Today, many Northern California commercial fishermen sit in harbors along our coast worrying about their bills and waiting for another disastrously shortened salmon season to begin. Many businesses that serve the normally robust sport salmon fishery also have suffered because of the delay. River fishing guides have lost half their season as well.
Salmon numbers are predicted to be down from the lingering effects of the last drought and the damaging water allocation decisions that put salmon fishing families last. Meanwhile, San Joaquin Valley congressmen are hard at work tilting the balance of water in California toward valley agricultural barons.
These House members are acting like this is their last, best chance for a huge water grab. There are four separate riders in House budget bills aimed at seizing more Northern water at the expense of salmon and fishing families. None are responding to a crisis in agriculture. The past decade has seen record harvests, revenue and employment for California agriculture.
For salmon, it’s another story. During the past decade, California salmon fishermen have seen the two worst crises in state history. Our fishery was shut down entirely in 2008 and 2009 following record siphoning of Bay-Delta water. The Golden Gate Salmon Association and other fishing groups are seeing a second crisis today as salmon try to fight their way back from the drought.
The Bay-Delta’s salmon runs are the most important south of the Columbia River and the backbone of a $1.4 billion salmon fishing industry that supports 23,000 jobs.
These anti-salmon congressional riders would:
Erase the right of fishermen, local governments and others to ask state or federal courts to review any aspect of the planned twin water diversion tunnels. This project, which Californians never got to vote on, would likely drive salmon and other native species to extinction.
The Trump administration could dictate how this water system would be run. Consider this: The second in command at the Interior Department is a former lobbyist for the San Joaquin Valley’s most powerful water district, and the head of the federal Bureau of Reclamation is a former staffer for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Does any reasonable person think all of their decisions about the Delta tunnels should be exempt from court review?
Overturn a provision of federal law that directs the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect salmon in decisions to relicense dams on the Tuolumne River. This rider would throw in the towel on rebuilding salmon runs on the Tuolumne, which once numbered in the tens of thousands.
Shut down federal efforts to restore salmon in the San Joaquin River as required by a consensus agreement that followed decades of conflict. Although local water districts signed the agreement, their congressmen are now trying to revoke it.
Block any court review of the federal Central Valley Project or the State Water Project for their impacts on salmon and other natural resources.
All of these riders would harm salmon so more water can be delivered to junior water users (meaning they were last in line to apply for water) in the western San Joaquin Valley. But all of these anti-salmon riders can be stopped in the Senate.
Another anti-salmon rider is worth mentioning. This one would block court-ordered water releases from dams on the Columbia River — the West Coast’s most critical river for salmon. That court order requires springtime water releases that greatly increase survival of baby salmon.