Feinstein, Congressmen Request More Delta Water For Corporate Agribusiness

By Dan Bacher | March 31, 2014 |  Senator Dianne Feinstein and six San Joaquin Valley Congressmen on March 27 sent a letter to Inte...

By Dan Bacher | March 31, 2014 | 

Senator Dianne Feinstein and six San Joaquin Valley Congressmen on March 27 sent a letter to Interior Secretary Jewell and Commerce Secretary Pritzker requesting more Delta water for San Joaquin Valley corporate agribusiness interests, claiming that water exports wouldn’t harm endangered Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.

“We are writing to urge you to immediately evaluate the operating criteria that govern the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) so that actions can be taken as soon as possible to capture the maximum amount of water from this week’s storm in California,” said Feinstein and Representatives Ken Calvert, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes and David Valadao. 

The Senator and Congressmen described the impact of the drought on Valley agribusiness – and the supposedly "minimal" impact exporting water to state and federal water contractors would have on fish. 

They claimed there was “minimal endangered fish incidental take," including: 
•Adult Delta smelt – 0 out of 155 allowed

•Juvenile Delta smelt – 0 out of 1,007 allowed
•Winter Run Salmon – 276 out of 24,237 allowed (1.1%)
•Spring Run Salmon – 0 taken based on various levels of concern and 
•Steelhead – 148 out of 3,000 allowed (4.9%) 

“These numbers show that existing protections for endangered fish are more than adequate. On the other hand, our constituents’ farms and communities are facing potential devastation. From our view, it is apparent that there is a significant imbalance of regulatory burdens,” they said. 

They also cited the two storm systems that National Weather Service said will be passing through California this week, saying it could the “last chance” to provide water to the Valley water contractors. 

“Based on historical weather patterns, these storms could be our last chance this year to receive, capture, and move a sizable amount of water to those farms and communities that desperately need it for public health and safety and for their livelihoods that are under severe threat,” they noted. 

“Biological opinions issued by your Departments regulate the amount of water that can be exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to protect endangered fish. However, based on the data we cited above, there is clearly no imminent threat to any of the key protected fish species that is attributable to water pumping operations,” they concluded. 

Restore the Delta: Letter is "disappointing" and "astounding" 

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, said Senator Feinstein and U.S. House Representatives' letter seeking more water for Westlands' and Kern Water Districts' “mega-growers” in the midst of a severe drought was “disappointing” and “astounding.” 

"It is disappointing that Senator Feinstein has chosen to thrust political pressure into a severe drought situation that has, and will continue to have, enormous impacts on salmon and other fisheries, including endangered salmon runs spawning and trying to migrate downstream,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “It is astounding that these politicians would contend that ‘there is clearly no imminent threat to any of the key protected fish species that is attributable to water pumping operations.’” 

“It is well-known that the increased water diversions, especially in March, are particularly devastating to salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, smelt and other fish, many of which have become endangered as a result of the pumping," she said. "Most of the water from these storms is being stored in empty reservoirs. What extra water is flowing into the Delta from side creeks and streams needs to remain not only for water quality but to assist this ecosystem being devastated by the drought a chance to survive." 

"The impacts of the drought will be felt on our native species for many years to come. We can get by without almonds for a couple of years. It is disappointing that Senator Feinstein is not standing up for the economic engine of the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary, its water quality and native species that serve not only California’s economic engine but Oregon and Washington as well,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. 

“Instead of calling for every available bucket of water to be shipped immediately to unsustainable industrial agriculture, these politicians should instead be pursuing water demand reduction actions, plus reinforcement of Delta levees, improvement of south Delta fish screens and salvage operations, elimination of harmful water transfers through the Delta, and numerous fish protections, preclude the need for the BDCP twin tunnels,” she concluded. 

Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, summed up Feinstein's subservience to agribusiness: "Mega Ag Corporations and Senator Feinstein are one and the same...they think there is endless water to put in the desert!" 

Feinstein and the Representatives' letter was preceded by a similar letter by San Joaquin Exchange Contractors to Interior and Commerce asking that the conditions of the biological opinions protecting Central Valley salmon and smelt be loosened to allow greater Delta diversions. (http://mavensnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Drought-Letter-to-Sec-Jewell-Sec-Pritzker-3-25-14.pdf

For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org 

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SteveB6509 said...

Sorry, but I love how this post says the water is going to corporate agribusinesses. Yes, there are corporate farms but there are also small farmers and many, many farmworkers who will benefit from having more water. Thankfully, with the storm that is coming this week, we should be around 75% of normal. Still low but enough to release some more water.

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