Friday, December 20, 2013

News and links from December 20, 2013


From: Michael Raineri, Modesto Bee

Regarding "Water would be the focus" (Dec. 16, Page B1): A 20-person committee to study the county's groundwater? Sounds like a recipe to get nothing accomplished and prolong indecision. As supervisors, do the research, and make the choices for the long range.

Coalition response... Mr. Raineri astutely observes there is a need for local solutions to groundwater challenges in California. Finding rational, workable answers to these issues will take the active engagement of all local water users.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Douglas Obegi, NRDC Blog

As California begins what appears to be a third consecutive dry year, corporate agribusinesses and politicians in the San Joaquin Valley have begun calling for the State and federal government to waive environmental rules governing the Bay-Delta estuary - the same environmental rules that not only protect salmon and other wildlife in the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, but also protect thousands of fishing jobs and water quality for Delta farmers.

Coalition response...  Doug Obegi needs to turn up his reality meter when he's talking about farmers asking for "a waiver of environmental protections." As a lawyer he should know the difference between a waiver and a governmental agency exercising the discretion it has under the law. All farmers are asking for is that agencies consider a wide range of impacts, as they were directed by federal judge Oliver Wanger, and be a little flexible in difficult times.

That said, does Obegi think that fish should be insulated from the drought? They weren't 100 years ago before California's big water projects were built. Is it responsible to be using water stored for other purposes to maintain a dependable flow year-round for fish despite the fact that it is completely unnatural?

There is some middle ground to be had and the Governor, scientists, water planners and others are working hard to find it. Too bad Obegi isn't.

From: John McManus, Sacramento Bee

Re "Tunnels' wildlife impact unclear" (Page A1, Dec. 18): The Golden Gate Salmon Association agrees that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's proposed tunnels are bad for California's iconic salmon and salmon-dependent communities. The plan calls for two gigantic tunnels, big enough to divert the entire Sacramento River at most times of the year. History shows we'd be fools to trust the tunnel backers' promise they'll never divert enough water to harm salmon. And restoration of 100,000 acres of Delta wetland won't do much for salmon, even though it may be good for waterfowl. Let's be honest. The "peripheral tunnels" were conceived to help a handful of San Joaquin Valley growers get more water, not recover imperiled species like winter and spring run salmon. Why not put this to a vote of the people?

Coalition response... It is stunning that an organization like the Golden Gate Salmon Association is fighting the best opportunity in years to fix problems in the Delta that could improve salmon populations. Twenty years of water supply cuts have achieved nothing and he wants to keep doing the same thing? Unbelievable.

He doesn't trust water project operators to limit use during times of the year when it's necessary to help fish? What does he think is the reason many farmers are facing a 20 percent or less supply of water this year? It is regulatory restrictions that are keeping the pumps from running.

And his statement that the project is intended to benefit "a handful of San Joaquin Valley growers" is not even close to the facts. Water flowing through the Delta meets part of the needs of 25 million Californians and almost 4,000 family farms encompassing 3 million acres from Patterson to the Coachella Valley.

An honest discussion would include questions about how many baby salmon are consumed by other fish in the Delta, such as bass, which have doubled in population since 1982. A recent Tuolumne Rivers study shows that more than 90 percent of the baby salmon never make it through the Delta because they become lunch for non-native game fish. Think about the long-term population consequences of millions of baby salmon never making to the ocean to mature and then return to spawn. Why isn't GGSA troubled by that?

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Jerry Meral, BDCP Blog

This is the last of a three-part blog summarizing the evolution of public policy for Delta water supplies. Part I examined the original planning for the State Water Project. Part II discussed the impact of the controversy over the Peripheral Canal.

There should be no question that public thinking about the Delta will continue to change in the future, given the lessons of the past. The first question anyone must ask about the future of the Delta is whether the voters will continue to subsidize the maintenance and improvement of the Delta levees, based on the public benefits the levees provide.

Salton Sea

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

The Salton Sea Authority approved a resolution of support for the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative on Thursday.

"As we move forward on the restoration and the renewable initiative, it's going to become very important that that we all get on the same page," said Jim Hanks, Imperial Irrigation District director and Salton Sea Authority president.

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