February 08, 2016    Headlines

Winter Sturgeon and Stripers

The Bays:

By Dave Hurley
Captain Jim Smith of the Happy Hooker went into San Pablo Bay on Saturday 2-6 loaded with ghost shrimp for his 17 anglers, and it appears that Larry, formerly known as ‘The Legend,’ brought his lack of karma from the previous day on the California Dawn onto the boat. They released four shaker sturgeon along with six keeper stripers and numerous shaker stripers. Smith said, “There were plenty of small stripers in the bay.”
Captain Mike Andrews of Predator Sport Fishing was able to find a much larger striper, stating, “We chose the wide expanse of shallow water in San Pablo Bay as an alternative to the crowded waters of Suisun Bay and the Napa River, and the surprise was an initial show of striped bass with Saturday’s topping out at 17 pounds. We also got a sturgeon to, so while the crazies took over the upper bays, we found what we wanted – some quiet water, hungry fish, and warm sunshine on our baits. This is hopefully the start of some great spring time fishing.”
Captain Chris Smith of the Captain Hook out of Martinez Marina was also in the derby, and he found slow action on Sunday morning near the Mothball Fleet. Smith was in San Pablo Bay on Saturday morning, and they found good action with Floyd Porteous landing the fourth place sturgeon on Smith’s boat and Dan Wulff of Manteca released a small legal sturgeon. He went into San Pablo to avoid the heavy boat traffic in the Delta. The sturgeon derby was not without controversy, and Porteous fish was measured at 56 and 3/4th inches on the boat, but it was nearly disqualified for a split tail by the weigh masters. The Fish and Wildlife personnel at the measuring station confirmed the tail was split by being placed into a net, but according to Smith, the weigh master shoved the fish onto the device, losing nearly a inch in length. This was the difference between a $1000 fish and a $6000 fish on Saturday’s payout.
Captain Anthony of Help U reportedly also had difficulty with the measurement of a 56-inch sturgeon at the station, and the fish was disqualified for some reason.
Captain David Bacon said, “There are big herring spawns going on in the lower bay, moving from Richmond to Richardson Bay and reports from the Golden Gate, so some folks feel that many of the sturgeon are off chasing that roving spawn.” 
27.95. STURGEON CLOSURE. Green sturgeon and white sturgeon may not be taken in the following described area between January 1 and March 15: That portion of San Francisco Bay included within the following boundaries: A direct line between Pt. Chauncey (National Marine Fisheries Laboratory) and Pt. Richmond, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a direct line between Pt. Lobos and Pt. Bonita.

Sturgeon fishing has been the story in San Pablo Bay as well with George Lu of Bay Tackle in El Cerrito reporting Thursday 1-28, “Sturgeon fishing is number 1 from the Pumphouse to the Mothball Fleet.” There was a herring spawn at the Ferry Pier in the Richmond on Thursday morning, and although the herring spawns were thick over a week ago, a second wave of herring moved it. Lu said, “I thought the spawns were over, but we had a big run on cast nets in the morning for the herring.” A sturgeon was landed from the Eckley Pier in Crockett at night with an eel/pile worm combination. They have live pile worms and ghost shrimp in the shop along with plenty of frozen eel and salmon roe, and the bait will be distributed on first-come, first-serve basis over this coming derby weekend.
Captain Jim Smith of the Happy Hooker out of Berkeley wants to celebrate Saturday before the Super Bowl with sturgeon fishing and some fresh sturgeon. He said, “The tides are great for next weekend.”
In the Napa River, Sweeney’s Sports in Napa reported an improved sturgeon bite from the Brazos Bridge south to the Highway 37 Bridge with shrimpbaits or eel. Striper fishing has slowed considerably with the muddy water.


Special to The Bee

After yet another revision, the governor’s plan to build twin tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta still makes no economic sense. A closer look at the three types of economic benefits claimed for the project to export water to Central Valley farms and Southern California cities shows why it can’t possibly justify its estimated $15 billion cost. In each case, I give a value derived directly from the optimistic estimates of the state’s consultants and a more intuitive comparison.

Water supply: The latest numbers estimate the tunnels will increase water exports south of the Delta by an annual average of 257,000 acre-feet, with no increase in drought years when it is needed most. The cumulative value of that water supply over 50 years is $2 billion to $3 billion.
For comparison, San Diego’s new desalination plant will provide 56,000 acre-feet of drought-proof water for a capital cost of $1 billion. Desalination is the most costly water supply alternative, but it still provides more than three times the water supply per dollar invested than the Delta tunnels.

Water quality: Because the tunnels would divert higher-quality water from the Sacramento River, the salt and other contaminants in export water supply could decrease by 20 percent. It’s estimated that this could have a cumulative value to water exporters of as much as $2 billion over 50 years.
However, it is important to remember that the tunnels aren’t a water treatment or desalination plant that purifies water. Thus, the water exporter’s gain in water quality will be offset by degraded water quality elsewhere, a concern that is at the center of opposition in the five Delta counties and environmental concerns raised by the EPA and others.

Seismic risk: Listening to the governor, earthquake protection is the main economic argument. But the state’s experts estimated seismic-risk reduction to water exports was only worth a cumulative $400 million over 50 years. Why is this value so low? First, it is a very low probability event even in the most pessimistic models. Second, the outage to water exports isn’t as bad as you hear in TV commercials. Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin correctly described it as “weeks or months” in a recent media call, not years. In a worst-case earthquake scenario, the tunnels might prevent 2 million to 3 million acre-feet in lost water exports, a costly but manageable shortage. For comparison, the current drought has cut surface water supplies to farms and cities by more than 10 million acre-feet.
The earthquake argument is not only economically wrong, it is morally outrageous. The real damage from what some call California’s Katrina would be death and destruction in the Delta itself. The state’s model of this tragedy shows hundreds could die and that 80 percent of the economic damage was from the loss of property and infrastructure in the Delta.
It’s shocking that the state’s response to this are water tunnels that protect only 20 percent of the economic loss and zero percent of the life loss. Levee upgrades are much cheaper and reduce risks for all Californians.
In sum, the economic benefits of the tunnels to the water exporters total about $5 billion of its $15 billion cost, and the benefit-cost ratio is even worse when the negative impacts to the Delta and risks to the environment and upstream interests are considered.
Support among water exporters has been steadily eroding as the economic and financial shortcomings of the plan become better understood.
A few years ago, the state tried to shore up its economic argument by attaching a huge value to the hope of 50-year regulatory protection from the Endangered Species Act, and incorrectly attributing habitat restoration benefits to the tunnels. After heavy criticism, the latest revision to the tunnels plan eliminates the 50-year regulatory assurance and separates environmental restoration. The plan’s already flimsy economic rationale evaporated with this correction.
It is increasingly clear that there are less divisive alternatives that provide more economic and environmental value than the tunnels. No amount of tweaking can save what is fundamentally a bad idea. It’s time to move on.

Jeffrey Michael, an economist, is director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific. Read his blog at
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