010

Study: Cut in delta water use needed for fish

Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:kzito at sfchronicle.com> 

San Francisco Chronicle August 4, 2010 04:00 AM
license-/c/a/2010/08/03/MNV31EOBPF.DTL> Copyright San Francisco Chronicle.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
e.com/MAI/ca20100804MNV31EOBPF.DTL/E/ProdWednesday, August 4, 2010



Randy Pench / Sacbee.com

Coots fly across the surface of the flooded Yolo Bypass, part of the Pacific
Flyway route for migratory birds, in February.

TL&o=0> http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/utils/plus-green.gifView Larger

21D85.DTL> Calif. billionaire's tax refund stolen by ID thief 08.04.10


The amount of water pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
would have to be cut in half if vulnerable fish populations are going to be
preserved for future generations, a state report declared Tuesday.

The 190-page study by the State Water Resources Control Board is nonbinding,
but it could shape how communities from the Bay
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/San_Francisco_Bay_Area>  Area to San Diego
divvy up California's most precious resource.

The document, issued by the five-member board after nine months of
scientific study, determined that 75 percent of runoff from snowpack and
rainfall would need to funnel through the delta to San
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/San_Francisco>  Francisco Bay and the ocean
in order to sustain the estuary's most important wildlife and habitats,
known in legal parlance as "public trust" resources.

Right now, about 50 percent of the state's runoff flows through the delta
all the way to the ocean. The other 50 percent goes to cities and farms.
Raising the flow into the ocean from 50 percent to 75 percent would require
taking away roughly half of what cities and farms now get, according to the

"The board has finally put to rest the argument about whether the delta
needs more water," said Cynthia Koehler, water legislative director with the
Environmental <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Environmental_Defense_Fund>
Defense Fund. "You can't divert 50 percent of the flows and think the fish
and ecosystem are going to be just fine."

The other view

Many of the largest water districts in California lambasted the report as
one-sided and contended that higher delta flows and less pumping would
devastate the economy and hurt farmers grappling with water cutbacks first
stipulated by a federal judge in 2007 and fought over ever since. 

"The information certainly is interesting and informative ... but it's
immaterial," said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water
District, a sprawling agricultural zone in the Fresno area. "Protecting the
public trust resources are not the only goals of the planning processes."

The delta, at the confluence of the state's two largest rivers - the
Sacramento and San Joaquin - is the hub of California's vast water system.
As such, it has been the source of increasing tension between fishermen,
farmers, city leaders and federal and state politicians trying to protect
their water rights. 

The state study, mandated last year by the Legislature as part of a sweeping
water reform package, does not carry any regulatory weight, but it offers a
basis for changing how much water is delivered to 23 million Californians
downstream of the delta, not to mention users who remove water from the
system before it reaches the estuary.

Along with pollution, climate
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Climate_change>  change, aging
infrastructure and invasive species, excessive water exports over the past
several decades have pushed the delta and certain fish species into a death

More studies to come

The research purposely weighed only the needs of a healthy habitat for
crashing species like the longfin smelt and not the interests of cities and
farms. Later studies, part of a broad-based effort to craft a management
plan for the delta, will seek to balance a stable water supply
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Water_supply>  with rehabilitation of the

Environmentalists, fishing groups and delta residents firmly support
allowing more water to flush through the delta, arguing that higher flows
mean cooler, deeper, less salty and less polluted water for fish spawning
and migration. It would also help steer fish away from the giant pumps that
entrap and kill vulnerable juveniles.

Koehler's group and others say conservation, desalination and water
recycling could drastically reduce dependence on the delta.

Officials at Zone 7 Water Agency, which serves nearly 200,000 residents in
eastern Alameda <http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Alameda_County,_California>
County, say they are willing to do their part in reducing dependence on the
delta and are exploring a regional desalination project. But with 80 percent
of its supply from the delta, the district is in a difficult position. 

"We'll always have to rely on the delta for the majority of our water," said
spokeswoman Boni Brewer.

Less clear is how delta flow criteria could also affect so-called upstream
users, such as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission or East Bay
Municipal Utility District, which tap into rivers before they pour into the


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

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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