Part III - Delta Barriers Will Harm Salmon and Delta Smelt

By Dan Bacher | April 2, 2015 | Restore the Delta Policy Analyst Tim Stroshane said, “The proposed drought barriers project for the...

By Dan Bacher | April 2, 2015 |

Restore the Delta Policy Analyst Tim Stroshane said, “The proposed drought barriers project for the Delta will allow the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation to continue managing upstream storage so that the pain of the drought will be borne by Delta residents and ecosystems, and not by Delta water takers. The barriers will have drastic consequence on fisheries, commercial and recreational fishing economies, various Delta farming communities, recreation economies, all so that water will be made available beyond what is needed for health and human safety, but for what purposes we don’t know.”   

“California must save water first through agriculture reductions on polluted drainage impaired land, which uses 2/3 of the Delta’s exported water. To protect urban areas, we need a Marshall Plan to implement conservation, groundwater storage, storm water capture, cisterns, recycling and effective drought planning. Estimates show that it will cost tens of billions to repair urban water systems alone," Barrigan-Parrilla said. 

In the last 28 water years (since the beginning of the 1987-92 drought), wet and above normal years have occurred just 11 times (39 percent of the time) in both the San Joaquin and Sacramento River basins, according to Restore the Delta. This means that the premise of “emergency” drought barriers is false.

“Emergency” connotes an event that is short-lived and infrequent, if it occurs at all. But below normal to critical water years occur more than half the time (as they have for almost the last three decades). “Emergency” becomes meaningless. 

“The Department of Water Resources plans to install and remove barriers simultaneously with when juvenile salmon would be attempting to rear in, or emigrate through, the Delta before they leave for the Pacific Ocean. The most invasive and disruptive activities associated with the barriers proposal occur at critically sensitive times in the life histories of these most magnificent and vulnerable listed species,” Stroshane added. 

Waters upstream and downstream of the barriers within the Delta will stagnate. When the dilution action of flows is greatly reduced during summer heat, water temperatures increase, salinity is projected to increase, and pollutant and contaminant concentrations will increase as well, according to Stroshane.

With the drought barriers, Delta smelt are likely to face extinction this year, with barriers installed to limit flow. And the Delta itself will be become an even less hospitable place for the vulnerable fish species that remain.

“Whether it’s the barriers or the Delta tunnels, it is apparent how little Governor Brown cares for the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.  He has not insisted on the fallowing of fields during the drought by junior water rights holders.  He is pushing Delta smelt to extinction, setting up our salmon fisheries for failure, and sacrificing sustainable six-generation Delta farms for almonds, fracking, and speculative desert development,” concluded Barrigan-Parrilla. 

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