Thursday, May 2, 2013

Middle San Joaquin River Watershed Stakeholders Meeting

The Middle San Joaquin River Watershed Stakeholders group held a meeting on Wednesday in Modesto that included a presentation on a flow proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board. The meeting was a local follow-up to a State Board workshop in March to take comments from stakeholders, public water agencies and environmentalists. The issue is over a proposal to increase flows on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers, all tributaries to the San Joaquin River, to a level of 35 percent of the natural unimpaired flow. Simply put, if the proposal goes through as originally presented then farmers stand to lose even more water, this time on the Valley’s east side, in order to improve habitat conditions for fish, including Chinook salmon.

Here’s the problem: there are many other things, scientifically proven, to affect fish beyond the amount of water that is in the river. A recent study on the Tuolumne River showed that 93 percent of the baby salmon headed downstream toward the Delta never make it because they’re eaten by stripers, largemouth bass and other predators before they ever get there. Water quality is another issues. So is the loss of fish rearing habitat in the Delta. There are many stressors that affect the survivability of fish and dumping more water downstream by itself won’t fix the problem. That’s the opinion of the National Research Council who said trying to fix the ecosystem by addressing just one stressor simply won’t work.

Hopefully the State Board’s adaptive management approach will address these other stressors aggressively and work to improve river conditions without wasting water that would otherwise be headed for one of California’s important food-producing regions.

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