The following is courtesy of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association:
San Francisco, Calif. — November 6, 2019 – Today the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations led a coalition of fishing organizations, tribes, and environmental groups in sending a letter to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board condemning plans to extend permitting of the Grasslands Bypass Project (GBP).
After two decades of promises to cease toxic discharges of selenium and other contaminants into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Regional Board are poised to sanction a quarter century of continued toxic discharges into the Delta via the GBP. These discharges frequently exceed numerous water quality criteria. Allowing decades of relaxed standards will impact the entire aquatic food chain, endangered and commercially harvested salmon, migratory birds, recreational fisheries, and communities that rely on the Delta for drinking water.
The GBP commenced operations in 1995 as a two-year program. Its initial federal use agreements have now been extended three times, and the project has been granted numerous waste discharge waivers. All of the permits, environmental reviews, and findings that supported these use agreements were predicated on zero discharge at the end of each agreement’s term: first for 5 years, then 10 more years, and then 10 additional years. All that time—25 years in total—polluted discharge from the GBP confirmed to exceed toxicity thresholds was either entirely exempt from meeting protective water quality standards, or only required to meet relaxed, greatly reduced standards. Furthermore, over that 25-year-period the GBP steadily reduced both its monitoring of polluted discharges and its record of compliance .
The Newsom and Trump Administrations’ non-compliant proposed action comes despite a court ruling at the 9th Circuit earlier this year, which found that commingled stormwater and agricultural discharges are not exempt from the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.
“Fishermen and coastal communities have been dealing with the mess from upstream polluters for decades. The result is poisoned waterways, fish stocks at a fraction of historic levels, and losses to salmon fishing jobs and California’s own seafood resource,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “Meaningful solutions for these agricultural discharges are adequate wastewater treatment and implementing the land retirements that have been called for by federal agencies for decades, not continued dumping into public waterways. Governor Newsom has a real opportunity to avoid cementing a toxic legacy for the Delta and California’s fishing communities that rely on clean water by abandoning this course of action.”
A public hearing on the RWQCB’s proposed action will be held on December 5th.
The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.