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Senate Decision Could Restore Delta Salmon

by Ellen Hardy
11 August 2008, at 1:00am

US - Sometime in the next week to ten days, AB 1806, the Delta restoration and mitigation bill, will encounter its last hurdle when it is heard on the floor of the State Senate. The bill has already cleared the Assembly, and if passed by the Senate, will go to the Governors desk for his signature.

Sponsored by Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, Lois Wolk, the bill arose out of the hearing held on the massive Prospect Island Fish Kill near Rio Vista in December 2007 that needlessly destroyed tens of thousands fish.

Anglers testifying at the hearing requested improved oversight of such projects including requiring “fish rescue plans” to prevent future fish kills. In addition, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance President Jim Crenshaw testified that federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), who had conducted the project, had not stepped up to mitigate for the horrendous fish kill! He noted a great deal of fish killed by the operations of the State and Federal water projects were blatantly not mitigated and have significantly damaged the salmon, striped bass, Delta smelt, and other fish populations of the Bay-Delta estuary.


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"Numerous fish populations in the Delta are crashing or in precipitous decline."
Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, Lois Wolk

As Assemblywoman Wolk stated, “Numerous fish populations in the Delta are crashing or in precipitous decline. Millions of salmon and other species continue to die annually as a result of both the direct and indirect impacts of the state and federal water project pumps, despite the numerous efforts over the years to restore habitat for fish. This legislation requires the state and federal projects that pump water out of the Delta to mitigate for these losses, which have huge negative impacts on our state's fisheries, and the commercial and sport fishing industries that contribute billions of dollars to our economy.”

In testimony before the Assembly and Senate, CSPA’s Conservation Director John Beuttler, noted, “CSPA has repeatedly urged our government to correct the impacts caused by the water projects over the past fifty years. The direct and indirect impacts caused by the project operations have only been partially mitigated, at best, and this is one of the principal causes for the declines of our Central Valley fisheries.

There is no way to begin to effectively recover and restore our once world class fisheries, including some two-thirds of all the state’s salmon, unless this fundamental problem is fixed. Many millions of fish are lost each year. Add this up over the some sixty years that the projects have been on line, and you have a major reason for the fishery disaster. We now are forced to resolve these impacts, or see our fisheries continue their head long collapse into extinction!” While Central Valley salmon populations are in a state of collapse, four Delta pelagic (open water) fish species - delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass and threadfin shad - have declined to their lowest recorded population levels. These fish would also benefit from the passage of AB 1806.

In addition to the fish rescue plans, the bill requires something that is long overdue requiring the water districts that benefit from the massive export of water from the Delta to finally pay the full costs of mitigating their impact.

Ellen Hardy