Fighting For Fish? Not Yet Per California Leaders

 (CDFW photo)

California has far worse circumstances to deal with today, but the state’s water fight isn’t close to being resolved. In fact, it’s probably a little more testy as the midterm elections came and went. Gov. Jerry Brown and his successor, Gavin Newsom, agreed to postpone a proposal that would protect the state’s native fish species. Here’s more from the Sacramento Bee: 

Gov. Jerry Brown and incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom have waded in one of California’s fiercest water wars, prompting state regulators to delay a key vote on a proposal meant to help struggling salmon and steelhead trout.

In a letter Tuesday to the California State Water Resources Board, Brown and Newsom urged it to postpone consideration of proposed regulations to give the various factions involved time to reach an agreement during confidential settlement talks.

The board was scheduled Wednesday to vote on a plan that would leave up to 40 percent of the water in lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries in their channels to benefit struggling fish. The move would mean more water will flow to the Pacific Ocean rather than be captured by dams or shunted into canals to grow crops and supply cities such as Modesto and San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association also responded to the news:

Background:  On November 7 the State Water Resources Control Board voted to delay, again, a critical vote to improve flow conditions on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. The Board delayed that vote for at least 30 days.  

For 22 years, the existing State Water Board flow standards have failed to stop the slow collapse of the Bay-Delta ecosystem, the great Central Valley rivers that feed it, its many fish species and the California salmon fishing industry.  For almost a decade, the Water Board has been working on new river flow requirements.  In 2010, they found that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly calls for a significant increase in flow in the Bay-Delta rivers.   Over the past decade, water users have had ample time to negotiate a credible, broadly supported settlement as an alternative to new Board flow protections. 

On October 30, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling for the Water Board to vote on November 7.  At that meeting, SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly told the Board of Supervisors that he was “comfortable” with Supervisor Peskin’s resolution calling for the Water Board to vote on proposed standards.  Then, two days later, he reneged, opposed the resolution that he had supported, and persuaded the mayor to veto it.   

Quote from John McManus, President of the Golden Gate Salmon Association:  “California lost a historic chance to heal a great environmental wound that is diverting Central Valley rivers and choking the life out of them, including our salmon runs. Instead of voting to restore rivers, the Water Board kicked the can down the road, just as its predecessors did in the 1980s and 1990s when Governors Deukmejian and Wilson forced the State Board to withdraw previous proposed river flow standards at the 11th hour. Delay means death to salmon, the loss of fishing jobs, likely extinctions and the collapse of the largest estuary on the West Coast.  I doubt that the Board will act to restore our rivers in 30 days, but I sure hope I’m wrong.  

“There is a lot of bullying going on in our country now and yesterday, the State Water Board was bullied into throwing the environment and the fishing industry under the bus.  It should be noted that two members of the Water Board refused to go along with it.

“Nobody should be fooled into believing that the “grand bargain” promised at the Board meeting yesterday is real.   Water diverters involved in those negotiations testified that they don’t have an agreement and that they still reject the basic science developed by the state.

“The SFPUC played a uniquely dark role in what happened here after double-crossing the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week.”