Garamendi and Feinstein Drought Bills Will Sacrifice Bay-Delta Fisheries

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Drought bills sponsored by Congressman John Garamendi and Senator Dianne Feinstein pose a dire threat to imperiled salmon, steelhead and other fish of the San Francisco-Bay Delta, according to the latest action alert from Restore the Delta (RTD).

Since the beginning of the year, Restore the Delta has written about the problems with Senator Feinstein’s water bill (SB 2533) which will increase pumping out of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, for greater water exports to big industrial agricultural growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,”the group said.

“While the Senator touts that her legislation will not weaken species protection, broad consensus from large environmental groups to fishing groups, from Delta water agencies to grassroots campaigns, like Restore the Delta — all who have read the bill — is that additional pumping will place Delta fisheries in peril,” RTD stated.

“In February, after hearing that Congressman John Garamendi was supporting the legislation, Restore the Delta and a number of our colleagues reached out to Congressman Garamendi to express our concerns. Since then, we haven’t heard a word back from him,” the group said.

Yesterday, May 17, Garamendi he introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives that is identical to SB2533. His bill is HR 5247. You can read his press release here:

“This legislation will accomplish three vital tasks,” claimed Garamendi. “First, it will use the latest available science and real-time monitoring of endangered fish to assure their protection while maximizing water deliveries. The operational directives within the bill remain consistent with the Endangered Species Act and existing biological opinions. Second, it will provide short-term relief to the communities hit hardest by California’s ongoing drought. And third, it will fully fund the long-term infrastructure we need to maximize our efficiency and become more resilient to California’s drier climate.”

Restore the  Delta disagreed that the legislation will “accomplish three vital tasks.”

“We are deeply disappointed that Congressman Garamendi, a resident of the Delta, and longtime ally, would partner with Senator Feinstein to support legislation that is detrimental to water quality, the aquatic food web, and the fisheries that we are fighting so hard to save,” RTD observed.

“It’s time for Delta area supporters to tell Congressman Garamendi and Senator Feinstein that you oppose these bills as written because they are sacrificing Bay-Delta fisheries. It’s time to tell them to STOP catering to Westlands Water District and other Big Ag interests that will not be satisfied until they can pump the Bay-Delta estuary dry. It’s time to tell them remember where they come from and who they represented first. Do they really want the destruction of the Delta and the San Francisco Bay as part of their legacies as they near the finish of their political careers?” the group concluded.

Here are their phone numbers!

Congressman John Garamendi: (202) 225-1880
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (202) 224-3841

Do you have a Twitter account? Click here to send a direct message to Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi on these bills:

Then today Restore the Delta’s executive director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, made the following statement regarding the proposed drought legislation by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman John Garamendi:

“Both Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi are talking a great deal about a science based solution regarding Delta water exports to the growers of the San Joaquin Valley. Their proposed mirror bills, SB 2533 and HR 5247, unfortunately ignore the depth and breadth of scientific findings that constitute the biological opinions for management of San Francisco Bay-Delta fisheries.

“Fishery experts from a broad range of science based organizations warn that the provisions in Title 3 of the bill are likely to legislatively override existing Endangered Species Act biological opinions protecting salmon and other endangered species, despite “certain savings clauses” in the bill. Several provisions in this section of the legislation would authorize operations of the state and federal water export pumps in a manner that is inconsistent with protections for salmon runs and other endangered fish species.

“Congressman Garamendi has attempted to make the case to Restore the Delta that the science behind the biological opinions is dated. Sadly, he has forgotten that in recent years Senator Feinstein forced a federal review of fishery science to see if additional water could be pumped for agricultural water exporters in the San Joaquin Valley. That review reaffirmed the biological opinions and the need for flows through the Delta. Moreover, hearings in front of the State Water Resources Control Board in 2010 affirmed that the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary needs more water flowing through it — not less.

“Restore the Delta maintains that if Congressman Garamendi and Senator Feinstein believe that additional water can be extracted from the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary to large industrial growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley at the expense of our collapsing fisheries, then they have forgotten that they also represent the millions of Californians who live in the Bay Area and Delta regions – whose environmental and economic well-being are tied to healthy Bay-Delta waterways.

“If Congressman Garamendi and Senator Feinstein care about the fate of the estuary, they should be urging the California State Water Resources Control Board and the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward now in an accelerated manner with the Water Quality Plan Update for the Delta, which is twenty years overdue. When that is completed, then we can talk about sustainable export levels based on the most current scientific findings.”

Remember, it you haven’t already called in to Garamendi or Feinstein, please do it now!