REACTIONS: (updated) Congressman McCarthy, Coalition for Sustainable Delta, CA Farm Water Coalition and Golden Gate Salmon Association react to release of new Biological Assessment of CVP/SWP operations

Yesterday, the Bureau of Reclamation released a new biological assessment for the re-initiation of consultation on the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.  Here’s what the California Farm Water Coalition and the Golden Gate Salmon Association had to say:

From the California Farm Water Coalition:

“Recognizing the failure of the existing biological opinions issued a decade ago by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for Delta smelt and by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for salmon, the Bureau of Reclamation released a new biological assessment which serves as the basis for new biological opinions that will be released within 135 days. The Biological Assessment details the manner in which the agencies will operate the project and make operations more effective in preserving fish and delivering water to communities and farms. The Bureau of Reclamation is now taking a common-sense approach and applying scientific principles to water supply and fishery protections.

“The current, outdated biological opinions have been plagued with operational problems that experts determined were largely ineffective at helping the endangered fish they were intended to help,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. “In addition, the two outdated biological opinions often worked against one another, such as requiring more upstream storage for salmon to keep temperatures lower and at the same time, requiring more water to be released to the Delta to benefit smelt. These biological opinions have failed all parties – fish and wildlife, communities, and farmers,” he said.

The Bureau’s new Biological Assessment takes into account the failures of the older biological opinions and creates a new process to modernize operations, utilizing science and operational flexibility to improve the operations and efficiency of the Central Valley and State Water projects. The Biological Assessment makes several changes to the operations of the Central Valley Project, based on the experience with the older biological opinions, the drought, and prior policy decisions. This modern Biological Assessment requires science-based operational changes that respond to actual conditions rather than follow a calendar-based approach to species protections. Using a smarter approach encourages adjustments that will allow for better temperature control for salmon while reducing the impacts on the Delta. It bases flow requirements on a variety of factors rather than using flow as the sole determinant for water project management.

The Biological Assessment moves away from the failed presumption that water projects are the only cause of the decline in fish species.

“The new Biological Assessment starts with a “clean slate” and seeks to determine those effects that are unrelated to the projects but are impacting fish populations in order to manage the projects. By focusing on a more integrated and holistic approach, federal and state agencies can utilize science and effective operational measures in the new biological opinions to address all the factors impacting the fish populations, he said.

The operations analyzed in the new Biological Assessment are intended to allow the projects, designed and built to provide water to California communities, to fulfill that obligation and provide critical information to federal and state agencies that will improve the conditions for fish and wildlife and the Delta habitat.

From the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta:

The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta (Coalition) is pleased that the Bureau of  Reclamation has taken a long overdue step to update the operational criteria of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP).  With the release of a new Biological Assessment for the Coordinated Long-Term Operation of the CVP and SWP, Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are recognizing advancements in science and an improved understanding of the Delta that has emerged in the ten years.

“We are encouraged by the effort to implement an improved regulatory regime. Regulations governing project operations over the last ten years have failed fish, families, and farms across California. A change must be made to improve endangered native populations and ensure continued water reliability for millions of Californians,” said Jason Peltier, Executive Director. “The Coalition appreciates the years of work that has gone into this re-consultation process, with more to come over the next few months. The Coalition is encouraged that Reclamation is prioritizing increased operational flexibility while improving native endangered species through habitat restoration, improved monitoring, and a more strategic distribution of flows in the Delta. It is critical that the result of this re-consultation process recognizes and addresses the many stressors in the Delta and takes a holistic approach to improving native populations,” he added.

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

Today the Trump administration released a new proposal aimed at increasing water diversions from the Bay-Delta ecosystem at the expense of salmon and the tens of thousands of fishing industry jobs that depend on them https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=64503 .  In spite of years of declining salmon runs and industry losses, the administration is saying the water diversion system that moves billions of gallons of Central Valley water from where nature intended it to the western San Joaquin Valley doesn’t damage salmon.  Today’s announcement, called a biological assessment, is a step towards abandoning federal rules governing the damaging effects of the giant state and federal water diverting pumps in the Delta, which were adopted in 2008 and 2009.

“This is a blatant water grab that threatens thousands of fishing jobs and families in California,” said GGSA secretary Dick Pool who also owns Pro Troll tackle company. “For the administration to claim that the giant federal water project, which includes the massive diversion pumps in the Delta, can run at full bore and not harm salmon runs is simply not credible.”

“The Trump administration won’t be able to get away with killing off our salmon runs if the state refuses to cooperate.  We call on the Newsom administration to just say no to this attack on California’s salmon fishing families,” said GGSA director Noah Oppenheim who is also executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a group representing commercial fishermen.

“We’ve seen what happens when water users are given free rein to divert Bay-Delta water.  It was the norm prior to 2008 and it killed so many baby salmon attempting to get to the ocean that all ocean salmon fishing had to be shut for the first time in history in 2008 and 2009,” said GGSA director Mike Aughney who also publishes USAfishing.com.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to restore California’s largest salmon runs in the Central Valley rivers because they provide the bulk of salmon caught off our coast and inland rivers. We serve the sport and commercial anglers that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable resource. Salmon recovery is our passion.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity and $700 million in economic activity and jobs Oregon in a normal season. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.

From Congressman Kevin McCarthy:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a Biological Assessment on the Long Term Coordinated Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, completing an assessment advocated by Congressman Kevin McCarthy. This is important in updating various regulations governing water supplies in California, including exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to communities in the Central Valley and southern California. Congressman Kevin McCarthy issued the following statement:

“Last October, President Trump issued a memorandum directing the Department of the Interior to modernize California water operations for the 21st century. It has been a decade since the regulations governing water management in California have been updated, including how much water from the Delta goes to communities in the Central Valley. 

“I want to commend the Bureau of Reclamation for issuing this new assessment, which is an important step in the process of updating these regulations to match current conditions. I believe that using the best information that reflects the most current science and technology will ultimately result in a win-win, both for the environment and increasing water supplies to our communities.

“These actions by Reclamation will continue to build on the success of the historic WIIN Act of 2016, which reformed California water policy to help citizens and communities in the Central Valley and southern California receive life-giving water from the Delta.”

Background

·         Water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (the Delta) via the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) provides millions of Californians with life-giving water and irrigates hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.

·         In August 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resource jointly initiated re-consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the Long Term Coordinated Operation (LTO) of the CVP and SWP. Under the law, Reclamation is required to develop a new Biological Assessment (BA) regarding the Coordinated LTO, which includes water exports from the Delta to the Central Valley and southern California.

·         The Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West, signed by President Donald Trump on October 19, 2018, prioritized re-consultation of the Coordinated LTO for the CVP and SWP, and directed the Secretary of the Interior to issue a BA by the end of January 2019.

·         The BA will be used by FWS and NMFS to develop biological opinions that will address the operation of the CVP and SWP, and include any potential conditions that may be needed to protect listed species. The Presidential Memorandum directs the Interior Secretary and the Secretary of Commerce to issue final biological opinions for the Coordinated LTO of the CVP and SWP before mid-June 2019.

·         In 2016, Congress enacted into law the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. This law includes provisions directing Federal agencies to maximize pumping in the Delta while protecting the environment, creating a path for building new reservoirs or expanding existing reservoirs in California and promoting water recycling and desalination projects.

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One comment

  • Yesterday the US Bureau of Reclamation released a new biological assessment for the re-initiation of consultation on the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Three out of four Sacramento River salmon runs (the late-fall, winter, and spring runs) are now at all time lows. They are under the protection of the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, but the lack of water flows beneficial to their health has been killing them in the river and in the Delta.

    What is the California Farm Bureau response? “The Biological Assessment moves away from the failed presumption that water projects are the only cause of the decline in fish species.” Biologists have never claimed that “water projects are the only cause of the decline of fish species.” It is the manner in which water projects have been operated over the past half century that is one of the principal causes of the decline of fish species such as the late fall, winter, and spring runs.

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