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Schwarzenegger Pushes Canal As Salmon Rivers Are Sucked Dry
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Aug 20th, 2009 6:45 PM
Arnold Schwarzenegger committed himself yet another time to the destruction of the California Delta and its imperiled fish as the Scott and Shasta rivers, major tributaries of the Klamath, were being sucked dry by irrigators.

Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at a Capitol rally pushing for a peripheral canal and dams while his administration does nothing to save imperiled coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steehead standed in pools as the Scott and Shasta rivers are going dry. Governor's Office photo.
governator_at__rally.jpeg
Schwarzenegger Pushes Canal As Salmon Rivers Are Sucked Dry

by Dan Bacher

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger committed himself yet another time to the destruction of the California Delta and its imperiled fish by campaigning for a water bond including a peripheral canal and more dams in a rally sponsored by the Latino Water Coalition Tuesday, August 18.

Schwarzenegger spoke on behalf of San Joaquin Valley agribusiness as the Scott and Shasta rivers were being sucked dry by irrigators and the Department of Fish and Game, under the "leadership" of DFG Director Don Koch, did absolutely nothing to save thousands of coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead stranded in drying pools.

"We must make sure that Sacramento produces a water package that really actually deals with water and deals with all of those different items, because we must fix the Delta and we must fix the ecosystem," said Schwarzenegger. "We must have reliable, high-quality water in the future and we must have a comprehensive water package. And like I said, the infrastructure is also extremely important."

He said he wouldn't sign any legislative package that that doesn't include both above ground water storage - Temperance Flat Reservoir on the San Joaquin River and Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley - and below ground storage.

"I want you to know that I will not sign anything that does not have above-the-ground and below-the-ground water storage," Schwarzenegger said as the Legislature was holding a hearing regarding a package of water and Delta bills. "We need the whole package to restore our water today and to ensure that we have water for tomorrow. Water feeds California and California feeds America and California feeds the world. This is why the work that the Latino Water Coalition does is so critical and this is why I'm 100 percent behind you."

Schwarzenegger also used the rally as an opportunity to blast the court-ordered federal biological opinions protecting Delta smelt, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley salmon, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales. The killer whales (orcas) depend heavily upon Sacramento salmon as a food source.

"Now, there are many fronts, of course, of this war that need to be fought and one of them is, of course, the federal government and the judges with the decisions that they make and just turn off the water at any given time and make decisions based on what's best for the fish rather than what's best for people," said Schwarzenegger.

Unfortunately, the corporate media and some "Big Green" environmental NGOs continue to worship Schwarzenegger as the "Green Governor" for his frequent "green energy" photo opportunities that serve to greenwash his regime's abysmal environmental record. Yet the same Governor has launched a war on fish populations that has resulted in the collapse of Central Valley salmon, green sturgeon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, juvenile striped bass, threadfin shad and American shad to record low population levels.

The Latino Water Coalition is a thinly disguised front for the Westlands Water District and corporate agribusiness that has been pushing to increase water exports from the California Delta to San Joaquin Valley growers and southern California. The coalition and the Central Valley Tea Party bused farmworkers to Congressman George Miller's office in Concord last week to demand increasing water exports to agribusiness and decreasing flows needed to sustain collapsing fish populations.

Fortunately, a group of recreational anglers, fishermen and Contra Costa labor leaders, in a counter-protest organized by Robert Johnson, Jr., of Californians Against the Canal, countered the lies of the coalition that this is a conflict of "fish versus people" when it is actually a battle of the people of northern California and Delta versus heavily subsidized west side San Joaquin Valley agribusiness interests. Johnson, unflapped by the commotion, rose to the occasion and delivered an inspiring speech, defending Miller, the federal government's biological opinions protecting Delta smelt and salmon, and Delta communities.

He challenged Sean Hannity, right wing talk show host, and Paul Rodriguez, chair of the Latino Water Coalition, to "Man Up" and come to the Bay Area to learn the truth - that the thousands of workers employed in the recreational and commercial fishing industries and on Delta farms depend upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods. For more information, read this excellent article by Jerry Neuburger, webmaster of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, http://www.calsport.org/8-14-09.htm.

Schwarzenegger Does Nothing as Scott and Shasta Rivers Are Sucked Dry!

Meanwhile, the Schwarzenegger and Obama administrations are doing nothing as a great environmental tragedy unfolds in northern California. The Scott and Shasta rivers, major salmon spawning tributaries of the Klamath River, have been literally sucked dry by agribusiness this summer.

Flows in the Scott River bottomed out at an all time record low of less than one cubic foot per second (cfs) this week, according to a United States Geological Survey (USGS) flow gage at Fort Jones-- far below the average of 69 cfs for this time of year. “Large areas of the river have gone completely dry, stranding endangered coho salmon as well as Chinook and steelhead in shallow, disconnected pools of water,” said Klamath Riverkeeper Erika Terence.

The adjacent Shasta River isn’t faring much better, with flows as low as 6 cubic feet per second, down from its average of 30 cfs for this time of year, according to Terence. Both streams are critical fish habitat within the Klamath River watershed and are dewatered by excessive irrigation withdrawals in the Scott and Shasta Valleys of far Northern California.

“This is a very critical situation that requires immediate action and so far none of the responsible government agencies—or water users—are stepping forward with any plan of action, “ said Terence.

The non-profit river advocacy organization is mobilizing a legal and public outreach campaign to bring attention to this historic flow emergency and push for action that puts water back in the river as soon as possible.

Terence said agencies with the power to put more water back in the river, or at least investigate the water shortage, include the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the California Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries department (NOAA fisheries) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). She urged citizens to raise their voices with each of these offices to demand enough water for fish in the Scott and Shasta.

The Scott and Shasta River’s record low water levels threaten to wipe out struggling coho and Chinook salmon runs that are crucial to recovering and sustaining the overall Klamath River fishery, according to Terence. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PMFC) has closed or severely curtailed California commercial and sport salmon fishing industries for three of the past four years due to low fish populations.

In 2006, the commercial fishing season in the ocean waters off California and southern Oregon was severely restricted, due to the low numbers of salmon returning to the Klamath River because of the massive juvenile and adult fish kills of 2002. Over 68,000 adult salmon perished on the Klamath in September 2002, due to a change in water policy by the Bush administration that resulted in an outbreak of disease in low, warm water conditions on the lower river.

This year and last, the federal government closed recreational and commercial salmon fishing for Chinook salmon off California and much of Oregon, due to the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon. A record low number of salmon, 66,000, returned to the Sacramento River system last year, due to a combination of record water exports out of the California Delta, declining water quality in Central Valley rivers and poor ocean conditons.

“The Shasta River was once the most productive salmon river for its size in California and the Scott River used to have thriving coho, Chinook, and steelhead runs,” Terence said. “If we want to truly ‘Save our Scott and Shasta Rivers’, we can’t sit by while these rivers literally are sucked dry by irrigators. We need water in the river right now. Fall run salmon are already on their way up the Klamath and need to be able to swim up the Scott and Shasta Rivers to spawn."

This not the first time that an environmental disaster of this scope has taken place on these two abused rivers. The Scotts and Shasta rivers dried up before during the Gray Davis administration, resulting in big fish kills, while the DFG did nothing to prosecute the water users that dewatered the river.

We must put political pressure on the state and federal agencies to do their job and to take immediate action to save imperiled coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead now stranded in drying pools!

For more information, contact Erica Terence, Klamath Riverkeeper, office: (530) 627-3311, cell: (530) 340-5415, erica [at] klamathriver.org, or go to http://www.klamathriver.org.

Action Alert: Pressure the State and Feds to Respond to this Crisis!

Please call the following agency staff. These are the people whose jobs clearly give them the responsibility to quickly and effectively respond to a low-flow emergency with decisive action. Politely and clearly tell them you are concerned about crisis-level low flows on the Scott and Shasta and urge them to act quickly.

1. NOAA Hotline for reporting killing of ESA listed species 1-800-853-1964
Request an investigation into who is killing coho on the Scott and Shasta Rivers.

2. Executive Officer Dorothy Rice at the State Water Resources Control Board, (916) 341-5615
The State Water Board should be properly enforcing water rights.

3. Steve Turek, Aquatic Supervisor at the CDF&G Northern Region Office (530) 225-2280 or email him at sturek [at] dfg.ca.gov. CDFG should be acting quickly to protect fisheries resources and avoid killing of endangered coho.



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