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Organizing to Save the California Delta and West Coast Salmon

Northern Californians have recently launched two grassroots efforts to oppose a proposed peripheral canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River and send it around the West's largest estuary to irrigate large industrial farms in the Central Valley and Southern California.

On January 17th, Water4Fish held a panel discussion at the International Sportsmen's Expo in Sacramento.

The panel, "Salmon: Recovery or Extinction," addressed the recently the released draft biological opinion which found state and federal water pumping plan are "likely to jeopardize" Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon, spring run Chinook, Central Valley steelhead and green sturgeon populations.

In 2008, the commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing season in California and most of Oregon was closed for the first time in history. The economic impact on coastal communities in Northern California was devastating and led to federal emergency disaster relief.

Dr. Joshua Israel, a fishery researcher at U.C. Davis, told the audience, "Unless society makes substantial changes in river flow management and estuarine habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead in the near future, two-thirds of the runs are headed for extinction."

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, chairman of the State Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee said, "We clearly face a growing crisis in the salmon, steelhead and trout populations of California. Water management policies and practices must change in order for California to meet the various competing demands."

Dick Pool of Pro-Troll Fishing Products, a veteran of many fish battles, and organizer with Water4Fish offered a sober assessment of the current situation. "So far we are losing the battle to protect salmon and steelhead," said Pool. "The water people have been in control and the fish are the losers. Fishermen and wildlife supporters are currently not players in the political process. We are ignored. Our only recourse is to get more politically involved and get organized." 

Another group organizing in the valley is the Stockton-based Restore the Delta who are committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable.

Restore the Delta is a coalition of Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists who seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities.

The group seeks the reduction of water exports to restore and sustain the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem.

On February 28, Restore the Delta will hold a symposium in Lodi entitled "A Bold Direction: The People's Vision for the Delta." Topics on the agenda include: an update on current litigation efforts, regional self-sufficiency, managing changing conditions in the delta, delta conservancy issues, and fixing the State Water Resources Control Board.

Tags:  Salmon, science, Water