FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS NO
DELAY FOR NEW SF DELTA SMELT
AND SALMON BI-OPS:
On 30 January, a federal judge rejected motions by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to give the federal fishery agencies more time to update their biological opinions (Bi-Ops) for ESA-listed fish species in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill refused to give the federal fishery agencies more time to revise their plans for the protection and recovery of Delta smelt, along with winter and spring-run chinook salmon, that reside in or migrate through the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. O’Neill’s predecessor on the federal bench, Judge Oliver Wanger, had ordered modification to the Bi-Ops that were initially put in place following a 2007 Wanger decision finding State and Federal pumping of freshwater from the Delta was harming the fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The pumping was also the proximate cause of the collapse of Central Valley fall-run chinook stocks and the resultant closure of most salmon fishing along the Pacific Coast in 2008 and 2009. Judge Wanger recently retired.
The litigation against the increased level of Delta pumping was initiated in 2004 following a political decision by the agencies to overrule their scientists and rule that the diversion at the two pumping facilities at the southern end of the estuary would “not harm” the protected fish species. Two different lawsuits were then filed; one by conservation and sportfishing groups against USFWS over the delta smelt, and a second by fishing and conservation groups (PCFFA, et al. v. Gutierrez) against NMFS over the salmon. Plaintiffs are represented by Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The matter has been in court since 2004, with Wanger’s 2007 decision in favor of the plaintiffs and subsequent appeals by the water contractors and water agencies.
Under the schedule that had previously been set up by Judge Wanger, USFWS has until 1 December 2013 to revise its Delta smelt Bi-Op, and NMFS has until 2016 to submit a modified salmon Bi-Op to the District Court in Fresno. Defendant government agencies had sought the delay claiming they were strapped for resources because of staff assigned to work on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a massive water project also proposed for the Delta – one that could take even more water south – under the rubric of being a habitat conservation plan (HCP) pursuant to the ESA. Plaintiffs opposed any delay.
To see a copy of Judge O’Neill’s 30 January smelt/salmon Bi-Op decision, go to: http://media.fresnobee.com/smedia/2013/01/30/16/53/1iplIW.So.8.pdf. To read more, see the John Ellis 30 January Fresno Bee article at: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/01/30/3154122/federal-judge-in-fresno-rejects.html.
he proposed changes to sturgeon regulations were apparently approved by the California Fish and Game Commission at their meeting on Thursday 11-8, and this issue has quietly fallen under the radar without a significant amount of angler outcry. These changes will not come into effect until for a couple of months but once it gets through the whole process early this coming year.
(c) Size limit: No fish less than 46 40 inches total fork length or greater than 66 60 inches total fork length may be taken or possessed.
(d) Methods of take: Only one single point, single shank, barbless hook may be used on a line when taking sturgeon. The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure in its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging or by the use of firearms. Sturgeon may not be gaffed, nor shall any person use any type of firearm or snare to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon.
For the purposes of this section, a snare is a flexible loop made from any material that can be tightened like a noose around any part of the fish.
(e) Removal from water. Any sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately.]
(e) (f) Report card required: Any person fishing for or taking sturgeon shall have in their possession a nontransferable Sturgeon Fishing Report Card issued by the department and shall adhere to all reporting and tagging requirements for sturgeon defined in Sections 1.74 and 27.92, Title 14, CCR.
(f) (g) For regulations on take and possession of sturgeon in inland waters as defined in Section 1.53, see Section 5.80 and Section 5.81.
(g) (h) Boat limits, as defined in Subsection 27.60(c) and Section 195, are not
authorized for sturgeon fishing and shall not apply to the take, possession or retention of white sturgeon.
Note: Authority cited: Sections 200, 202, 205 and 220, Fish and Game Code.
Reference: Sections 200, 205 and 206, Fish and Game Code.
This proposal recommends amending sections 5.80 and 27.90 to also prohibit use of snares, hooks other than one single point, single shank, barbless, removal of fish greater than 68 inches long fork length (FL) from the water; and to require use of fork length measurements.
This proposal includes charging a fee for issuance of each Card. The Department is proposing Section 701 be amended for public notice with a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card fee of $7.50. The events of today’s meeting can be seen on the following web link:
New Index Shows Federal Agencies Fail to Meet Salmon Restoration Goal
Federal law requiring almost a million salmon ignored at great expense to Bay-Delta ecosystem and fishing industry
to a new
“Salmon are the canary in the coal mine for the Bay-Delta economy and ecosystem,” says Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst with NRDC’s Water Program. “California salmon, the fishing industry and the Bay-Delta ecosystem all need adequate water flows to maintain their health over the long-term. The Department of the Interior and the State of California need to dramatically step-up efforts to protect the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem and restore salmon populations.”
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 1992, set a goal of doubling the Bay-Delta watershed’s salmon runs from 495,000 to 990,000 wild adult fish by 2002. A decade after the law’s deadline, the salmon fishery continues to struggle to rebound due, in part, to ineffective enforcement by federal and state agencies and continued excessive pumping of fresh water from the Bay-Delta, primarily for industrial agriculture in the Central Valley.
The NRDC and GGSA analysis, published in the Salmon Doubling Index, reveals a steady decline in Bay-Delta Chinook salmon from 2003 through 2010, at which point it reached a record low of 7 percent. Increased water diversions were a significant cause of this decline. Between 2000 and 2006, freshwater pumping from the Bay-Delta increased 20 percent in comparison to 1975-2000.
“Despite indefensible foot-dragging and countless lawsuits, salmon restoration has remained the lynchpin of federal water policy in California for twenty years,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the House author of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. “California salmon support businesses and communities up and down the West coast, and it’s long past time for the federal agencies to take their responsibility to our state’s wild fisheries seriously. The federal government must restore California’s iconic salmon runs to health: that’s the law.”
In 2008, in response to a lawsuit brought by NRDC, Earthjustice and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, stronger federal court-ordered protections went into effect for salmon and other native fish, reducing water pumping from the Bay-Delta. In 2011, there was a modest rebound of wild adult Chinook salmon, directly correlating to this reduction in pumping. Chinook salmon have a three-year life cycle. As a result, the benefits of stronger protections in 2008 are reflected in the numbers of adult fish that returned to spawn in 2011.
Early federal agency projections predict stronger numbers for this year’s salmon run, which is currently underway. Nevertheless, the salmon index for 2012 will likely remain dramatically short of meeting state and federal goals.
“Our salmon runs are essential to California’s natural heritage, to fishing families and to an industry that reaches from the fishing dock to your dinner table,” said Victor Gonella, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. “Restoring healthy salmon runs means healthy local food, healthy communities and a healthy economy.”
If current laws were enforced and the mandated restoration goal was achieved, the salmon fishing industry would provide a large contribution to the California economy. Consisting of commercial fishing men and women, fresh and salt water recreational anglers, coastal communities, tribes, fish processors, equipment manufacturers, marinas, and food and hospitality, a fully restored California salmon industry would provide $5.6 billion in economic activity annually and tens of thousands of jobs from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon.
“After two closed salmon fishing seasons in 2008 and 2009, and a token season in 2010, fishermen had a chance to fish this year, but we remain far below the healthy runs required by law,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association and GGSA board member. “The stronger runs in 2011 and this year show that, with stronger protections and more effective restoration programs, these magnificent fish will come roaring back.
State and federal agencies can step-up their efforts to restore salmon by acting on the following recommendations:
The Department of the Interior should reform CVPIA water contracts and revamp its salmon doubling efforts in response to a scathing independent review. Specifically, Interior should better manage water and restoration funds dedicated to salmon recovery, incorporate the latest scientific information and appoint a manager to be accountable for the progress of the restoration program.
The State Water Resources Control Board should set stronger standards to protect salmon in the San Joaquin River and the Bay-Delta ecosystem, in proceedings to revise these standards that are currently underway.
The state�s Department of Water Resources should incorporate salmon doubling into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process.
The Department of Fish and Game should launch an ambitious state salmon restoration effort.
The Salmon Doubling Index graphic and a table listing the index by year can be found here.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, tribes, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. Their mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.
Coats Public Relations
Salmon anglers are looking forward to what promises to be a good salmon season in 2012. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) released spawning escapement numbers for the 2011 Central Valley (CV) rivers this past week. Adult returns to all CV rivers were just 122,000 adults (all numbers are rounded) and a huge run of jacks numbering 70,000. Looking back the projected CV escapement was 377,000 so the actual return was just 31% of the preseason estimate.
On the other hand jack (two year olds) counts are off the charts with 70,000 returning to the CV in 2011. This should be a good indication that 2012 should produce a banner if not record year. Before you throw off your hat and break out the bubbly lets review the past few estimates put out by the PFMC.
Using past modeling methods that fishery "experts" use a (30 X jack =) would put this year's ocean abundance at 2,100, 000. I am told this huge spike in jack counts will be discounted in this year's modeling. It is so far off the charts that no one except those living in another reality believe that it will unfold.
The reality is that the 2011 season ended with a whimper. If there were millions of 1 to 2 year old fish in the ocean this past fall they were NOT swimming off the Central Coast. Party and private boats saw few sub-legal size fish last fall. Preceding the banner years of 1988, 1999, 2002 shaker numbers were so high that many party boat skippers would report releasing scores of undersize fish per day. Talking with skippers this past fall most report a very few undersize fish per week.
While this coming season "looks" promising, looks can be deceiving as that 6 foot "girl" hanging out at Geary and Eddy. From a distance this coming season looks pretty hot, up close I'm in the looks kind of strange to me camp.
Ocean abundance estimates are questionable and subject to being more of a wild ass guess or, the WAG theory. Ocean abundance estimates have been grossly over-estimated that past several seasons. Look back to 2010 season's estimate of 245K and expected escapement of 180K when the reality was 163,000 fish returned and fewer than 15,000 harvested. In 2009 when NOAA estimated that 120,000 salmon would return to the Central Valley and just 39,500 made it back to the CV despite the season being CLOSED. Missing a number by 10 or 20 percent would be acceptable but being off by 300% shows why these models need retooling.
Winter Run is Serious Trouble
How the final 2012 season is crafted is another matter. Winter and Spring run stocks are still very depressed and models will have to be adjusted to account for the impact from both commercial and sport effort. The winter run has dropped to a ten year low of just 637 fish in 2011/ 2012. This was after a decade long recovery where numbers in the mid 1990s fell to a low of 190 and climbed to 17,000 in 2006, and then a drop of 96% over the past five years.
One of the reason's I find so many state and federal "fishery mis-manager's" explanation of "poor ocean conditions" for the huge decline of fall run fish in recent years laughable is both the spring and winter runs saw their best returns in over a decade. If ocean conditions were so "poor" why were the 2006 -2008 spring and winter runs at decade highs?
It is however no laughing matter that the winter run has fallen off a cliff. The PFMC's latest season assent says that fishing effort is having little effect but any effect when the run has returned to 10 year lows will result in reduced fishing time. What they don't "model" is the impact of water diversion. In a nutshell our winter, fall and spring salmon runs have not collapsed due to lack of returning adults, it's that returning juveniles aren't making it to sea.
Models Need Retooling
It was the huge increase in jack salmon in 2010 that managers used to OVER estimate this past year's numbers. The problem is the PFMC are using the same models that grossly over estimated ocean abundance in the recent past. These models don't take into account the huge loses of salmon due to the CVP water pumps (water diversions have increased as much 40% since 2001), the decline of the Delta in general, low plankton counts in the delta or how trucking fish around the delta effects the numbers. (I agree with the short term solution of trucking fish around the Delta but this does nothing to address the real issues of water diversion). Trucking just papers over the real problem (s).
It's well known that if we weren't trucking salmon around the Delta the fishery would be in far worse shape today. Thanks to trucking we had a season in 2011 but DFG has stopped funding both trucking and net pen acclimation in 2012. Their concern is straying hatchery salmon but DNA studies show that the "purity" of the fall run is about pure strain as the citizens of this state. On the other hand diluting the gene pool with an abundance of hatchery fish could be one of the reasons we saw record numbers of jacks in the 2011 CV return.
"Naturally produced fish" or those of both wild and hatchery origin that spawn in the rivers and are subject to natural selection are key to our fisheries recovering. Unfortunately the vast majority of these fish die on their out migration. One recent study conducted 3 years ago showed that just 8% of smolts released on the upper Sacramento river make it back to the San Pablo bay. Water diversion and predation hot spots caused by water diversion likely account for the majority of these losses.
2012 Season Outlook
With the high jack returns of 2011 we should see a long season in 2012. This writer's usual optimists' opinion is very pessimistic and I feel that the run could be as weak as last year's. Just my .02 but I call it like I see it and the lack of undersize (15-24") in the Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay waters last August - November is the reason I am so pessimistic.
The low return of winter run salmon could close certain areas within the season where high impact of winter run have occurred in the past. We could see a season opener in April lasting through October with a min. size limit of 24". The Pacific Fisheries Management Council will have several meetings in February and March and we will keep readers updated throughout the process.
Commissioners Reject Striped Bass Proposal by Dan Bacher
"Since the striped bass fishery has declined from some 3 to 4 million adult fish in the 1960’s to 650,000 today, its collapse has paralleled that of several runs of listed salmonids that utilize the Bay-Delta estuary," stated John Beuttler of the Allied Fishing Groups. "It’s clear all of these fisheries are not being managed on a sustainable basis."
Commission rejects striped bass eradication proposal
by Dan Bacher
In a move celebrated by anglers and conservationists, the California Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento on Thursday, February 2 took final action to reject the Department of Fish and Game’s controversial proposed changes to striped bass regulations.
In a unanimous 4-0 decision, Commissioners voted not to pursue a proposal that would have liberalized sport fishing regulations related to anadromous striped bass, including increasing bag limits and decreasing size limits. Hundreds of anglers from an array of fishing groups attended the meeting and dozens spoke in opposition to what they described as the striped bass “eradication” proposal.
“This is great victory for northern California, its water, ecosystem and species,” said Victor Gonella, President of the Board of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA).
The GGSA opposed the DFG plan – and submitted an alternate proposal to the DFG plan focusing on reducing the pumping of Delta water and identifying and eliminating “hot spots” where striped bass and other predators congregate to prey on juvenile salmon.
Commission President Jim Kellogg made the motion after speaking passionately about his eyewitness experience with the results of export pumping when he worked from 1966 to 1969 on installing the first pumping station on the South Delta for the State Water Project.
“I was there when Governor Reagan was there to cut the ribbon on the completion of 7 pumps, including 4 big ones and 3 small ones,” said Kellogg. When the small pumps were turned on, he witnessed large numbers of fish going into the canal.
“There is more to this than striped bass predation – it’s about water pumping and saltwater intrusion in the Delta,” he noted. “And invasive species are just as big an issue, not just fish species but plants also.”
Kellogg, like many anglers in the room, noted that the striped bass and listed salmon and Delta smelt had coexisted for 130 years. He also declared that striped bass are a “native species” in California, since they have been here for so long.
“Nobody’s got an answer on how this is done, or who declares it, so I’m going to declare the striped bass a native species of the state of California,” he said.
Commissioner Dan Richards seconded the motion – and then the 4 Commissioners, including Jack Baylis and Michael Sutton, voted against the DFG proposal. The anglers in the room gave a standing ovation to the Commission after their vote.
A panel of three representatives of the Allied Fishing Groups, including John Beuttler, Dave Hurley and Mike McKenzie, voiced their “complete opposition” to the DFG’s proposed changes to the striped bass sport fishing regulations for a number of reasons. The Allied Fishing Groups include 40 organizations and businesses, including the Black Bass Action Commitee, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Dan Blanton’s StripeFest, Delta Fly Fishers, California Striped Bass Association and Recreational Fishing Alliance.
“Adopting this proposal would be a violation of the Department’s and the Commission’s fiduciary obligations to hold the public’s fish and wildlife resources in trust and manage them at sustainable population levels in accord with the Commission’s policies and statutory responsibilities including your striped bass management policy,” said Beuttler.
“Since the striped bass fishery has declined from some 3 to 4 million adult fish in the 1960’s to 650,000 today, its collapse has paralleled that of several runs of listed salmonids that utilize the Bay-Delta estuary. It’s clear all of these fisheries are not being managed on a sustainable basis,” stated Beuttler.
The proposal that was introduced by the DFG arose out of a settlement agreement resulting from a 2008 lawsuit. In that lawsuit, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, an agribusiness Astroturf group consisting of San Joaquin Valley water districts, claimed that striped bass are “harming” native species, including endangered Central Valley chinook salmon and steelhead and Delta smelt.
Representatives from the Coalition, Department of Fish and Game and NOAA Fisheries spoke in favor of the proposal.
“We believe a yes vote is justified,” said DFG Director Chuck Bonham. “Striped bass predation is not the only factor or even the most significant factor in the decline of salmon and other listed species – but any angler who fishes for stripers sees how they predate on salmon.”
Bonham emphasized that striped bass predation is a “controllable” factor in reducing salmon and Delta smelt mortality. “This controllable factor is addressable by you through this proposal,” said Bonham. Michael Boccadoro of the Dolphin Group, a spokesman for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, vowed further litigation if the Commission didn’t approve the striper eradication proposal.
“If the proposal is rejected, it only gets kicked backed into the federal courts,” said Boccadoro.
Three executives of Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms in Kern County founded the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. Resnick is the politically connected Beverly Hills billionaire who has made tens of millions of dollars annually from buying and reselling water back to the public for a big profit.
The Coalition claimed that the striped bass, an East Coast fish introduced to the Sacramento over 130 years ago, should not be protected because the fish prey on protected chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
Anglers accused the Coalition of trying to blame striped bass “predation” for the decline of salmon and smelt in order to divert attention from record exports out of the Delta in recent years that resulted in the 2008-2009 Central Valley fall salmon collapse, in addition to the collapse of Delta smelt, longsfin smelt, threadfin shad, young striped bass and other species. The coalition’s backers want to divert more Delta water to San Joaquin Valley growers and southern California.
While supporters of Central Valley and Delta fish restoration scored a victory against the water contractors Thursday, this is one battle in a war by corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies to take more water from the Delta. The same water contractors advocating for the striped bass eradication proposal are collaborating with the Brown and Obama adminstrations to build the peripheral canal, a project that would result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species.
“This is a victory for any fisherman in Northern California, and a clear defeat of the agricorporations’ thinly-veiled greedy water grab,” said Jim Cox, President of the California Striped Bass Association, West Delta Chapter. “Had these changes been enacted, the striped bass would have been potentially fished to extinction, with no clear benefit to the salmon and delta smelt this was supposed to be protecting.
"The biological end of the DFG was forced to compile these regulation changes by the legal end of the Department to settle a lawsuit. Hoorah to the integrity of the Fish and Game Commission to see through this ‘fishery management by lawsuit’ and defend the autonomy of the regulation process. Particular credit goes to outgoing Commission President Jim Kellogg who, as his last piece of business in his two year term as President, declared striped bass a native species,” Cox concluded.
KLAMATH DAM REMOVAL NEPA/CEQA HEARINGS UNDERWAY OCTOBER: After more than two years of intensive study, the much-awaited Klamath Settlement Agreements’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), as well as the “Detailed Plan” for dam removal, have both now been released as of 21 September. As required by the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA), the federal government is considering whether the option of four-dam removal (J.C. Boyle, CopCo Dams 1 & 2, and Iron Gate Dam), and the restoration of a free-flowing Klamath River for the first time in more than 90 years, will benefit Klamath salmon and local communities. Under the KHSA, the U.S. Secretary of Interior is required to make a “go” or “no go” decision on whether to remove these four dams by March 31, 2012, with the presumption that if this “Secretarial Determination” is positive, the actual dam removal will most likely be done by designated federal agencies. The actual funding FOR dam removal, however, will be paid for entirely out of non-federal funds, including a $200 million contribution from the company PacifiCorp (Pacific Power) which owns the dams. Both the Oregon and California Public Utilities Commission (PUCs) have already approved dam removal under the KHSA as the best -- and by far the least costly -- option for PacifiCorp’s customers. Dam removal is estimated to cost $290 million, while keeping and relicensing these four aging dams is estimated to cost $500 million or more – far more than the value of the small amounts of power (only 62 MW) they could then still produce.
Making such a decision, however, and the required concurrence in such a decision by the States of Oregon and California, requires not only a full environmental impacts analysis under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but also a parallel analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The DEIS thus also serves as the Draft Environment Impacts Report (DEIR) under CEQA. Oregon, which has no state NEPA-equivalent, is piggy-backing on the California CEQA process to inform its own decision on concurrence.
The KHSA, and a companion 50-year watershed and salmon habitat restoration agreement called the “Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA),” were signed by nearly 40 key Klamath Basin stakeholder groups (including PCFFA and IFR), on 18 February 2010, with a great deal of fanfare. The two Settlement Agreements are an attempt by Klamath Basin stakeholders to put decades of acrimonious water and natural resources conflicts behind them, and to chart out a more sustainable economic future for farmers, fishermen and Tribal communities throughout the basin. Klamath fisheries disasters in 2002 and resulting closures in 2006 cost the west coast salmon fishing economy more than $200 million. For more about the importance of the Klamath to our fisheries see: www.pcffa.org/fn-aug01.htm.
Informational hearings and public comment sessions on the DEIS will be held from 1630 HRS to 2000 HRS in each location as follows:
* 18 October: Klamath Falls, OR:Klamath County Fairgrounds, 3531 S. Sixth St.
* 19 October: Chiloquin, OR:Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S. 1st Street.
* 20 October: Yreka, CA:Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds, 1712 Fairlane Rd.
* 25 October: Orleans, CA:Karuk Tribe Community Room, 39051 Highway 96.
* 26 October: Arcata, CA:321 Community Park Way.
* 27 October: Klamath, CA:Yurok Tribal Administration Office, 190 Klamath Blvd.
Written public comments are due by 5 PM Pacific Time on 21 November, 2011, and can be sent to: Klamath Draft EIS/EIR Comments, c/o Elizabeth Vasquez, MP150, Bureau of Reclamation, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825, or by fax to (916)978-5055, or by email (PDF format preferred) to email@example.com. Written comments should also be sent to Gordon Lepping, Cal. Dept. of Fish & Game, 619 Second Street, Eureka, CA 95501, by fax to (707)441-2021, or by email to: KSDcomments@dfg.ca.gov.
Copies of the Draft EIS/EIR, as well as copies of all the many technical reports and studies the Draft EIS/EIR relies on, are downloadable from: www.klamathrestoration.gov, as well as more details about each public hearing. The full KHSA and KBRA Agreements are also available from that web site. For a good non-governmental source of information on the two Settlement Agreements, also see the Karuk Tribe web site at: www.klamathrestoration.org. For more about the importance of the Klamath Settlement Agreement to west coast salmon fishermen see: www.pcffa.org/fn-jul10.htm.
SENATOR KERRY TO INTRODUCE BILL TO PROVIDE FOR SECURE FISHERY SCIENCE FUNDING:On 3 October, at the opening of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee’s field hearing in Boston, U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) announced that he will introduce legislation to provide a secure revenue source for a national fishery trust fund needed to support the nation’s fishery science needs. Financial support for fishery research and data collection is more critical than ever since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act (MSA) mandates science-based fishery management for federal fish stocks.
Senator Kerry’s bill, the Fishery Research & Conservation Investment Act would provide a revenue source, by tapping Saltonstall-Kennedy Act monies, for the national fishery trust fund that was inserted in the 2006 MSA reauthorization by the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The S-K Act was established in 1954 by Massachusetts’ then-Senators, Leverett Saltonstall (R) and John Kennedy (D), to provide financial assistance to the fishing industry; it is funded through a tariff on fish products. A portion of the S-K revenues go to the Department of Agriculture and those that go to fisheries have been used by the agency -- first the old Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and, now, National Marine Fisheries Service -- for a variety of purposes including market promotion following passage of the Fishery Conservation & Management Act in 1976 (now referred to as the MSA) as part of the “Americanization” of the 200-mile fishery conservation zone (now the EEZ). But most recently NOAA and NMFS have been using S-K funds to promote open-ocean aquaculture and as back-up funding for other agency programs.
In his opening statement Monday in Boston, Senator Kerry said he was introducing “the Fishery Research & Conservation Investment Act to focus federal funding under the Kennedy-Saltonstall Act on identifying the critical research, conservation and management needs in each fishery region. My legislation would make sure that these federal funds go where they were originally intended…… Under this legislation, each fishery region will develop a five-year fishery investment plan that specifically addresses their needs, with money from the Kennedy-Saltonstall fund being used to implement those plans. Because our fishermen will be involved in developing these plans, we will be able to better tailor solutions to solve the problems…..”
A national fishery trust fund to provide a secure revenue source for fishery research and other fishery needs has long been promoted by PCFFA (see the August 2003 issue of The Fishermen’s News, “Planning and Paying for Future Fisheries Research,” www.pcffa.org/fn-aug03.htm). Currently, federal fishery programs, including research and data collection, are funded annually through the Congressional appropriations process. These are discretionary funds and fishery needs are forced to compete with other compelling national priorities, including school lunch programs and national defense, and have seldom been sufficient to meet fishery science needs in the best of times. Now, with major cuts expected in all discretionary funds in order to reduce the federal deficit, appropriations for fishery science will be even tighter. A trust fund would provide an alternative revenue source outside of the annual appropriations process.
Recreational anglers have their own Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF). The Sport Fish Restoration Program, established in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Act, established a 10 percent excise tax on certain fishing equipment to fund projects designed to enhance recreational fishing. The Recreational Boating Safety Program was established in 1971 to fund boating safety and education programs, and amended in 1980 to draw its funding from taxes on motorboat fuels. These programs were combined in 1984 under the Wallop-Breaux Act to create the SFRBTF. The Wallop-Breaux amendment expanded the 10 percent excise tax to nearly all sportfishing equipment and captured over half of the federal motorboat fuel taxes that were paid by boaters and anglers. This combination substantially increased the funds collected by the federal government to be returned to the states for fishing and boating-related projects such as sport fishery restoration, wetlands conservation, boat safety and boating access programs. In 2005, Congress reauthorized the transfer of all motorboat and small engine fuel taxes to the SFRBTF. It is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and all funds are awarded to the states on a grants program. There is, however, no dedicated trust fund for commercial fishing or necessary ocean fishery research.
In the 2006 MSA reauthorization, Senators Stevens and Boxer inserted the language for a national fishery trust fund, but no substantive revenue source was identified. PCFFA and IFR have continued to push for the trust fund, but it’s never been a “sexy issue” and has been difficult, as a result, to get the attention of other fishing groups, conservation organizations, and most Members of Congress. Fisheries are not alone -- both the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommended establishment of an ocean trust fund, and it was only this summer that legislation was finally introduced – the “National Endowment for the Ocean Act” by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) (S. 973).
Earlier this year PCFFA sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he initiate discussions on the establishment of such a trust fund – or, more correctly, identifying a revenue source for the MSA fishery trust fund (see www.pcffa.org/FishFundingLtrtoPresident-17Mar11.pdf). This August, PCFFA in its monthly Fishermen’s News column again called for fishery trust fund discussions (see Revisiting Fishery Research Funding, www.pcffa.org/FN0811_PCFFA.pdf) in light of the MSA science-based fishery management mandates and federal deficit reductions. And then last week IFR President Pietro Parravano, who co-authored the earlier Fishermen’s News columns on a fishery trust fund, wrote a letter the President on the American Jobs Act, suggesting infrastructure projects that would help fisheries and stressing the need for a trust fund to support fishery science.
The uncertainty of funding for fishery science has already, along with misgivings regarding some of the existing science, led to bills being introduced in Congress to allow the science to be waived in fishery management where there is none or people are unhappy with it (HR 2304), or to waive the rebuilding guidelines which may give some immediate relief but, in reality, would just extend the misery of trying to fish depleted stocks. A stable funding source for fishery science should help data-poor fisheries and improve the quality of the science for others.
“I want to thank Senator Kerry for introducing this critical legislation,” said Parravano. “This is not just for New England, it helps fishermen and fishing communities across the nation. Our fishery management is based on science, and this bill will help to ensure that we will have the science which is the underpinning for sustainable fisheries.” For more information check out Senator Kerry’s opening statement to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:http://kerry.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Senator%20Kerry%20Opening%20Statement1.pdf.
JUDGE WANGER’S FINAL DECISION FAVORABLE TO SALMON: On Judge Wanger’s last day serving on the federal bench, he granted summary judgment to NMFS and Intervener PCFFA in a case brought by San Joaquin River Group Authority (SJRGA) seeking to close down most of the west coast ocean salmon fishery. SJRGA believed that the harvest of chinook salmon from the California Central Valley might interfere with the water diversions of the San Joaquin River for purposes of industrial agribusiness and Southern California’s water needs. But the fall run salmon season was opened because of the calculated abundance of chinook salmon this year, nearly 730,000! Judge Wanger agreed that the fall run salmon harvest allocation this year complied with both the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and that SJRGA would not be significantly harmed and thus did not have a sufficient interest to argue the claims they asserted in the lawsuit. This is also known as “lack of standing.” Without such standing, SJRGA has no “genuine dispute” and thus no cause of action against NMFS in federal court.
The Magnson-Stevens Act’s purpose is to promote the growth and preservation of fishery resources but does not state that fishing needs to stop in order to achieve these goals. The Pacific Salmon Fishery Management Plan complies with the Act in recommending measures to achieve conservation for each stock via analysis of “escapement” or the number of adult salmon that return from the saltwater to freshwater to spawn. This form of analysis is used to determine long term maximum sustainable yield.
Judge Wanger’s ruling is good news for California’s environment and economy. Salmon is one of the nation’s most sought after fish. But in 2008 and 2009, Delta-origin chinook salmon populations typically migrating off California and Oregon severely declined due to poor water quality of the San Joaquin River Delta caused by meeting competing goals to divert ever more Delta water to corporate agribusiness and for Southern California needs. Popular opposition is also growing to the proposed “peripheral canal” construction intended to take even more water out of the Delta because of the likelihood that additional diversions would result in the extinction of many fish species that are already on the decline, including chinook salmon. For more information check out the 30 September article in the Los Angeles Times found at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/09/commercial-salmon-fishing-pacific-coast.html.
MOKELUMNE RIVER AND ITS SALMON GET GOOD NEWS: California’s East Bay Municipal Utility District's (EBMUD) salmon hatchery will see a healthier return of adult salmon this year after federal water managers agreed to close a set of gates for 10 days beginning 4 October to help migrating fish find their way home in the Sierra foothills. It is just the second time the gates have been closed to help fish return to the Mokelumne River, said Richard Sykes, EBMUD's manager of natural resources. Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates for just two days in October.
Salmon anglers were very excited. "It's going to be tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of additional fish in the ocean" three years from now, said Dick Pool, a Concord fishing tackle manufacturer and Golden Gate Salmon Association Director.
Normally, a channel that connects the Sacramento and Mokelumne Rivers is open through October so that the higher-flowing Sacramento River can push through the central San Francisco Bay Delta to keep brackish water further to the west. That maintains better water quality for Delta pumps and the Contra Costa Water District's intakes in the Delta. But this year's wet conditions eased concerns about salt reaching into the Delta, making the order to close the gates, which was issued late last week, to come easier.
The move could help fish in two ways. It could reduce the high rate of straying, which biologists say is bad because it leads to interbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity. It could also lead to more salmon overall because the hatchery can produce more baby salmon and truck them to San Pablo Bay.
EBMUD is hoping that 5,000 or more adult salmon return to their hatchery, which is on the Mokelumne River immediately downstream of one of its dams. It can produce as many as 6 million fish. The closure should also help improve natural spawning numbers in the Mokelumne. For more information check out the 3 October article from the Contra Costa Times: www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19031925?source=rss.
GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS SHARK FIN BAN BILL IN CALIFORNIA:By 2013, a measure to ban the “possession, sale, and distribution of imported shark fins” will take effect in California. Bill AB 376 signed Friday, 7 October 2011 by Governor Jerry Brown should have a major impact on the practice of cutting the fins off sharks and subsequently throwing them back in the ocean. Asian food markets in California have been a major market for shark fins in the past. The ban on importation of fins into the state will begin January 1, 2013. Fins already present in the state may be sold and possessed up until July 1, 2013. For more information check out the 8 October article from the San Francisco Chronicle: www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/07/BABD1LEU1T.DTL&tsp=1.
GULF OF MEXICO REELS FROM LONG-TERM DEVASTATION WHILE RESTORATION PLAN IS COMPLETED:More than a year after the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, studies on local killifish or “cocahoe” populations indicate “early warning indicators” for population-wide effects of the spill on Gulf of Mexico wildlife. Killifish help indicate the health of the estuary because it is “plentiful, found across the system” and an essential component of the ecosystem food chain. While the toxins found in the cells of these minnow like fish are at levels officially labeled “undetectable,” there still effects from these levels on their reproductive systems, indicating long-term biological changes. Read more from this article here, http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/10/presidential_gulf_coast_task_f.html.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force compiled an extensive list of strategies and actions to be taken in order to repair the damage done and the long-term threats to Gulf wildlife. This recent report encourages the use of funds generated from fines to BP under the Clean Water for initiatives to restore the habitat and prevent species from being exposed over long periods of time. Long-term exposure, even at relatively low levels, is the greatest threat to the ecosystem at this point. The plan calls among other actions, for the Army Corps of Engineers to increase dredging to rebuild wetlands, expedite construction of river diversions, increase funding for studies to indicate best practices for the use of the Mississippi’s water and sediment, expansion of conservation areas, capture of nutrient run off from upstream farms to reduce the Dead Zone, and revision of fishery management plans – all part of nineteen major measures identified in the plan.
Critics of the plan had hoped for more specific suggestions for necessary steps toward the goal of habitat restoration. However, having five states of the Gulf speak together in support of “navigation and flood damage risk reduction” is a powerful statement in favor of the report. It identifies four goals for habitat restoration, water quality improvements, replenishment of coastal and marine resources, and resilience to natural threats, which the Task Force hopes will be furthered by volunteer programs, federal agencies, and state cooperation. The plan hopes to support these goals under considerations of fiscal constraint by uniting these agencies and setting priorities.
After approval of a more specific draft of proposed long term strategies once this has been formulated by these organizations, then short-term, long-term and in between tasks will be developed to attain those goals. For more information check out the 5 October Science article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/10/panel-draws-gulf-coast-restoration.html?ref=em&elq=80375f6bda3743918659f2326e17082a.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FACES COLLAPSING SEA BASS STOCKS:Southern Calkfornia’s kelp bass and barred sand bass are down 90% in population since 1980 due to overfishing and warmer ocean temperatures, reports a new Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego study. Kelp bass and bared sand bass are some of the most popular and easiest fish to catch in that region. The sea bass populations arrive off the coast of Southern California in the summer. Fishermen seeing their schools believe them to be in abundance but scientists say that this is a false apparition.
Because the fish are caught in areas where they gather in large groups to spawn, it appears only that the populations are healthy and thriving. Some sport fishermen have noticed their overall decline over the past couple of years. Yet, others say that with the kelp boom in Santa Monica Bay that they have not seen a bass population decline. Some argue that dwindling food supplies and increased predation are also likely causes for population decline.
The study investigated the health of the sand bass stocks which concluded that their decline closely parallels that of other “fisheries in peril.” In reflecting on the study, researches believe that by taking the proper preventative measures, the fish “could rebound.” For more information check out the 3 October Los Angeles Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/03/local/la-me-fish-collapse-20111003.
OCTOBER IS SALMON MONTH WITH SALMONAID:Join SalmonAID and its member organizations in celebrating salmon all October long in and all around the San Francisco Bay area. Visit San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay anytime during October and you'll find information and exhibits, as well as these special events: 8-9 and 22-23 October – “Wild About Salmon” weekends with salmon themed activities for kids
Other Salmon Month Events:
** 1 October - Morro Bay Harbor Festival
** 8 October - Calling Back the Salmon Ceremony on the Yuba River
** 13 October - Dine Out for Salmon, all over the Bay Area
** 24 October - Salmon Cinema night, with a screening of Red Gold
** 25 October - Frankenfish Trivia Night
** 22, 29 October - Salmon Viewing Tours on the South Yuba River
Aquarium of the Bay is located in San Francisco, at the intersection of Beach St. and The Embarcadero.
The SalmonAid Foundation raises awareness of the plight of west coast salmon populations, the rivers and streams they spawn in, and the many coastal and inland communities that rely on salmon for their livelihoods and survival. It highlights the natural history of salmon, as well as the history, culture and traditions of salmon peoples -- from Morro Bay, California to Bristol Bay, Alaska, and inland to Idaho and Nevada. By uniting commercial, Tribal, and sportfishing interests with conservation organizations and chefs, the SalmonAID Foundation celebrates and motivates people to restore our wild salmon runs and free-flowing rivers. For more information check out the SalmonAID website: http://www.salmonaid.org.
Budgets, Billionaires, Bonds, Big Profits and the Brown Family – Part One
By Patrick Porgans and Lloyd G. Carter
Editor’s note: This is a two-part series. Part One focuses on how the wealthy and landed have used the public bond process in California to further their own interests, while promoting and profiting from the state’s “budget crisis.” Part Two, which will run August 8, focuses on the family legacy of Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, who first mastered the art of selling water bonds half a century ago, to finance the construction of the State Water Project, which was sold as a project that would pay for itself. It never has.
California’s 90 billionaires (according to Forbes Magazine ) and 662,735 millionaires  got rich in a lot of different ways. But, there are those billionaires that thirst for more.
A few of California’s land rich billionaires – whose wealth, ultimately, depends on water - have had a significant role in using the “system” (tax-base revenue, credit rating, and natural resources) to promote and support issuances of tens of billions of dollars of General Obligation (GO) bonds to fund vested interest public works projects, particularly water and water-related grant programs which considerably enhance the value of their land. And the grant money, often used to build local water district infrastructure and help fund developers, is free. At the same time, they are having the public pay to increase their water supply, and are selling this water back to the public at astronomically high prices.
A government grant-funded study, conducted at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management,  University of California, Santa Barbara, indicates that from 1987 through 2008, an estimated $3.9 billion in water water-transfer sales/profits were made. The profiteers included some of the state’s richest billionaires. As the saying goes, in California water runs uphill and toward money.
These GO bonds fund a myriad of state programs and finance massive public works projects that directly aid the landed gentry. These include billionaires like Orange County real estate king Donald Bren, who reportedly owns 110,000 acres, and has a
“Master Plan ” to develop significant portions of land (http://www.goodplanning.org/Master-Plan/default.aspx ).
Bren is a close friend of former Gov. Pete Wilson, who was an employee of Bren’s before and after serving as governor. There is also Beverly Hills resident Stewart Resnick (now the biggest “farmer” in California with 200,000 acres in Kern and Kings counties) and there are the heirs of cotton king J.G. Boswell . The Boswell family owns 200,000 acres of farmland in the Tulare Basin and want to build a city  of 30,000 on land they own in the Tulare County foothills. They profit directly when California’s voters fund multi-billion bond projects to export Northern California water south to industrial farm fields in the western San Joaquin Valley or to the never-ending desert subdivisions in the Southland.
Tejon Ranch , now owned by Cattellus  (another billionaire outfit which morphed from the railroads), owns 270,000 acres straddling the “Grapevine” Interstate 5 route over the Tehachapis. It is the largest block of private land in California. The combined acreage for just these four companies (Bren, Resnick, Boswell, Catellus) exceeds 780,000 acres. And all four of these Big Money players already are engaged in filling their unquenchable thirst for a more “reliable” source of water from the north. And, of course, next year, voters will be asked to fund yet another $11 billion water bond measure (which will take $22 billion to pay off) to move yet more water south.
You can count on Team Billionaire - which includes the billionaires, major landholders, chambers of commerce, local water districts (most of which are members of the Association of California Water Agencies), banks, investment firms, and all manner of Southern California real estate and development interests - to spend huge amounts of money to convince voters to approve water-related GO bond measures.
According to the state’s Department of Finance’s (DOF) website, there are currently a total of $150 billion in GO bonds  which have been approved by the voters in the past few decades, of which a total of $79.6 billion has been issued and is being repaid from the General Fund.
To put the $79.6 billion debt in perspective, in Governor Jerry Brown’s recently approved 2011-2012 state budget totaled $129 billion , Approximately $86 billion
came from General Fund revenues, the remaining amount come from special funds and other bonds. The principle and interest payments on the outstanding G.O. bond debt is in excess of $136 billion;  includes fixed and variable rate estimates on bonds.
Of the $79.6 billion of GO bond debt (principle), an estimated $19.4 billion was authorized primarily for water programs, including buying water for fish; mitigation, wildlife conservation easements, studies, drought relief, local irrigation, flood protection, and municipal water district infrastructure projects. Add at least another $13 billion in interest to pay off the $19.4 billion in water bonds and you have a total water-related public debt of at least $32.4 billion; comparatively speaking, it represents about 40 percent of the cost to run the state General Fund programs.
It is estimated that it takes close to $1 billion annually from the state’s deficit-ridden General Fund to service just the GO water- and water-related bonds that have been issued. This amount represents about 15 percent of the annual repayment obligation of all existing GO bond debt; the figure is expected to go higher.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer says payment of the interest and principal on all GO bonds is a crushing $10 billion a year –amounting to nearly a tenth of the state’s General Fund – and is expected to keep rising each year. This addiction to bonds is a principle reason for the draconian state budget cuts in education, police and fire services, and programs for the elderly and disabled that occurred in recent years. Indeed, to meet those bond obligations, California has cut $115.7 billion from the state budget in the last three fiscal years.
During the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s bond debt doubled as the “no more taxes” crowd simply turned to bonds to get the public to foot the bill for water projects, programs and other infrastructure financing to sustain and expand their publicly subsidized business ventures, most for agribusiness and new Southern California subdivisions on the desert.
What the billionaires know, of course, is that GO bonds are still being used to pay off the $1.75 billion State Water Project (SWP) which former Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown sold to the public back in 1960 as a project that would “pay for itself.” It has never come close to paying for itself and it could take an additional $63 billion, according to the California Department of Water Resources, to make real the water
which Brown, Sr. promised a half century ago. In fact, SWP contractors, many of who supported the original GO bond debt, have vehemently refused to take responsibility for bearing the burden of the $32.4 billion in water-related bond debt; as SWP beneficiaries, by law, they are required to pay certain costs. Instead, they have passed it on to the unsuspecting public with the help of their campaign-supported elected officials.
In addition, water bonds promoted under the fear tactic of “safe, clean, reliable” water have been issued for water projects that directly benefit SWP urban and agribusiness contractors. Such bonds are much easier to sell to unwitting voters than raising taxes first to pay for things society needs, which is always a tough sell for politicians. A bond, it turns out, is a tax but a hidden one. The water-guzzling land billionaires are hoping they can float one more bond by the voters next year.
Budgets, Billionaires, Bonds, Big Profits and the Brown Family – Part Two
The Browns and 50-Years of GO Bond Debts
By Patrick Porgans and Lloyd G. Carter
Editor’s Note: In Part One of this two-part series, Porgans and Carter showed how land-rich but water-short Southern California billionaires are pushing an $11 billion bond measure on the 2012 ballot to enhance their holdings. Part Two examines the legacy of Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown and his two children, current Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown and Kathleen Brown, and their connection to public bonds, budget deficits, the Bay-Delta Estuary conflict, and the November 2012 water bond measure.
You can count on Team Billionaire, which includes the actual billionaires, chambers of commerce, local water districts, banks, and all manner of Southern California real estate and development interests, to spend huge amounts of campaign contribution money to convince voters to approve an $11 billion water-related General Obligation (GO) bond measure on next year’s statewide ballot.
Based on the Team’s track record it has been very successful. In 2006, under then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a first string team member, voters were persuaded to approve more than $40 billion in GO bonds, which will cost $80 billion to repay. According to the state’s Department of Finance director, for every dollar borrowed with GO bonds two dollars must be paid back for interest and principal.
Over time, that $80 billion will be repaid from the state’s deficit-ridden General Fund, and could trigger even more cuts of General Fund programs in future state budgets. However, Team Billionaire players are not telling that to voters as they stump for next year’s water bond.
This consortium of “team players” reincarnated an ingenious financing scheme that was first pushed back in 1960 by Gov. Pat Brown, and Ralph Brody, a former Brown aide and later general manager of the Westlands Water District. Back in November 1960, Pat Brown narrowly succeeded in getting voters to approve a $1.75 billion General Obligation (GO) bond to fund the State Water Project (SWP). The project, including reservoirs and a massive canal, was designed to move huge amounts of Northern California water south to the industrial farms of the southern San Joaquin Valley and the ever-growing subdivisions of Southern California.
Brown Sr., along with large landowners in the arid regions of the state, lending institutions such as Bank America, Wells Fargo, and others, successfully sold the SWP to voters under the false premise that it would pay-for-itself; it never has. It hasn’t even come close.
According to government records, about 30 percent of the $1.75 billion State Water Project bond authorized in 1960 remains unpaid. The money to repay that debt and other GO bond debt is derived directly out of the state’s so-called deficit-ridden General Fund, a portion coming from SWP contractors. According to the state Department of Water Resources (DWR), capital costs for the State Water Project already exceeds $9 billion; and estimates to complete the project have been as high as $63 billion.
In October 1960, a report by consultant Charles T. Main, declared it was feasible to engineer the massive water works project, but gave qualified answers to the question of financial feasibility. It pointed out the probability that construction costs would escalate, questioned the future ability of agricultural water users to repay their share of the costs, and declared that the state must be prepared to assume the risk that it might not be completely reimbursed during the bond repayment period. Specifically, it stated that the Burns-Porter Act (enabling legislation) fell slightly short of providing construction funds on the basis of 1960 costs, according to a state Senate Committee report, issued during the SWP’s 1960s economic and financial crises.
Pat Brown, in a 1979 interview with a University of California-Berkeley Bancroft Library oral historian, said “We were questioning could we pass a bond act of $1.75 billion? We didn’t know exactly the cost of the project. We hadn’t priced it out to any exactitude. As a matter of fact, we thought it would cost more than the $1.75 billion, probably in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion.”
During that interview Brown also confirmed the fact that what his financial and engineering consultants (Charles T. Main and Dillon Reed) told him back in 1960: the SWP would face financial and structural shortcomings, and the state should be prepared to cover future costs; cost directly attributable to the fact that it had been knowingly underfinanced from the start.
Former Gov. Ronald Reagan confirmed this in a San Francisco Chronicle interview, stating, “The project was underfinanced from the very start. It is not my intention to dwell on this, but people were allowed to believe that the original bond issue would cover the program [SWP] cost. This was never true.”
The records indicate that the SWP has and continues to go from one financial crisis to the next; however, that has not impeded the contractors’ ability to profit from the water and power they receive from the SWP. In the process, government officials and SWP contractors have shifted a significant portion of the “reimbursable costs” of the project - which the contractors are required to pay – to the unsuspecting public in the form of GO bond debt. Indeed, a 2007 study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that “some two-thirds of respondents admitted they knew very little or nothing about how the state pays for bond measures.”
Department of Water Resources records indicate that SWP agricultural contractors include billionaire families including the J.G. Boswell heirs; Orange County land baron Donald Bren; Stewart and Linda Resnick, who own 200,000 acres of farmland in Kings and Kern counties; and the Catellus Corporation, which holds the largest private bloc of land in California in the Tehachapi Mountains. In addition, southern San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts, and other major landowners, over the decades have been the recipients of more than one hundred million acre-feet of water at cut rate prices (until recently), and have harvested billions of dollars of profits from the agricultural products made possible by the SWP.
Up until the mid-1980s, the SWP economic, financial and so-called water related shortages and related crises were dealt with in the low-key “government has it under control mode.” A more accurate assessment of the SWP’s financial condition surfaced in the late 1980s and again in the mid-1990s, when Porgans & Associates produced a series of in-depth, fact-finding reports entitled “The State of The State Water Project.”
The facts contained in that series of reports were used in legislative hearing and within the regulatory processes to provide decision-makers with unbiased findings, prefaced on government data, reports and other official documents. Irrefutable facts revealed that the SWP was not paying for itself as promised. Instead, the unsuspecting public has been picking up the tab to provide SWP contractors with a more reliable source of supply. In some cases, the SWP contractors buy water cheap from the public and sell it back to the public at fat profits.
Here is an indisputable fact. Between the years 2000 and 2010, $19.4 billion of outstanding water- and water-related bond debt was incurred, which amounts to about 25 percent of the state’s existing total authorized bond debt of $79.6 billion. Again, repaying bonds generally doubles the amount of money the bonds generated.
Ironically, Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., in his second go-around as governor, has once again inherited the financial shortcomings associated with the misleading promises made 50 years ago by his father. During Jerry Brown’s first administration as governor (from 1975 to 1983), he supported efforts to complete the already faltering SWP by supporting a 1982 ballot (Senate Bill 200, also known as Proposition 9), a measure to build a “Peripheral Canal” through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region.
In the aftermath of voter rejection of the 1982 Peripheral Canal measure, Jerry Brown was quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying it didn’t matter what the voters decided, that the peripheral canal would be built some day. In that same issue of the
Sacramento Bee, it was reported that then Assemblyman Tom Bates, and his aide, Lenny Goldberg, used Porgans’ reports to require DWR and the SWP to repay an estimated $500 million in debt, with a significant portion going back into the General Fund.
However, the real financial weaknesses of the State Water Project, as predicted by Porgans & Associates, came during the 1987-1992 drought. The Department of Water Resources conceded the SWP was short of cash and began issuing “commercial paper” for the first time in the project’s history, just to buy water so that its agricultural contractors would remain solvent, and the state’s credit rating would not go down the tubes. This tactic raised questions about the legality of DWR issuing commercial paper, which is a type of loan.
Now, there are indications that Jerry Brown is once again following in his father’s financing footsteps. Brown Jr. recently appointed Jerry Meral to be deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency in charge of the Bay Delta Conservation Planning Program.
Meral served as deputy director of the Department of Water Resources during Brown's first administration in the early 1980s. Prior to that, Meral worked for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), at which time he was anti-canal. After taking his position with DWR, Meral became an advocate for the failed 1982 Peripheral Canal ballot measure. Critics now say Meral is again Brown's point man for implementing the so-called preferred Delta "fix", which could include a massive canal/tunnel to funnel Northern California around the beleaguered Bay-Delta Estuary and ship more water south.
Many of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s pro-canal appointees to the Delta Stewardship Council and other water agency positions have not been replaced by Brown. And Brown has the same Director of Finance, Ana Matosantos, who served under Schwarzenegger. The move to reduce the budget and make room to issue more GO bonds also indicates that Brown and his supporters are paving the way to move more water south, duplicating his father’s efforts of half a century ago.
Jerry Brown’s sister, Kathleen Brown, who served as state treasurer and ran for governor against Pete Wilson in 1994, has also played a key role in the California water bond phenomena.
Kathleen Brown went to work for the financial institution Goldman Sachs in 2001 and became the head of its West Coast municipal bond operation.
According to the state Department of Finance (DOF), $79.6 billion of general obligation (GO) bonds which have been issued by the state, were managed, marketed and syndicated by financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and others.
Public records show that about 17 percent of the General Obligation bonds which have been issued by the state were underwritten or managed through Goldman Sachs, generating hefty profits.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Kathleen Brown, has moved to a newly-created similar post in Goldman Sachs’ Chicago office now that her brother is governor again.
“Kathleen is taking on this new role because it broadens her client focus,” Goldman Sachs spokesman Michael DuVally said. “Had she continued to work with California municipalities, it might have created the perception of a conflict of interest.”
Ms. Brown previously held positions at Bank of America and the mega-law firm of O'Melveny & Myers.
It has been more than 50 years since the SWP was authorized and there is no end in sight to the conflicts and costs to the taxpayers and the devastating impact that the project has had on public trust resources. The Bay-Delta Estuary is the hub of major government projects export vast amount of water to contractors in central and southern California. Government has repeatedly promised and failed to provide the protection provided by law to protect the delta. In fact, it is government’s inherent conflict as a water purveyor and regulator that is and remains at the heart and crux of California’s unrelenting water and financial crises.
The beginning of the end for the Bay-Delta Estuary came about in 1994, when DWR and its contractors, along with local water agencies and the “major” environmental groups - such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and the Bay Institute – agreed to what is known as the Bay-Delta Accord. This agreement provided for increased Delta exports. The Accord language, shepherded by Gov. Pete Wilson and billionaires Donald Bren and J.G. Boswell, prohibited listing of additional aquatic species as threatened or endangered, species which were being killed by government water exports.
Recently, government officials released yet another very expensive draft plan, espousing how they are going to protect the Bay-Delta Estuary. As long as water export proponents continue to hold key positions in water agencies, billion dollar plans for giant canals and tunnels to move rivers of water south will remain the state’s plan and the Delta will continue its death spiral.
The massive water bond debt, in part, caused State officials to make $115.7 billion in budget cuts from 2008 through 2011, paring programs for the poor, disabled and raising tuition for college students. At the same time, California officials issued $33.8 billion in General Obligation (GO) bonds, according to public documents obtained from the state Treasurer’s Office. Payback for that ill-advised borrowing binge will cost taxpayers over $67 billion.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest bare bones budget cuts appear to be good news for bond syndicators and investors. A bond rating company, Standard & Poor’s, gave an approving nod to the budget cuts, according to a San Francisco publication.
Recent op-ed articles in the state’s major newspapers by promoters of the 2012 water bond measure, currently estimated at about $11 billion, do not say that it will actually cost $22 billion to pay off the bond. Nor do they say that even more cuts in education, public safety and social programs for the disabled (now financed from the
state’s General Fund) will occur so that big growers in the western San Joaquin Valley can keep irrigating and billionaire real estate barons can continue to grow subdivisions in the Southern California deserts with Northern California water. Taxpayers will remain in bondage to bonds for decades.
State and feds announce "aggressive schedule" for peripheral canal plan
State and federal officials announced in a joint statement on Thursday, August 11 that they have reached "two significant milestones toward assuring a sustainable water supply for California and a healthy Delta ecosystem."
Translation? The Brown and Obama administrations are aggressively forging ahead with one of the most widely-criticized environmental policies of the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration - the plan to build a peripheral canal to export more water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the California Natural Resources Agency have agreed to a schedule for completing an effects analysis and a combined environmental impact statement/environmental impact report (EIR/EIS) as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) by June 2012. They also agreed to considering a "suite of alternatives," including a controversial peripheral canal or tunnel, for evaluation in identifying a proposed project.
“This is an aggressive schedule that will allow us to move clearly forward with BDCP and take the guess work out of next steps,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “Meeting the dual goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability demand a deep commitment from all parties involved.”
“California’s complex water problems require science-based solutions developed as part of a close partnership between the federal and state government, as well as all key stakeholders,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes. “We share the state’s urgency in moving forward with the BDCP as quickly as possible to address the all-important goals of a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply for California.”
The Brown and Obama administrations outlined the agreement regarding the schedule in an exchange of letters between the California Natural Resources Agency and DOI.
"Additionally, state and federal water officials today laid out a broad range of alternatives that are being evaluated in order to enable the California Department of Water Resources to identify a proposed project that will serve as the basis for federal and state permit applications and environmental review," according to Laird and Hayes. "Those alternatives include a variety of conveyance facilities with capacities ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 cubic feet per second. A range of proposals for habitat restoration is also under consideration."
The peripheral canal or tunnel is strongly opposed by a broad coalition of fishing groups, family farmers, grassroots environmentalists, California Indian Tribes, environmental justice communities and Delta residents. Canal opponents believe the project would result in the likely extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species.
"The agencies would like to get the deed done as soon as possible and we intend to put crowbars in the spokes until they address the full range of reasonable alternatives to this boondoggle, which would end the Delta as we know it," said Bill Jennings, chairman/executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). "Diverting 3,000 to 15,000 cfs from the estuary would exacerbate water quality impacts, devastate fisheries and virtually eliminate Delta agriculture and recreation."
In addition, canal opponents point out that the range of proposals for "habitat restoration" focus on taking Delta agricultural land, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to continue irrigating drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Laid also announced that water contractors depending upon Delta water have potentially committed around $100 million to the BDCP process.
“With an agreed upon schedule and impending potential financial commitments of roughly $100 million, the state along with our federal partners can bring us much closer to making our planning efforts a reality,” stated Laird.
wasted on the BDCP.
"In this era of fiscal austerity, it's mind boggling that BDCP officials would try to raise $100 million from California water ratepayers to finance the planning of this boondoggle," said Barrigan-Parrilla.
While Laird has claimed he would make the BDCP process "more inclusive," BDCP critics believe the actions of Laird, and Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, prove otherwise.
For example, the BDCP Management Committee has excluded fishing groups, California tribal nations, California's environmental justice community, Delta agriculture, Delta recreation, Delta reclamation districts, Delta water agencies, the Delta Protection Commission, Delta business groups and Delta marina interests.
The Management Committee includes officials from the Natural Resources Agency, Department of Water Resources, Bureau of Reclamation, Westlands Water District, the State Water Contractors Association, Metropolitan Water District, Kern County Water Agency, Santa Clara Valley Water District, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Nature Conservancy. These are the same agencies and organizations that have presided over the collapse of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, due to record water exports out of the Delta in recent years.
Meanwhile, staggering losses of Sacramento splittail and other fish species in the death pumps of the state and federal water projects on the California Delta continue as the Brown and Obama administrations export record volumes of water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies.
An astounding 8,966,976 splittail, 35,556 chinook salmon, 430,289 striped bass, 54,412 largemouth bass, 69,383 bluegill, 76,570 white catfish, 28,301 channel catfish, 233,174 threadfin shad, 264,171 American shad, 1,642 steelhead and 51 Delta smelt were “salvaged” in the state and federal water export facilities from January 1 to August 2, 2011, according to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) data. However, the overall loss of fish in and around the State Water Project and Central Valley Project facilities is believed to dwarf the actual salvage counts (http://www.counterpunch.org/bacher08052011.html).
For more information about the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, go to: http://www.calsport.org. For more information and action alerts from Restore the Delta, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org.
According to the Natural Resources Agency, "The BDCP is a conservation plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and falls under the federal Endangered Species Act and California Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act. The BDCP is intended to help meet California's co-equal goals for Delta management: water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration. The public draft BDCP, while still under development, includes a set of actions to redesign and re-operate state and federal water projects in the Delta and to restore native fish, wildlife and plant habitat; and address other ecological stressors in the Delta such as invasive plant species, barriers to fish migration, and predation of native fish."
The BDCP environmental review process is being conducted by five state and federal agencies. The California Department of Water Resources is the state lead agency under CEQA, while the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service are serving as the federal co-leads under NEPA.
The EIR/EIS is also being developed in close coordination with the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These agencies will analyze BDCP proposed actions and alternatives to those actions, including alternative water conveyance options, in fulfillment of multiple state and federal permitting processes.
For more information, go to: http://resources.ca.gov/docs/Final_-_DOI_CNRA_BDCP_Schedule_Release.pdf
California Anglers Misinformed on Closures
Southern California Waters Remain Open to Recreational Fishing
Sacramento, CA – July 8, 2011 –In June, the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) voted to delay implementing regulations adopted last December for the South Coast Study Area under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) until October 1, 2011. These new regulations, which would close much of southern California's best coastal waters to sportfishing, are not yet in effect. Misinformation – including statements by the Department of Fish and Game several months ago – has many anglers under the false impression that these waters are now and have been closed since early spring.
"Anglers need to understand that the 'marine protected areas' designated by the Commission last December are still open for fishing, and will be at least until October 1 of this year. And, the validity of these regulations is being challenged in court; that battle is far from over," said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy director for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). "Much can happen between now and October 1. The Department should not have made statements that the areas are already closed. These statements are simply not true and are unfair to the millions of anglers who pay for California's fisheries management through license sales and the federal excise tax on fishing tackle and motorboat fuels."
The Department's Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, posted March 1, 2011, erroneously states that the regulations went into effect in spring 2011. Prior to the vote, the department's website stated only that the regulations were expected to be effective mid-2011. In response to the general uncertainty within the sportfishing community regarding the South Coast MLPA regulations, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO), which represents California's recreational fishing and boating community, sent a letter to the Department of Fish and Game. The PSO expressed its serious concerns about the misinformation provided to anglers about the effective date of the South Coast MLPA regulations. The errors have since been corrected.
"We've never seen a state so determined to destroy an activity that generates both income and jobs and as well as funding for fisheries conservation," Leonard further said.
"In talking with numerous anglers, I've noticed that there is considerable confusion about whether or not coastal waters are still open to recreational fishing," said Bob Fletcher, former president of the Sportfishing Association of California. "The state's miscommunications are causing anglers to unnecessarily stay off the water for fear that the regulations are already in place. On behalf of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, I'd like Southern California's anglers and the tens-of-thousands more who come to this region to fish each year to know they are still free to pursue our state's healthy marine fisheries."
Apart from controversies about their effective date, the MPA designations in the South Coast are currently being challenged in the courts. On January 27, 2011, United Anglers of Southern California, Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher filed a lawsuit in the San Diego County Superior Court seeking to set aside the MPA designations for the North Central and South Coast study regions. The lawsuit cites a lack of statutory authority for the Fish and Game Commission to adopt the regulations, and, in the case of the South Coast regulations, numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the Commission's environmental review of the regulations.
On May 31, the California's sportfishing community claimed its third legal victory in the legal effort against the MLPA Initiative when a San Diego Superior Court judge ordered that two environmental ocean closure advocate organizations had no legal right to intervene in the aforementioned lawsuit. Last year, Fletcher filed and won a suit against the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and Master Plan Team for failing to provide documents related to their MLPA planning efforts. These groups incorrectly claimed that they were not required to make their records available to the public under the Public Records Act on the mistaken theory that they are not "state agencies."
Once these records were finally disclosed, numerous long-standing suspicions about the lack of openness and transparency within the MLPA process were confirmed, including that the Blue Ribbon Task Force met numerous times outside of the public view in scheduled private meetings. A California Superior Court ruling later ordered the Blue Ribbon Task Force and Master Plan Team to pay 100-percent of the legal fees incurred by members of the PSO in the Public Records Act case.
Successful Fish Rescue Completed at Tisdale and Fremont Weir off Sacramento River
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) completed two days of successful fish rescues this week. A total of 46 sturgeon, 142 Chinook salmon, 12 steelhead and numerous striped bass were safely returned to the Sacramento River. Rescues took place at the Fremont Weir in Yolo County and Tisdale Weir in Sutter County along the Sacramento River. Several weeks of rainy weather caused the Sacramento River to overflow into the Yolo and Sutter bypasses. Once the water levels receded, fish were trapped behind two main weirs and unable to return to the river.
Twenty five of the sturgeon released are federally listed green sturgeon and the remainder are white sturgeon. Fifty-three of the salmon released are adult spring or winter run Chinook which are also federally listed. The sturgeon and adult salmon were migrating up the Sacramento River to spawn. All of the green sturgeon were implanted with acoustic tracking devices. One of the largest green sturgeon released exceeded seven feet in length and is estimated to carry more than 150,000 eggs.
DFG Senior Environmental Scientist Joe Johnson organized the rescue teams of 30 DFG biologists, wardens, technicians and natural resource volunteers (www.dfg.ca.gov/volunteer/nrvp) along with five National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biologists and five UC Davis Bio-Technology Laboratory personnel. All worked on different phases of the rescue capturing and transporting fish, and placing radio telemetry devices in sturgeon.
"The rescue operation was significant," Johnson said. "We saved federally listed threaten and endangered fish. The acoustic tags inserted in each green sturgeon will enable scientists to track and tell if they survive and where they go. This was a rare opportunity."
At both locations, biologists used nets to crowd the fish into a small area and then encircle the fish with smaller seine nets. Several of the sturgeon weighed more than 200 pounds and it took three or more divers in wetsuits to wrestle the fish into hoop nets. The hoop nets were used to transfer the fish into specially designed fish cradles resembling stretchers. Sturgeon were measured, biological and genetic samples were taken, acoustic transmitters implanted and the fish were returned to the Sacramento River.
Each of the green sturgeon and some of the white sturgeon were implanted with acoustic tracking devices by Mike Thomas of the UC Davis Telemetry Laboratory. The transmitters have a 10-year life span and are expected to yield important information on the sturgeon life cycle.
"This is a unique opportunity for all of us," Thomas said. "Most important is seeing that these fish have an opportunity to spawn this year. This may be what is called a boom year for these sturgeon. It is believed by some that certain good years can sustain the population even after several bad years. Our transmitters give us the ability to follow these fish and learn more about them."
In 2006, green sturgeon were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"This was a wonder effort of agencies coming together to save these valuable green sturgeon that otherwise would not have made it to the spawning grounds," said Erin Strange, NMFS biologist. "We also had the opportunity to save listed salmon through this joint effort."
Stranding events occur on a cyclic basis when bypasses along the Sacramento River are used to spill excessive waters for flood control. This flooding event took place during the peak migration period for sturgeon. The last major flooding event that affected sturgeon took place in 2006.
For three days, DFG wardens watched over the stranded fish day and night trying to protect them. Prior to the deployment of wardens to the site, a 150 pound green sturgeon was found dead at the Fremont Weir and another had a spear shaft in it. These incidents are under investigation.
Did Trucks Prompt the Salmon Resurgence?
Biological data suggest that a program to truck salmon around the delta is behind the current salmon comeback.
By Alastair Bland
As many as 92 percent of non-trucked, hatchery salmon die in the delta.
The ocean salmon fishing season is set to open on April 2 and fishery managers estimate that coastal waters currently boast more salmon than at any time in the past five years. Indeed, it appears that the severe drop in the Chinook salmon population in recent seasons has reversed. But the question is why? Is it more rain and snow in the Sierra, resulting in more freshwater in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta? Or, is it more food for salmon in the Pacific Ocean?
Actually, some scientific data indicate that the salmon resurgence is artificial and has nothing to do with the health of the delta or the ocean. In fact, data from a program that tags young salmon and recaptures them suggest that an elaborate system that trucks salmon from Central Valley fish hatcheries and deposits them into San Pablo Bay is primarily responsible for the salmon recovery. Some experts believe that without this artificial life-support system, the salmon in the Sacramento River might all but vanish. That's because the trucking system enables fish to bypass the delta and avoid the deadly pumps that send water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.Biologists with the California Department of Fish and Game and the US Fish and Wildlife Service found that tagged salmon, or smolts, born in hatcheries, loaded into tanks, and transported to release sites near the Carquinez Strait are several times more likely to appear as adults in catch surveys than those that are left to travel unassisted downstream, through the delta, and out to sea. Experts suspect that non-trucked salmon are dying in the delta, where pumping facilities create hazards for small fish, either killing them directly or drawing them into sloughs and backwaters, where predators await.
Information collected by the National Marine Fisheries Service has shown that as many as 92 percent of young, non-trucked salmon die in the delta. "Getting the fish around the delta is critical," explained Roger Thomas, captain of the Salty Lady, a party fishing boat in Sausalito, and a board member of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. "Until we improve the health of the (river's) ecosystem, we'll have to keep trucking the fish."
The revelations about salmon survival rates come from a joint effort by state and federal fishery managers to tag a portion of the 30 million fish they produce annually in Central Valley hatcheries and observe their rates of survival into adulthood. To make the young fish identifiable as adults, hatchery managers clip the salmon's fleshy dorsal lobe, called the adipose fin, from 25 percent of smolts prior to release. The same fish are fitted with nearly-microscopic "coded wire tags" imprinted with numeric data. Last year, 121 of these fin-clipped salmon — caught as adults — were reported by sport fishermen on boats out of Sausalito. Fish and Game biologists who removed and analyzed the coded wire tags from the 121 fish found that 81 — or 66 percent — had been trucked around the delta and released into San Pablo Bay.
In addition, coded wire tags turned over by commercial ocean fishermen that same summer showed that fish born in 2008 at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery on the Sacramento River and trucked to San Pablo Bay were seven times more likely to reach adulthood than fish from the same hatchery that were released into the river. Wild salmon must also navigate their way to the sea unassisted and presumably face the same threats as the non-trucked hatchery fish in the delta region.
Fishery data also suggest that the recent collapse of the salmon fishery may have been due in part to a suspension of the salmon-trucking system in 2005 and 2006, an interruption caused by state budget constraints. Adult salmon populations crashed in the following years. The program has resumed in force, and salmon numbers appear to be climbing. Biologists estimate that 1.1 million adult fish are currently off the California coast — about three times the estimated ocean population of last spring.
However, some experts blame other factors for the salmon collapse and recovery. Two panels of government biologists appointed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, or P-Council, proposed in a recent report that the salmon collapse over the past few years was due to food shortages in the Pacific Ocean in 2005 and 2006 caused by a lack of upwelling of nutrient-packed waters from the ocean floor.
Still, other experts, including a coauthor of the report, Chuck Tracy, a P-Council salmon staff officer, believes excessive water diversions from the delta played a major role in the collapse of the fall-run salmon population. The run hit rock bottom in the fall of 2009, when 39,000 spawning adults returned to the Sacramento River — down from 800,000 in 2002. In an interview, Tracy said high delta pumping levels in the spring of 2007 combined with half or less the rainfall of normal years to create "a ratio of pumping to water in the river that was much higher than usual."
The conflicting data and opinions have left some fishery experts unsure as to the impact of the trucking program. For example, Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen, a biologist with Fish and Game's Ocean Salmon Project who is currently analyzing data from the coded wire tags collected last summer by Bay Area ocean sport fishermen, remains undecided as to what is driving the rise and fall of salmon numbers. "Is something happening to these salmon in the river," she asked, "or is something happening at sea?"
But Dick Pool, president of the Concord-based fish conservation group Water4Fish, feels certain that the key problems dwell in the delta. "The ocean conditions did zap a lot of the fish in 2005 and 2006, but since then we've had excellent ocean conditions, but the fall run collapsed into a disaster zone," said Pool. He believes the delta environment remains as devastated as ever and that the salmon population could easily crash again. "Without that trucking program," he said, "we might have no ocean fishery."