[env-trinity] Times-Standard Editorial:Release the water

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Mon Aug 19 11:18:04 PDT 2013

Release the water
The Times-Standard
POSTED:   08/17/2013 02:35:33 AM PDT | UPDATED:   2 DAYS AGO

A U.S. District Court judge in Fresno this week extended a temporary restraining order blocking vital water releases from the Trinity River intended to prevent another massive fish kill on the lower Klamath River.

Originally set to expire Friday, the order now runs through Aug. 23.

The lawsuit, filed against the federal government by San Joaquin Valley farmers last week, claims the federal Department of the Interior and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation lacked the authority to authorize the releases.

And now, while a judge in Fresno dithers, time is running out for the North Coast. The 2002 fish kill left tens of thousands of adult salmon dead before they could spawn.

A 2003 analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited extremely low water flows, abnormally high temperatures and a crowded salmon run as prime factors contributing to the 2002 die-off -- conclusions in step with an earlier report from the then state Department of Fish and Game.

And now, just as the North Coast has started to recover from that ecological disaster, in a week that saw record high temperatures here, this.


”The Court is particularly interested to hear from witnesses who can explain the scientific basis for the flow augmentation,” writes the judge in Fresno.

Fair enough.

Scientifically, fish swim in water. Without it, they will die.

Scientifically, water is used to cool other things -- like water, for instance. Or fish.

Scientifically, you can't keep promising water to people that doesn't exist.

As Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, told the Associated Press earlier this week: “The bottom line is that the Bureau of Reclamation has promised to deliver much more water than is available in the system. These conflicts will only worsen until water contracts and water rights conform with hydrologic reality.”

Speaking of reality, the argument that these releases somehow put fish above people is preposterous. This isn't just about the salmon -- although, again, tens of thousands of them are increasingly likely to die thanks to this lawsuit and a judge in Fresno, costing the North Coast another two generations of fish. Those same fish, and the economic activity surrounding them, support a fair amount of people here. Our interests must be weighed in the balance, not discarded.

The price that the people and the fish of the North Coast are expected to pay for the benefit of the San Joaquin Valley -- another ecological disaster -- is an injustice truly worthy of the court's time: a preventable catastrophe.

Time is running out. Release the water.

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