Bay City News Service, SFGATE.COM
Officials from a San Francisco-based group dedicated to preserving the region’s salmon habitat say a new federal plan to divert more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay would decimate the fish as well as jobs.
“This is a blatant water grab that threatened thousands of fishing jobs and families in California,” said Dick Pool, secretary of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.
Added GGSA Director Noah Oppenheim, “The Trump administration won’t be able to get away with killing off our salmon runs if the state refuses to cooperate.”
These comments come in response to Monday’s release by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation of a “biological assessment” helping guide long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, which operate separate but largely parallel canals in the Interstate Highway 5 corridor.
The Trump administration aims to make more water available to the agricultural producers in the central part of the state. The biological assessment is part of that overall plan. It isn’t known yet how much more water state farmers could get.
The GGSA calls the assessment’s assertions “a step towards abandoning federal rules governing the damaging effects of the giant state and federal water diverting pumps in the Delta.”
“We’ve seen what happens when water users are given free rein to divert Bay-Delta water,” said Mike Aughney, another GGSA director, who also published USAfishing.com. He said that before 2008, so many baby salmon were killed that the commercial salmon fishing season was cancelled the following year.
If the state opts to free up additional water to help preserve fisheries, that water would likely come from the State Water Project, which serves a mostly urban use base. The federal Central Valley Project largely provides water for ag producers.
The economic power of the salmon fishing industry, GGSA officials said, is approximately $1.4 billion annually, at current volumes. This includes everything from commercial and recreational fishing, fish processors, equipment manufacturers, the hospitality industry and businesses that support the fishing industry.