Water contractors lobby for salmon-killing drought legislation in Congress

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Just days after Governor Jerry Brown’s administration applied for a “take” permit to kill Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and other endangered species in order to build and operate the Delta Tunnels, agribusiness interests accelerated their lobbying campaign to pass drought legislation in Congress that will further endanger San Francisco Bay-Delta fisheries.

Tim Quinn and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) have stepped up their lobbying in advance of the lame duck Congressional session urging Congress to pass controversial drought legislation, according to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), in an action alert.

Quinn, the Executive Director of ACWA, sent a new letter on October 12 to the entire California Congressional delegation blaming the state’s water supply predicament almost entirely on protections for Bay-Delta fisheries and wildlife, and actions by federal officials to avoid species extinction. (http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/ACWA-Drought-Legislation-Letter-to-CA-Delegation-10-12-16.pdf.)

“We would expect that federal policies should provide assistance in meeting water supply needs during drought conditions, but instead at almost every turn federal decisions restricted project operations, preventing water during storm events from being put into storage south of the Delta for later delivery to our farms and cities,” Quinn claimed in his letter. “During 2016, these restrictive federal policies had a far greater negative impact on water supply than did the drought.”

“California needs a partnership with the federal government in accomplishing this policy objective. Instead, all too often we experience unbalanced federal decisions that unreasonably favor species protection over water supply, with little scientific justification and little prospect of any actual environmental benefit, but with very large and real negative impacts on water supply,” he said.

Quinn urged Congress to pass “meaningful drought legislation,” apparently meaning legislation that would fail to observe even the very minimal protections provided now under the Endangered Species Act to protect Delta and longfin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon and green sturgeon.

In response, Barrigan-Parrilla urged people to call their Congressional Representatives and tell them to protect Delta fisheries by “standing strong” against the increased Delta pumping bills, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s S. 2533 and Congressman David Valadao’s H.R. 2898.

“Tell them that you are aware of ACWA (pronounced Aqua) attempting to push through Federal legislation designed to take more water from the SF Bay-Delta estuary,” she said. “Tell them how ACWA’s members just told the State Water Resources Control Board that mandatory conservation rules are no longer necessary, even though we are entering our sixth year of drought.”

“ACWA wants it both ways, no restrictions on taking water, and no restrictions on much water people use — all at the expense of the people and fisheries of the Bay-Delta estuary,” she concluded. “Thank you. And let us know how it goes when you make the call.”

To find your Congressional Rep’s number, check this list of all California Congressional Representatives here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_ca, or go to this website http://whoismyrepresentative.com/ to type in your zipcode.


You can also take action by signing this petition urging Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to dump the current drought bills:

“Congress is considering two bills, H.R. 2898 (Valadao) and S. 2533 (Feinstein), that are supposed to relieve the effects of the drought for all Californians, but that really direct water away from where salmon need it most,” the petition by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) states. “Although Senator Feinstein’s bill has several provisions that are important steps toward water sustainability in California, both bills would weaken current protections for struggling salmon runs, and encourage construction of new salmon-killing dams. These bills reinforce the myth that there have to be water winners and water losers in the fight over King Salmon and California’s water.”

The same water agencies calling for salmon-killing drought legislation are the ones behind Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Brown and other state officials have constantly claimed the Delta Tunnels/California WaterFix project will “restore” the Delta ecosystem, but they revealed their real plans on October 7 when the administration applied for a permit to kill winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other endangered species with the project.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) submitted an “incidental intake” application for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in alleged “compliance” with the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) in order to build the Delta Tunnels, also known as the California WaterFix. In other words, they are applying for a permit to kill endangered species in the construction and operation of the three new water intakes on the Sacramento River and other facilities planned as part of the multi-billion dollar project.

For more information, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/10/10/1580366/-Brown-administration-applies-for-permit-to-take-endangered-species-killed-by-Delta-Tunnels

The latest attacks on the Bay-Delta Ecosystem come shortly after the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s 300-mile prayer journey from Sogorea Te (Glen Cove, Vallejo) to the historical spawning grounds of the winter-run Chinook salmon on the McCloud River from September 17 through October 1.

“This journey is a walk/run/boat/bike and horseback ride to bring attention to the plight of all the runs of salmon in California, and the water management practices that have brought some of those runs to the edge of extinction,” according to the Tribe. “It is a prayer to let Californians know that the water they enjoy has come to them at the cost of others and the threat of death and extinction to species necessary for a healthy California.”

“We consider Shasta Dam a weapon of mass destruction,” said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “It has already taken our homes, sacred sites, burial sites, and stopped the salmon from returning to their historical spawning grounds. If these tunnels are built, Governor Brown’s so called ‘California WaterFix’, they will not only cause more death and destruction to the already endangered salmon, but they will encourage and motivate plans to enlarge Shasta Dam. An enlarged Shasta Dam will flood what remaining sacred sites, and cultural sites that we still use today.”

“The Shasta Dam raise, Sites Reservoir and the Delta Tunnels need to be considered as one project,” emphasized Chief Sisk. “Without one, you can’t have the two others. If the tunnels are built, there will be no water to put in them. You need Sites Reservoir to provide the water for the tunnels and the Shasta Dam raise to provide water for Sites.”

“Although the state and federal governments are saying they are separate projects, they are all really one project. Why do you think Westlands Water District, the Resnicks, Metropolitan Water District and other water districts are all pushing for the Shasta Dam Raise, Sites Dam and the Delta Tunnels?” she concluded.

It appears that the water contractors – and the state and federal governments that serve them – won’t be happy until Delta smelt and Sacramento River Chinook salmon are extinct. That’s why it’s so important to take action by calling your Congressional Representative today!