Governor Jerry Brown and other state officials have constantly claimed the Delta Tunnels 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.
The state and federal water export pumps on the South Delta that deliver subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley have killed hundreds of millions of fish over the past several decades. These fish include Sacramento splittail, a native minnow; endangered species such as winter-run Chinook, spring-run Chinook, Central Valley steelhead and Delta and longfin smelt; and introduced fish including striped bass, threadfin shad, American shad, black bass and white catfish.
The California WaterFix website announced, “Consistent with the federal Endangered Species Act process where DWR and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently submitted the California WaterFix biological assessment addressing incidental take of federally-listed species, DWR has submitted this application to DFW in compliance with Section 2081(b) of CESA to address incidental take of state-listed species for the California WaterFix.”
“As identified in CESA, projects that may cause ‘take’ (translate: killing) of a state-listed species must obtain authorization from DFW prior to implementing the action,” California WaterFix officials stated. “Because California WaterFix would potentially cause incidental take associated with its construction and operation, DWR is required to apply for an incidental take permit (also known as a 2081(b) permit.”
Key elements in the 2081(b) application include “documentation that the impacts of the incidental take are minimized and fully mitigated; funding is available for the minimization and mitigation measures; and incidental take authorized by the permit would not jeopardize the continued existence of a CESA-listed species,” the officials declared.
The California Code of Regulations (Title 14, Sections 783.0 – 783.8) provide details on the application and review requirements related to the 2081(b) permit.
For the complete incidental take permit, appendices and figures, go here: http://cms.capitoltechsolutions.com/ClientData/CaliforniaWaterFix/uploads/CWF_2081b_10716.pdf
Responding to DWR’s application for an incidental take permit, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), noted, “The California WaterFix, aka the Delta tunnels, was sold as protecting fish. All the years of propaganda about how Delta Smelt would do better were laid out month after month for Californians. Well, the WaterFix has applied for a take permit to kill Delta Smelt with the tunnels.”
As the Department of Water Resources applied for a permit to kill endangered species. Delta and longfin smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and other fish species continued to move closer and closer to the abyss of extinction.
The population of Delta Smelt plummeted to a new low in the annual spring survey conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The 2016 Spring Kodiak Trawl (SKT) index, a relative measure of abundance, is 1.8, a decrease from the 2015 index (13.8) and is the lowest index on record.
Only thirteen adult Delta Smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta, were collected at 8 stations contributing to the index in 2016. “This is the lowest catch in SKT history, and a steep decline from the 2015 then-record-low catch of 88,” said Scott Wilson, Regional Manager of the CDFW Bay Delta Region, in a memo.
“Once the most abundant species in the estuary, we can now name smelt rather than count them,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).
On October 7, Tom Cannon on the California Fisheries Blog responded to the Sacramento Bee’s report on August 31 citing claims by Dr. Ted Sommer of the California Department of Water Resources that Delta smelt are “starving.”
“Dr. Sommer related recent success in stimulating the north Delta food web by increasing flow through the Yolo Bypass in July as part of the state’s new strategy to help Delta smelt,” said Cannon. “I had reported earlier on the experiment and the strategy. While Dr. Sommer was not implying that just adding some fertilizer to the north Delta would save the smelt, he was deflecting discussion and treatment away from the overriding cause of the collapse of Delta smelt: lack of spring-through-fall outflow to the Bay.”
“During August of this year, the normal heavy hand of Delta exports again reached out to degrade the critical habitat of what few smelt are left,” Cannon said.
To read the complete article, “Are Delta Smelt Starving,” go to: http://calsport.org/fisheriesblog/?p=1206
The Delta smelt collapse is part of an overall ecosystem decline driven by water diversions by the federal and state water projects. The CDFW’s 2015 Fall Midwater Trawl demonstrates that, since 1967, populations of striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, splittail and threadfin shad have declined by 99.7, 98.3, 99.9, 97.7, 98.5 and 93.7 percent, respectively, according to Jennings.
Photo meme courtesy of Restore the Delta.