[env-trinity] Laura Moon King SF Chron 8-18-10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Aug 19 15:03:05 PDT 2010
Water report offers estimate, misses real effect
By Laura King Moon
The State Water Board's recent report suggesting that much of Northern
California's water supply should be redirected to benefit fish underscores
the importance of addressing the ecological crisis in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta. But as the State Water Board itself cautioned, this
report does not explain how to restore the delta ecosystem while meeting
human water needs, nor how much water fish need if other factors affecting
the ecosystem are addressed.
Today's delta is nothing like that before the Gold Rush. Levees have
eliminated 95 percent of the estuary's original wetlands. Non-native species
now comprise 95 percent of the delta's living plants and species. Food
supplies for fish are a fraction of those in other estuaries because of
rock-walled levees and the lack of suitable habitat. Pushing more water
through the barren delta channels will not make for a better ecosystem.
When the State Water Board released this non-binding report to consider new
flow criteria for fish, it cautioned against misuse of the information
because of the limited focus of the analysis. The report explicitly does not
consider, for example, the competing needs of different types of fish, such
as how depleting reservoirs upstream of the delta could endanger salmon in
the rivers during dry years.
The report also does not address how flow needs would be affected by
pollution reduction or creation of new marsh and floodplain habitat. Because
scientists don't know exactly how much water is needed to restore fish
populations, the report uses a simplistic assumption that flows should be
restored to patterns that existed in the 1920s, and does not consider how
restoring flows to this level would affect 25 million Californians and
millions of acres of agriculture that rely on supplies from the watershed.
The draft report provided estimates of the water supply impacts in an
appendix, showing that water users up and down the state would have their
current supplies reduced by as much as 67 percent. The final report does not
include the appendix, and more careful analysis is needed.
But our preliminary analysis suggests tremendous hardship for many water
districts throughout the state, including the Bay Area, where more than 70
percent of supplies comes from somewhere in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
The delta needs a more thorough and balanced solution, based on hard facts
about real-world impacts and the best available science. Necessary elements
will include more habitat, less pollution and a better water-conveyance
system that can separate the movement of water supplies from the natural
movements of the tidal estuary.
Water districts, environmentalists and federal and state agencies are
seeking such a balanced approach through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
Within this comprehensive plan, flows represent one important piece of a
much larger challenge to put the delta on a path to sustainability.#
Laura King Moon is the assistant general manager of the State Water
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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