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New Index Shows Federal Agencies Fail to Meet Salmon Restoration Goal
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Nov 17th, 2012 9:49 PM
“Despite indefensible foot-dragging and countless lawsuits, salmon restoration has remained the lynchpin of federal water policy in California for twenty years,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the House author of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. “California salmon support businesses and communities up and down the West coast, and it’s long past time for the federal agencies to take their responsibility to our state’s wild fisheries seriously. The federal government must restore California’s iconic salmon runs to health: that’s the law.”

Federal law requiring almost a million salmon ignored at great expense to Bay-Delta ecosystem and fishing industry

San Francisco, CA (November 13, 2012) – The Central Valley Chinook salmon fishery has suffered a dramatic collapse over the past decade, now standing at only 13 percent of the population goal required by federal law, according to a new salmon index released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

The index is being released following the closure of California’s ocean salmon fishing season on Sunday, and the 20th anniversary of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, a key federal salmon restoration statute.

“Salmon are the canary in the coal mine for the Bay-Delta economy and ecosystem,” says Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst with NRDC’s Water Program. “California salmon, the fishing industry and the Bay-Delta ecosystem all need adequate water flows to maintain their health over the long-term. The Department of the Interior and the State of California need to dramatically step-up efforts to protect the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem and restore salmon populations.”

The Central Valley Project Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 1992, set a goal of doubling the Bay-Delta watershed’s salmon runs from 495,000 to 990,000 wild adult fish by 2002. A decade after the law’s deadline, the salmon fishery continues to struggle to rebound due, in part, to ineffective enforcement by federal and state agencies and continued excessive pumping of fresh water from the Bay-Delta, primarily for industrial agriculture in the Central Valley.

The NRDC and GGSA analysis, published in the Salmon Doubling Index, reveals a steady decline in Bay-Delta Chinook salmon from 2003 through 2010, at which point it reached a record low of 7 percent. Increased water diversions were a significant cause of this decline. Between 2000 and 2006, freshwater pumping from the Bay-Delta increased 20 percent in comparison to 1975-2000.

“Despite indefensible foot-dragging and countless lawsuits, salmon restoration has remained the lynchpin of federal water policy in California for twenty years,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the House author of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. “California salmon support businesses and communities up and down the West coast, and it’s long past time for the federal agencies to take their responsibility to our state’s wild fisheries seriously. The federal government must restore California’s iconic salmon runs to health: that’s the law.”

In 2008, in response to a lawsuit brought by NRDC, Earthjustice and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, stronger federal court-ordered protections went into effect for salmon and other native fish, reducing water pumping from the Bay-Delta. In 2011, there was a modest rebound of wild adult Chinook salmon, directly correlating to this reduction in pumping. Chinook salmon have a three-year life cycle.

As a result, the benefits of stronger protections in 2008 are reflected in the numbers of adult fish that returned to spawn in 2011. Early federal agency projections predict stronger numbers for this year’s salmon run, which is currently underway. Nevertheless, the salmon index for 2012 will likely remain dramatically short of meeting state and federal goals.

“Our salmon runs are essential to California’s natural heritage, to fishing families and to an industry that reaches from the fishing dock to your dinner table,” said Victor Gonella, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association. “Restoring healthy salmon runs means healthy local food, healthy communities and a healthy economy.”

If current laws were enforced and the mandated restoration goal was achieved, the salmon fishing industry would provide a large contribution to the California economy. Consisting of commercial fishing men and women, fresh and salt water recreational anglers, coastal communities, tribes, fish processors, equipment manufacturers, marinas, and food and hospitality, a fully restored California salmon industry would provide $5.6 billion in economic activity annually and tens of thousands of jobs from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon.

“After two closed salmon fishing seasons in 2008 and 2009, and a token season in 2010, fishermen had a chance to fish this year, but we remain far below the healthy runs required by law,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association and GGSA board member. “The stronger runs in 2011 and this year show that, with stronger protections and more effective restoration programs, these magnificent fish will come roaring back.”

Recommendations
State and federal agencies can step-up their efforts to restore salmon by acting on the following recommendations:

• The Department of the Interior should reform CVPIA water contracts and revamp its salmon doubling efforts in response to a scathing independent review. Specifically, Interior should better manage water and restoration funds dedicated to salmon recovery, incorporate the latest scientific information and appoint a manager to be accountable for the progress of the restoration program.

• The State Water Resources Control Board should set stronger standards to protect salmon in the San Joaquin River and the Bay-Delta ecosystem, in proceedings to revise these standards that are currently underway.

• The state’s Department of Water Resources should incorporate salmon doubling into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process.

• The Department of Fish and Game should launch an ambitious state salmon restoration effort.

• The Department of the Interior should aggressively implement NRDC’s agreement to restore the salmon run on the San Joaquin River.

The Salmon Doubling Index graphic and a table listing the index by year can be found here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kcoplin/Salmon%20Index%20Chart%20and%20Table.pdf

Media contacts: Serena Ingre, 415-875-6155, singre [at] nrdc.org; Michael Coats, michael [at] coatspr.com, 707-935-6203

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The Golden Gate Salmon Association is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, tribes, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. Their mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

If you want the San Joaquin River to be a better place for fish and wildlife, approving the proposed expansion of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, is one way to start.
by Beeline
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 7:32 PM
It comes as no surprise that the salmon restoration goal was not met because the government cannot conceive of the Sacramento River as a real river and acknowledge that the salmon need several kinds of habitat and not just cold water. It's also becoming more obvious that the government sees the salmon and the last traditional band of Wintu people as nuisances that get in the way of make work projects.

The multi-million dollar temperature control curtain at Shasta dam did allow for colder water to be released but what the BOR really wanted, was to increase its power generation. Which it did by 105% over previous years. The BOR is trying the sell the "colder water is better for salmon" story again as they plan to raise the dam. Don't buy into it. The water in the river is plenty cold enough as it is.

In a classic hypocritical move, the US Forest Service issued two citations to Chief Sisk at the conclusion of the coming of age ceremony this year that she fought so hard to protect. The government is as sick as it was back in the days of "Wounded Knee" and " San Creek". Obama needs to wake up and kick some Butt. The under current of racial prejudice inherent in government policy needs to be dealt with, because it's destroying the nation.