by Dan Bacher
Sunday Jun 28th, 2009 10:02 AM
Attached is a press release from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) that uses official data from California’s Employment Development Department to refute claims that water shortages caused by federal biological opinions and efforts to protect fish have caused massive farm unemployment. As you can see from the release, farm employment has fated far better than other sectors of the economy and, indeed, farm employment has increased during the last three drought years, according to Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. Further, farm employment levels have varied since 2000, but this variance has not coincided with wet or dry years. These are “facts” that have failed to gain coverage in the corporate media. These are “facts” that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is not likely to hear today in Fresno.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director: 209-464-5067, Cell 209-938-9053, deltakeep [at] aol.com
Myths, Lies and Damn Lies
Despite drought, Valley agriculture doing far better than rest of economy
Stockton, CA – Sunday, June 28, 2009. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is in Fresno today to attend a meeting and listen to the economic woes of the south Valley. Newspapers and airways are awash with accusations that a three-inch fish has caused a man-made drought in California and that environmentalists and fishermen seek to “starve people in order to save whales.”
Congressmen, farmers and water agencies claim that 450,000 or more acres of land have been fallowed and 35-50,000 people have been put out of work: all because of Delta smelt and the Endangered Species Act. But, facts are stubborn things. And the facts tell us that these accusations are lies – bald-face lies.
“We hope Secretary Salazar will seek out the facts and see through the transparent efforts by Governor Schwarzenegger, Valley elected officials and the hydrologic brotherhood to use the red-herring of economic recession as justification for depriving the Delta of essential water,” said
CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings. “Their efforts can only be successful if the Secretary, reporters and the general public ignore the facts,” he said, adding, “The truth is more water won’t wash away the Valley’s recession and endangered species are the victims, not the problem.”
According to official data collected by the California Economic Development Department, during three years of drought, between May of 2006 and May of 2009, farm employment went up 13.7% in Kern County, 12.1% in Fresno County, 19.3% in Tulare County, 2% in Merced County, 5.3% in Madera and 8.4% in Stanislaus County.1 Only in the smallest agricultural county of Kings, did we find a decline. While we’re told that 262,000 acres have been fallowed in Fresno County, the County’s Department of Agriculture was releasing a report that revealed 2008 was another record year with agricultural production dollars up 5.9% over the previous record year of 2007.2
San Joaquin Valley farm unemployment has always been high and, while the present economic disaster has exacerbated conditions, farm unemployment has not fluctuated according to wet and dry years.3 Indeed, agriculture has fared far better in the current recession than other segments of the economy.
While May 08 to May 09 construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation and financial employment in Fresno County dropped by 3,000, 2,300, 1,200 and 900, respectively: agricultural employment actually increased by 100.4 Tulare County reports that while, agricultural employment increased by 2,100 between May 08 and May 09, construction, manufacturing, trade & transportation, hospitality and financial employment was down 800, 1,100, 1,300, 400 and 500, respectively.5
Even in counties reporting slight declines in agricultural employment: other employment sectors experienced far greater drops. In the last year of a three-year drought (May 08-May09), statewide farm employment dropped by only 9,600 while nonfarm employment plunged 744,400.6 Indeed, employment figures for counties for north-of-Delta counties that are receiving full water allotments are showing similar employment impacts.
Who is not telling the truth: our elected representatives or the California Employment Development Department? And, who is distorting the truth about actual water shortages?
As Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow pointed out in a 15 May 2009 letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Westlands Water District is expected to receive 86% of its normal water supplies in this third year of drought; Kern Count Water Agency is expecting 85% and the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors will receive 100% of its non-drought supplies.7
The chart attached to Snow’s letter claims that Westlands’ 14% shortfall will force it to fallow 225,000 acres rather than its normal fallowing of 78,000 acres and Kern County Water Agency’s 15% shortfall will compel it to fallow 220,000 acres rather than the normal 100,000 acres.8 The numbers simply don’t add up.
Mr. Snow was candid when he wrote Senator Feinstein that, “I believe many have lost sight of the plain fact that we are in a hydrologic drought, and as such water supplies are simply limited for all users”9 and when he testified to Congress that, if there was no court order protecting fish, there would only be a 5% increase in water to the Central Valley.
Unfortunately, Mr. Snow and those who scapegoat fisheries seem unable to admit that water supplies in a drought are also limited for fish and wildlife and that recent biological opinions provide less water for the environment during shortages. Nor can they acknowledge that California has issued water rights for 8 _ times the average amount of water in the Bay-Delta
watershed or that Valley farmers have recently planted hundreds of thousands of acres of perennial crops based upon the most junior water rights that assume interrupted supplies during the inevitable droughts that occur more than a third of the time in the state.
Those who accuse fishermen and environmentalists of trying to “starve families to protect whales” appear incapable of exhibiting compassion for the depressed communities along the coast and wrecked livelihoods of commercial fishermen whose boats are either dry-docked or repossessed by the bank or lamenting the 23,000 people out of work or the $1.4 billion lost to the state’s economy because of fishing closures.
And what of those on the Westside of the Valley who irrigate selenium laced soils that discharge toxic wastes back to the river and Delta? Do they believe they have a prerogative to water that leaves the Delta with salinity levels that threaten the existence of generations of Delta farmers who cultivate over 400,000 acres of some of the finest prime soils on earth?
There is enough water in California to provide for people and rivers, if it’s used wisely. Reclamation, recycling, groundwater banking, conservation and desalination offer a virtual river far larger than any additional supplies secured via new surface storage or a peripheral canal. Fish are not the problem. “A dysfunctional water delivery system, greed and failure to comply with existing laws have brought us to the edge of disaster,” observed Jennings. “Common sense, sound science and a proper respect for law can lead us back from the abyss,” he said.
CSPA is a non-profit public benefit conservation and research organization established in 1983
for the purpose of conserving, restoring, and enhancing the state’s water quality and fishery
resources and their aquatic ecosystems and riparian habitats. CSPA’s website is:
1 CSPA Table, Monthly Farm Employment (attached) extracted from EED Data,
2 2008 Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report, Fresno Department of Agriculture, page I, available on CSPA
3 CSPA Table, Industry Employment & Labor Force by Annual Average, 2000-2008, extracted from EED data,
4 CSPA Table, Farm and Nonfarm Employment May 08 v. May 09, extracted from EED Data,
6 Industry Employment & Labor Force, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information
Division, June 19, 2009. (Attached)
7 Letter from Lester Snow, DWR, to Honorable Dianne Feinstein, May 15, 2009. Available on CSPA website:
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Posted by: Aqua Blog Maven on June 21, 2009 at 10:59 am
Here’s a roundup of what California’s state and federal legislators are saying this week about California water issues:
After the house narrowly defeated an ammendment that would have denied funding for implementation of the biological opinion, Congressman Radanovich issued the following statement:
“I commend my colleague, Mr. Nunes, for his amendment to mitigate the impact of California’s man-made drought. It is absolutely deplorable that the Democrats in Congress continue to vote more and more people of the San Joaquin Valley into homeless shelters and out of work. Our government is failing at its basic, core responsibilities to protect the rights of the citizens. Onerous environmental regulations are killing the agriculture industry in California, and the Democrat majority is not only content with this outcome, but is actually perpetuating the problem.”
Congressman Jim Costa issued this statement:
“I’m fighting for farmers, farm workers, and our Valley. The National Marine Fisheries Service biological opinion released earlier this month is flawed, and will continue to hurt our Valley’s farmers and farm workers,” said Costa. “Overall, the biological opinion left out the numerous other stressors affecting the health of the Delta. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) offered a bipartisan amendment, with support from Congressman Cardoza’s and me, to the CJS Appropriations bill which would have forbid funds in the bill to implement the biological opinion. I supported the amendment, but a much larger effort is needed to solve our water problems.”
“In my view, if left unchanged, this biological opinion’s impact to water availability this Fall and next year in our Valley and Southern California is significantly underestimated,” concluded Costa.
You can read Congressman Costa’s statement as prepared for delivery to the committee by clicking here.
Congressman Nunes introduced the amendment, and after it’s failure to pass, declared my constituents are not enemies of the state.
Apparently, no statement issued by Congressman Miller.
Other legislators are working for relief for the valley. Senator Feinstein is working to get more help to Valley food banks:
[Issued Wed June 17] U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday urged the Obama Administration to take action to respond to urgent shortages at food banks in California. Food banks in the State’s prime agricultural areas are facing overwhelming demand for assistance, largely due to the prolonged drought and record unemployment. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Feinstein urged the Department to use its existing authority to provide additional resources to the State, nonprofits, food banks, and others in order to meet the extraordinary demand for food assistance.
You can read the text of Feinstein’s letter by clicking here.
Congressman Cardoza is working for more economic aid for the valley’s devastated economy:
On Friday, the Financial Services Committee heard testimony from Congressman Cardoza, as well as Los Banos Mayor Tommy Jones, about the cumulative impact of record-high foreclosure and unemployment rates, drought, and crashing dairy prices. Following the testimony, several members of the committee acknowledged the extreme difficulties faced by San Joaquin Valley residents. Chairman Frank expressed his commitment to working with Congressman Cardoza to find a means of directing funding to the region. “We are going to make a serious effort to do this,” Chairman Frank announced.
Read more from Congressman Cardoza’s website by clicking here.
Record Staff Writer
June 14, 2009 6:00 AM
At mile 59 on the Stanislaus River, the few steelhead struggling upstream to spawn encounter a solid wall: Goodwin Dam.
It is here that two San Joaquin County water districts divert flows in an urgent effort to satisfy a growing population and refill a sagging underground aquifer.
And it is a bit farther upstream, at towering New Melones Dam, where new rules to protect the fish might quash Stockton’s 26-year effort to secure that critically-needed water.
The rules require year-round flows for fish downstream of Goodwin, meaning less water can be stored for San Joaquin County at New Melones Lake. An attorney for Stockton East Water District, which sends water to Stockton, said last week that the district can now expect no water at all for many years.
The rules, announced earlier this month by the National Marine Fisheries Service, stunned water officials.
“They just want the water, and they’re going to take it,” said Stockton East General Manager Kevin Kauffman, who predicted the federal government will get sued by just about “everybody” as a result of their sweeping regulations.
“It’s just the beginning,” Kauffman said.
Even if the rule stands, do not expect the taps to run dry tomorrow. In addition to the Stanislaus, Stockton draws water from the Calaveras River and below ground.
But this region has been searching for a more secure water supply for decades, and millions have been spent pursuing the Stanislaus.
Contracts for the water were signed Dec. 19, 1983. Former Stockton East manager Ed Steffani still remembers the celebration that night.
“It was a sure bet we were always going to get water,” he said.
It took several years to build the $65 million tunnel needed to take the water from one basin to another. Then, just as the spigots were ready to open, new environmental safeguards for fish required more water be sent downstream.
All told, since 1993 Stockton East and its neighbor, the Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District, have received their full allotment of Stanislaus water just once – in 2006. They were shut out completely in 1993, 1994 and 2004, and most years have gotten less than half of the contracted amount.
A $500 million lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but the districts lost. An appeal is pending and a ruling could come any day, an attorney said.
The new rules were required after a federal judge threw out old ones, calling them inadequate. The rules include prescriptions for several species of fish throughout Northern California, with the consequence of a 5 percent to 7 percent decline in water exports from the Delta.
But with the Stanislaus it is all about steelhead. And if Stockton has gotten a raw deal, so have the fish.
Before 1850, there were probably 1 million to 2 million steelhead spawning in Central Valley waterways. Most recently, there were 3,628 spawners, according to a 2005 study.
In 2006-07, no more than 12 adult steelhead were seen passing through a weir on the Stanislaus, compared with more than 3,000 fall-run chinook salmon, according to the Fisheries Service analysis. And very few juvenile steelhead make it out of the river alive.
Among the many problems, according to the analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service:
» Construction of the dams blocked the river from transporting gravel downstream; gravel beds are good spawning habitat.
» Consistent, uniform releases of water from the dam make floods less frequent. Floods help shape the river to create a variety of habitat and make it easier for fish to avoid predators.
» River temperatures are too warm for juvenile steelhead as they float downstream.
Federal biologists’ solutions include greater flows, injection of enough gravel to fill the beds of 50,000 pickups, and a study of whether, someday, steelhead might gain passage above the dams to their historic spawning grounds.
The goal is not to drain New Melones Lake, said Rhonda Reed, a scientist with the Fisheries Service.
“We need to be able to help (the Bureau of Reclamation) do their job in such a way that it doesn’t jeopardize the fish,” she said. “And it’s hard. A dry reservoir is not good for fish, and it’s not good for people.”
The Fisheries Service predicted diversions to San Joaquin County could decrease by 22 percent.
But Stockton East attorney Jeanne Zolezzi argues that models used by the feds are flawed and that for “many years” in the future no water will be delivered to the county. In a wet year, she said, New Melones could be drawn down by more than 600,000 acre-feet to protect fish – that is one-quarter of the reservoir’s capacity and more than half of its average runoff.
No water from the Stanislaus means about half of the surface water coming into Stockton is eliminated.
“We have deep, deep concerns about this,” said Mark Madison, director of the Stockton Municipal Utilities Department. “We need more than what the Calaveras (River) will provide.”
The city wants to suck water directly from the Delta, but that project is still in the planning phase.
Reclamation, which operates the Central Valley Project of which New Melones is a part, acknowledges that it overestimated how much water would be made available by constructing the reservoir and signing contracts with the water districts.
Spokesman Pete Lucero said the bureau still is analyzing the impacts of the 844-page Fisheries Service opinion.
But he said: “It does appear that the impact may be significant.”
Summer is here, and we’re on the prowl for some new at Defenders of Wildlife. If you or someone you know would be qualified and interested in fulfilling these roles with Defenders, then please ask them to forward on their information (resume, salary history, and letter of interest) to us via e-mail at: HR@defenders.org.
Recently Available Opportunities:
- Western Wolf Coalition Montana Outreach Contractor
- Federal Lands Associate (Forest)
- Federal Lands Associate (Refuge)
- Director of Online Publishing
- Web Production Manager
Positions Still Available:
- Staff Attorney (D.C.)
- Florida Program Coordinator
- Director of Donor Programs
- Development Coordinator
Detailed position descriptions on all of the following opportunities are available online on our “Job Opportunities” page at:
For Immediate Release: June 4, 2009
Paul Pierce, Coastside Fishing Club, (510) 432-8820
Dick Pool, Water4Fish (925) 963-6350
Roger Thomas, Golden Gate Fishermen’s Assn. (415) 760-9362
Dave Bitts, PCFFA, (707) 498-3512
Mike Hudson, SalmonAid Foundation, (510) 407-2000
Federal Government Announces Salmon Restoration Actions
Salmon Fishing Industry Hopeful
San Francisco, CA — The federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today announces changes the agency will require in the operations of the state and federal Central Valley Water Projects to protect the salmon listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The new rules, primarily governing movement of water through the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta Estuary, are designed to protect both the Spring and Winter Run Chinook Salmon runs as well as other species.
The actions are expected to require changes in the state’s reservoir operations, changes in river flows and changes in the way delta water is unnaturally redirected to giant pumps that send it hundreds of miles to the south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Members of the salmon fishing industry are hopeful for better results after years of steady declines in the salmon populations and no ocean salmon fishing seasons in 2008 and 2009 due to a lack of fish.
Paul Pierce represents The Coastside Fishing Club and serves on the Pacific Fishery Management Council Salmon Advisory Subpanel. Pierce said, “We are hopeful the actions of the National Marine Fishery Service will begin the turnaround of these species which are nearing extinction. The courts demanded a better plan and the agency has responded. With three years of scientific work by NMFS, we now have a better idea how and where the destruction of the salmon is occurring. Based on this science, the agency should direct the changes necessary to see that these fish survive. We support their decisions and we look forward to seeing positive changes.”
Dick Pool is a manufacturer of salmon fishing equipment and leads the Water4Fish advocacy program which now has 70,000 supporters who have been asking for changes in the states water management to benefit salmon. Pool echoed Paul Pierce’s thanks and congratulations to the National Marine Fisheries Service and added, “These changes are exactly what we have been looking for. We have been operating on an environmental disaster course for salmon and these actions are the beginning of the turnaround.”
Pool added, “Fishing is big business in California. There are 4.2 million recreational fishermen in the state generating $4.8 billion in economic impact and supporting 41,000 jobs. Salmon are a big part of this. There are 904 retailers and 327 other businesses that drive their income from the $1 billion salmon industry. These businesses and their leaders join us in supporting the leadership provided by NMFS and the other fishery agencies in mapping some solutions.”
Roger Thomas is President of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association. The charter boats of this organization carry 200,000 salmon fishermen a year in their pursuit of catching a salmon. Roger says, “There are approximately 500,000 recreational salmon fishermen in California. They are passionate about their sport and are livid about what has happened. I am sure they all join me in congratulating the National Marine Fisheries Service in the bold actions to begin the restoration process.”
Roger cautioned, “These actions are designed to protect only two of the four salmon runs of the Central Valley. We hope the Fall Run which has been the largest and the backbone of the ocean and river fishery for decades will also benefit from the new rules to be announced today.
Dave Bitts, President of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said, “This year I can’t fish at all, mainly because water in California follows money, and fishermen don’t have the megabucks available to the San Joaquin grower interests. This isn’t about either fish or farms. It’s about how we use our limited, vastly oversubscribed water resources wisely in order to have both. Continuing to hand out huge volumes of public water dirt cheap is not the answer. If you continue taking so much water that salmon go extinct in the California, what wild creatures will be next?”
Most of the problems of the salmon runs have resulted from the over subscription of water from California’s rivers, reservoirs and the delta. These problems have to be solved not only for the environment but for all sectors of the California economy. The vast majority of natural water sources have already been tapped. Climate change will compound the problems.
The fishery groups are strong supporters of the major new sources of water that have been identified but are not being implemented fast enough. These include water conservation, water recycling and groundwater management. We urge the state and federal governments to provide the leadership, incentives and financial resources to significantly speed up these developments.
Mike Hudson, commercial fisherman and executive director of the SalmonAid Foundation, adds “Today we will find out if we ever will get our salmon back in any numbers to speak of. We have had all the laws on the books for decades now, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and others. Sometimes it’s not that the rules are not in place, but the lack of commitment to enforce them. It is not too late to bring our salmon back. I’m cautiously optimistic that today is the day that may start meaningful restoration of this fantastic fish. If the fisheries service decides to do the right thing today, I and thousands of my fellow fishermen will applaud them.”