Written comments on Reclamation plan to increase Delta water exports due February 1!

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If you want to comment on a proposed water grab of Northern California and Delta water by the Trump administration and San Joaquin Valley growers, you only have until February 1, 2018, to do it.

On December 29, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it will conduct an environmental analysis of potential modifications to the operation of the Central Valley Project (CVP), in coordination with California’s State Water Project, to “maximize water deliveries” and “optimize marketable power generation.”

In other words, the Trump administration wants to increase water exports to agribusiness interests in the San Joaquin Valley at a time when the Delta smelt are near extinction and winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species are struggling to survive after decades of massive water deliveries.

“The CVP is a major water source for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and fish and wildlife demands in California,” according to the announcement from Reclamation. “State and federal regulatory actions and other agreements have significantly reduced the water available for delivery south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. This project will evaluate alternatives to restore water supply in consideration of all of the authorized purposes of the CVP.”

What Reclamation didn’t mention was that this proposal comes at a crucial time for fish populations on the Delta and the West Coast. In spite of a record water year in Northern California in 2017, the abundance of Delta smelt recorded in the state’s annual fall midwater survey (FMWT) is the lowest in the survey’s 50-year history.

Only two Delta smelt were collected at Delta index stations in October. One was from Suisun Bay and the other from the confluence of Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, reported James White, California Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist, in a memo.

The agency collected the smelt, along with other five other pelagic (open water) species, in trawl nets at 100 index stations throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, from September 1 through December 13.

“The population is so low that they can’t find each other to mate,” Tom Cannon, a fish ecologist and consultant for the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, told Alex Breitler of the Stockton Record. “We’re lucky to have any smelt.

Maligned by agribusiness groups and San Joaquin Valley Republican Congressman as a “small minnow” supposedly standing in the way of deliveries of Delta water to irrigators, the Delta smelt is in fact a indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Delta ecosystem like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” More information: www.dailykos.com/…

If the fish becomes extinct, it would be the first fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Nixon in 1973, to perish in the wild.

A Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), “Revisions to the Coordinated Long-term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, and Related Facilities” was published in the Federal Register, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 and can be accessed at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/current#reclamation-bureau.

The USBR plans to hold two public meetings this month to take public comments: one meeting in Los Banos at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority office and another meeting in the capitol, Sacramento. AquaAlliance is asking the Bureau to also hold a public meeting in Chico this month.

“Aqualliance is submitting written comments, as we do in all major Northern California water exploitation project proposals, and is asking you to join us by insisting that the Bureau hold a public meeting in the Northern Sacramento Valley, right here in Chico, to take into account our concerns that Northstate Salmon Water is being marketed by millionaires to millionaires to make more millions,” said Jim Brobeck, water policy analyst for AquAlliance.

Request a meeting in Chico by writing Katrina Harrison, project manager, Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814-2536; call Harrison: 916-414-2425 or email kharrison@usbr.gov.

Let Ms. Harrison know you are opposed to Bureau efforts to maximize Central Valley Project water deliveries and would like to express your concerns in person at a public meeting in Chico.

Reclamation, headed by Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, is the lead federal agency and will request other agencies to participate as cooperating agencies. Reclamation is seeking comments by Feb. 1, 2018, that will be used to develop alternatives to the proposed action. Public scoping meetings will be scheduled for mid-January.

Here is the information on the two public meetings that Reclamation has scheduled to receive oral or written comments:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 16, from 6-8 p.m. at the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, 842 Sixth St. in Los Banos
  • Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 2-4 p.m. at the Stanford Room, 650 Capitol Mall in Sacramento

Written comments are due by close of business, Feb. 1, 2018, by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Katrina Harrison, project manager, Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814-2536; fax 916-414-2439; or email kharrison@usbr.gov. For additional information, please contact Harrison at 916-414-2425 (TTY 800-877-8339).

Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown continues to push his environmentally destructive Delta Tunnels plan, a project that would like result in the extinction of Delta and longfin smelt and Central Valley salmon and steelhead, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.