Skip to comments.Water restrictions to California farms justified' but need more study, report says
Posted on 03/21/2010 6:41:18 PM PDT by concentric circles
Controversial cuts in water deliveries to farms in California's San Joaquin Valley appear to be "scientifically justified" but still in need of further study, elite scientists have concluded in a report to be issued Friday.
In a politically sensitive study, the National Research Council determined two federal agencies had a "sound conceptual basis" for their actions protecting Chinook salmon, delta smelt and other endangered fish. The conclusion undercuts a common farmer criticism.
But the 65-page report may give some ammunition, as well, to those skeptical of water delivery restrictions imposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.
Notably, the scientists determined that predators, pollution and other "stressors" accounted for some of the fish lost in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Until now, farmers say they've been held solely responsible for the fish losses, costing them water.
"Based on the evidence the committee has reviewed, the committee agreed that the adverse effects of all the other stressors on the (protected) fishes are potentially large," the study's summary conclusion states.
Pointedly, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., added in a statement Thursday that "predator fish have been allowed to flourish while cuts have continued in the deliveries of irrigation water to the San Joaquin Valley."
By itself, the "Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta" study will not compel any new decision one way or another. It is, though, one more step in a long-running dispute over the division of water between fish and farms.
The study is a second look at two "biological opinions" issued over the past two years by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Services. The biological opinions are management decisions that protect species covered under the Endangered Species Act.
The National Research Council suggested the two different federal agencies could do a better job of coordinating their efforts.
"The lack of a systematic, well-framed overall analysis is a serious scientific deficiency," the report states.
Last year, a combination of drought and environmental protections meant farmers on the San Joaquin Valley's West Side only received 10 percent of their normal water allocation. This year, pushed politically and buttressed by a better snowpack, the Interior Department has declared the farmers can expect at least 25 percent.
Prompted by unhappy farmers, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other California lawmakers had urged the Obama administration to request the study. Last year, Feinstein secured $750,000 to help fund the work by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
In part, the study counsels patience.
"Reversing or even slowing the declines of the listed species cannot be accomplished immediately," the study notes. "Even the best-targeted methods of reversing the fish declines will need time to take effect."
The new study further notes "substantial uncertainty" remains over key technical details, such as precisely how much water must flow through the San Joaquin River for the protection of fish.
All told, the 15-member research committee identified a number of unresolved issues that the panel will continue studying through November 2011. These will include more detailed evaluation of the non-farm "stressors" contributing to the Delta's decline.
"The preliminary report presents a lot of information that there are a lot of other problems that affect the Delta," said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.
Costa declined to discuss the study in detail or to provide a copy of it, citing the National Research Council's intentions to formally release the study Friday. The study's authors provided separate, hour-long briefings Thursday afternoon for House and Senate staff members, lawmakers and analysts.
A copy of the study's seven-page executive summary was provided by an individual who was not authorized to hand it out.
Most of the research committee's members work in universities outside of California. They met for a week in Davis, Calif., during January, considering testimony and documents in both public and private sessions.
LOS ANGELES, March 19 (Reuters) - Federal limits on water that can be pumped out of a major river delta for California farmers are scientifically justified, a much-anticipated report said on Friday, a finding hailed by environmentalists in the state's epic water wars.
But the National Academy of Sciences stopped short of handing a decisive victory to environmental interests over agricultural interests. The academy said further study was required and that threats to Chinook salmon, delta smelt and other endangered fish were not entirely caused by the pumping.
"The Academy of Sciences report clearly validates the biological opinions," Ann Hayden, a senior water resource analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund, said of regulations devised under court order by federal wildlife biologists and issued in late 2008.
"It's time to stop pitting the economic interests of farmers against fishermen and move forward to find solutions," Hayden said. "We have pushed the Bay-Delta system to the brink of collapse and saving it -- and the jobs that depend on it -- is going to require increased cooperation among all interests."
A spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation said the report showed the need for "better justification of water restrictions" and that there were flaws in the Endangered Species Act.
"We believe the government must do a better job of managing the delta pumps, to make more water available for people while still protecting the fish," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Wenger also singled out the study's conclusion that a number of factors, including sewage treatment plants and non-native fish, represented a threat to the protected species.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is at the center of California's long-running tug of war over water, which has become increasingly testy during a three-year drought that led to rationing, higher charges for water and mandatory conservation measures across the state.
Dramatic cutbacks in water deliveries by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and state Water Resources Department have idled thousands of farm workers and large swaths of farmland. The crisis prompted U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, to propose easing the environmental restrictions to allow the pumping of more water for growers.
Feinstein came under fire from environmental activists, fishing groups and even members of her own party. She dropped the plan after state and federal agencies, citing a series of strong winter storms that may signal the end of the drought, announced they would supply farms considerably more water this year than last.
Lawmakers have said they would await the National Academy of Sciences report, which was ordered by the Obama administration, before making further policy decisions.
On Tuesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said irrigation districts south of the delta, which represent farmers on the west side of the state's fertile Central Valley, will get 25 percent of their contracted water allotment from the Bureau of Reclamation, up from just 5 percent in February.
The increase was issued ahead of schedule and comes at a critical time for the Central Valley, one of the country's most bountiful agricultural regions. California, the No. 1 farm state, produces more than half the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States.
The state water agency also boosted its allocation for all users to 15 percent, up from 5 percent last year.
The state supplies more than 25 million people and more than 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of farmland with water from the delta.
Here is something to consider. How many eat salmon VS. how many eat vegies?
The people doing this **** are the same as bullies everywhere in the world. The ONLY way to get their attention is to see to it that there are personal consequences for them in the picture somehow or other.
Where did all the Global Scamming excuses go? What do they mean about preditory fish? Why are farmers being punished for that or pollution? They only got it raised to 25% to buy off 2 congressmen. This is likely being worked out in Pelozi’s office.
Pray for America
“Food” is next for our “dear leader”.
The health care vote is over. The can turn the water back off now.
Among others, introduced striped bass, which are very popular among sport fishermen. Another cause (curiously missing from the report) is that the native Delta Smelt are being hybridized by an introduced variant.
This is about taking farmers' dirt for developers, cheap. It has nothing to do with fish.
You sure its developers who want the land and not the gummit? It would make some nice parks, although some politicians would be paid a pretty penny by those developers?
Pray for America
There will be a distribution of the two, with the parks effectively subsidizing real estate value by creating artificial shortage, with taxpayers footing the bill for private parks for the wealthy, at least that's how it's been working so far. Of one thing they'll make certain: the land will be incapable of producing food.
If you want a Revolution...
Pray for America
Who the hell do you think California State government works for?