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Kill The Fall-Run Salmon, Argue Corporate Attorneys

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View Jim McCarthy's blog posts
03 February 2010, 4:43 PM
Agribusiness in court to seize Sacramento water from fish and fishermen

Yesterday (Feb. 2), Westlands Water District—California's largest and most politically powerful agribusiness group—asked a federal judge to block a federal salmon restoration plan that protects salmon and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Earthjustice attorneys, who won a court order in 2008 putting the restoration plan in place, were there to defend it. Westland's move could put the survival of the river's salmon—and California and Oregon's multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational salmon fishing industry—on the line. The judge will announce his decision next week.

Westlands wants to end restrictions on the operation of huge delta water pumps and canals from February through May, when baby salmon migrate from the Sacramento River to the ocean.

The pumps move massive volumes of fresh water from the Delta to farms and cities to the south, and the restrictions cut water user supplies by roughly 5 to 7 percent. These modest pumping restrictions may increase baby salmon survival by at least 50 percent.

Past pumping during the baby salmon migration is known to have killed large numbers of threatened salmon as well as non-threatened, commercially valuable fall-run chinook salmon. Sacramento River fall-run chinook, commonly known as king salmon, form the backbone of Oregon and California's salmon fishing industry.

Unfortunately, before the current salmon restoration plan was put in place, runaway pumping led to the catastrophic collapse of the Sacramento's once mighty king salmon run, two years of closed fishing in two states, hundreds of millions in lost income, and tens of thousands of lost jobs.

But yesterday, Westland's showed that they couldn't care less if the Sacramento's salmon runs disappear, along with the thousands of fishing families who depend upon them. According to the Fresno Bee, attorneys for Westlands argued in part that the pumping restrictions should be thrown out because they protect far more fall-run salmon than the much smaller numbers of threatened salmon.

Unfortunately Westlands, southern California water speculators, and their Congressional representatives have refused to acknowledge the economic damage done to Oregon and California's multi-billion dollar sport and commercial salmon fishery caused by the excessive water withdrawals from the Delta. Though they also tried yesterday to belittle clear evidence that Delta water withdrawals have exceeded the ecological carrying capacity of the Delta, let's hope that the judge disagrees.

Well done! Thank you very much for professional templates and community edition

I agree with captain mike i love my salmon they were put here on earth by the all mighty GOD they have every right to live they were put here so we can eat and survive. They should be protected you rich guys are very greedy why dont you drill for your water and stop killing our fish. I heard you guys can get ocean water and use it after you filter it you have enough money to do that. stop killing our fish.

Supporting EarthJustice in saving the fall run is like making a pack with the devil. I fear that if the run is restored EJ won't stop there. They will then push to end all fishing and hunting.

to Mahalaka: "making a pact with the devil" by Earth Justice saving the fall run is the dumbest thing I ever heard. Salmon are the creation of mother nature and not some source of evil that deserves to be stamped out for ever. On the contrary, people who would stamp out such a beautiful creature, a creature that helps represent what is wild and great about California, are the evil ones. Central Valley Salmon are a historical, cultural part of California.

I have a great passion for them, my family depends on them and we are willing to go to great lengths to save them. Does that make us devils too?

It is nice to see some Butte Creek Spring Run Salmon in the picture for the article. Our wild juvenile salmon begin moving out of the watershed in November and December and into the delta in January and February. That is one of the reasons they have survived fairly well, riding the higher flows of the winter out to the bay. In 2009 we had the lowest run in over 12 years, just 2,561, down from an average of nearly 10,000. Since 1995 most of the Butte Creek diversions have been laddered and screened and flows guaranteed for the fish. Now someone wants to suck the few juveniles we now have left into the inner delta and complete confusion while they try to ride the higher flows out to the ocean. We won't know for 3 years how detrimental this could be for the last best run of wild spring run salmon (endangered) but you can bet this will affect them!

This story has incorrectly, and irresponsibly really, misled its readers in its writing of distorted facts. One example, "Westland's move could put the survival of the river's salmon—and California and Oregon's multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational salmon fishing industry—on the line.." is a blatant dramatization that assumes readers will be easily polarized simply by believing what is written. In fact, what Westlands got was a temporary increase in Delta pumping that WOULD NOT HARM the species.

This ruling is a rare and temporary example of everyone winning, albeit short term; Fish are not being harmed this time of year and farmers are receiving a water boost. Everyone is getting along. Hurray!

This author is a prime example of someone who needlessly continues to stir the anger pot with one-sided personal opinions intended to infuriate readers with incomplete facts.

Westland's argument was that this time of the year no endangered Winter-Run Chinook are in the area of the pumps, the salmon that are there right now are the Fall-Run Chinooks that are not endangered. True, the Fall Run are not on the endangered list, but they are the one run that ALL commercial salmon fisheries from Morro Bay up to the OR/WA Border depend on. Thank you very much for your consideration.

p.s. go watch some more Hannity, he'll give you the "complete facts"

The stark reality is that the central valley is a desert. The only reason agriculture exists here at all is due to the water subversions done by the federal government at the expense of the taxpayers, dollars that have never and will never get reimbursed. The salmon thrived here long before anyone tried to farm the valley and I do not understand how anyone can make a moral argument that they have "water rights" here. The only basis lies in the political clout that has has been realized due to the vast wealth of some in the valley.....better known as "agribusiness".

Nothing in California is as it was originally. The area around your house was home to critters that may now be on the endangered species list. Should that land your house is on be converted back to as it was before humans showed up. The delta is not even in its natural state. It is built from thousands of miles of levees. Many of the wetlands that were originally around the delta are now gone. This has been done at the expense to wildlife!!! Should that all be changed back? Nevermind all the homes, farms and businesses in the area. Why should some areas be forced one way when others are being forced the opposite way. How does this make any sense to anybody??? Just because we are a business we don't deserve water??? We can't all have goverment jobs, it won't work. For all of our sakes we need to find ways to fix the problems. It is not going to work for California to keep going down this road that we are on.

Captain Mike
Since you have so much time on your hands now you may want to check your facts.

The 80-year average for Delta water is 29 million acre-feet annually and in the past approx 7.5 million acre feet have been available for export to cities and farms south of the delta. That is a far cry from sucking up all the water!

Stewart Resnik is not the driving force of Westlands, he is not even in the district.

Yes we do have junior water rights, but not for the whole world. For the last 20 years our water rights have actually eroded. Check the Miller Brady Act. We have been giving up water for the environment for a very long time.

Westlands is 600 Family Farms. We are NOT mega corporations. We are the same as you. We work hard to provide for our families.

Yes we grow almonds, but our biggest crop is tomatoes.

People like me get frustrated when my livelihood dependeds on water that I can't get because ridiculous laws prevent us from getting when the fish are not even in the area of the pumps right now. It looks like the judge is going to temporarily allow pumping. Which I'm sure won't hurt anything.

Hi Farmer2
True, the endangered Winter-Run are not in the area of the pumps right now, but the Fall Run are - and that happens to be my bread and butter... The Fall run has collapsed from around 1 Million fish returning just a few years ago to an all-time record low of some 65,000 expected this year - I'm sure the pumping won't hurt anything, and that making the rivers flow backwards will not confuse these fish... ???
See, these "ridiculous" laws are in place so that people like you and I can live in the same State as good neighbors would; same as drunk driving laws, laws against speeding or dumping trash in the streets - we may not always like them, but these laws are supposed to keep things in balance.
So, let's check facts. If you could enlighten me on a few things, I'd appreciate it:
1. Seems like we are working off different numbers. My numbers say that all through the 90s we exported an average of 4.5 Million acre feet annually from the Delta. In the early 2000's President Bush Jr. increased these exports to an average of 6 Million acre feet for your benefit. Your numbers say that we have been exporting 7.5 Million acre feet all along - please share the source for this information.
2. Word on the street is that we had an all-time record crop of Tomatoes this year in the valley - correct?
3. The entire "water war" that's going on these days is exclusively about the Westlands Water District, because all other agricultural water users got pretty much all the water they needed - correct?
4. When faced with a shortage of water, I assume that you would fallow your tomatoes (food crops) in favor of your almonds (export crops) because they are such a long time investment - correct?

Let me share one more thought with you:
My industry in on the brink of collapse. Close to 1000 Miles of coastline and all communities along that stretch are heavily impacted by the absence of commercially viable salmon populations. Should our fishery be permanently shut down, these fall-run salmon will automatically go onto the endangered species list - and that means water deliveries will be impacted year-round to protect the few remaining fish. When that happens, Westlands is going to be the first water district that's really gonna get the stick - don't let the Pacific Legal Foundation shoot you in the foot with your own gun.

1.As far as numbers go: My point is that people south of the delta do nut suck up all the water. In fact quite the opposite is true. 76% of the water that reaches the delta flushes out to the ocean for environmental reasons. Even though water exports increased, farmers lost water during that time for evironmental reasons, but we seem to take on more and more blame.
2.As far as tomatoes go: You have part of it right. This was a record year for tomatoes for ALL of California. Not just for the valley. Us in Westlands DID have to fallow crops across the board to keep our Almond crop alive. So in other words the areas that grew tomatoes has shifted to elsewhere in California and that made up the record. 3. The water war is not exclusively about Westlands. We do seem take the biggest hits in water loss and take on more of the blame. I personally would like to see the whole ecosystem recover completely. It would really be best for all of us. We can't all be fishermen or goverment workers. We will have to find ways to make it work for all of California. Me and you we are really not that much different.

I cant keep up with the numbers and statistics. Most cases it seems to favor the group who puts the numbers out. I do however have eyes. Look at the health of the San Juaquine River. Its basically a trickle of its former self, yet it used to support a massive run of Chinook Salmon. Where did the water go that used to carry those fish? It seems to me that us coastal fish dependent communities have given up enough over the decades while others water user have benefitted. I know because I'm a third generation troller. Not long ago the commercial salmon industry supported over 5000 family owned fishing vessels. Today its down to about 600. Although not related to the delta diversions, look at the fish kill in the Klamath River system from over pumpig that stymied our industry for years. Look at how the diversion pumps can change the direction of the river during the crital time of migration of juvenile Salmon down the river system.

Look bottom line is that people who love and depend on salmon and the health of the West Coast's largest estuary have given up enough. There are powerful interest lurking out there who wouldn't think twice about draining the delta of it's last drop. It's too bad corporate interest can manipulate ordinary hardworking people to turn against each other.

I don't quite understand what you mean by "we can't all be fishermen or government workers", but I'd venture to take a pot shot here and state that we can't all be farmers either.
The difference between us, as I see it, is when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council or California DFG tells me to stop fishing because my activities have a negative impact on the resource - I stop fishing. You on the other hand throw a hissy fit, when the National Marine Fisheries Service tells you to take a few percent reduction in irrigation water because your watering habits are having a negative impact on the natural resources that belong to everybody in the State.
Granted, the average 5% reduction could spell out major reductions for you personally because you choose to conduct your farming operation in the most junior water-rights district - none the less, fishermen have faced a 100% reduction for 2 straight years now, and possibly for another year to come.
If I sound a little ticked off, it's nothing personal - but when you say "we have to find a way to make it work for all".... we can't come your way any further, we have given everything we had to give!!! I could think of many different ways to make it work for all, but I have a feeling that you wouldn't like any of my ideas, because they'd ask you & your's to give a little something too.

This is completely wrong Captain Mike your assumption that farmers are "with total disregard destroying public resources". You are assuming way too much here and you know what happens when you assume things. Even the most highly respected scientist can't say for certain what the problems are in the delta. In fact, some scientist are saying that it could be a combination of factors. You've got 95% of the aquatic life in the delta that should not be there and is competing with native fish for survival.

There is 1 billion gallons a day of sewage wastewater polluting the delta EVERY SINGLE DAY. In fact, the ammonia load in Sacramento's wastewater has more than doubled since 1985! Wouldn't that be considered "with total disregard destroying public resources". How can you allow that to continue??? While you cry that the farmers are destroying it all. Maybe everyone has a hand in this problem including you.

What about the recent articles about urban pesticides (Pyrethroids) showing up in the rivers. Now it would seem that home owners have a hand in this and are "with total disregard destroying public resources".

Do you fishermen really have this narrow of a view of the problems in the delta? Do you sincerely even trying to fix the problems in the delta? To me it seems like this is really an agenda to seize control of California's water resources?

All I know is that at the exact moment when water exports increased by close to 30% our salmon populations crashed. And I mean the very exact moment. You can call it a coincidence all you want, but sorry to say it's not.
I whole-heartedly agree on all your other points though.
The interesting item will be when the NSA releases their results of the study your buddy Resnick has asked for - I can't wait, literally, because I want to go back to work asap.

Within the agricultural community, "agribusiness" is a term used widely to refer to a range of farm activities involved in food production. The term "agribusiness" is used negatively by critics of large-scale, industrialized, food production, that is synonymous with corporate farming. So I am a little confused as to why Westlands Water District would be identified as "California's largest and most politically powerful agribusiness". As a fifth generation, full time farm family, we are pretty tired of individuals and groups with a passion for saving the environment (which we have as well) using terms such agribusiness in negative ways. It is term we farmers use daily as it pertains to a wide variety farm business. Farmers have been identified as source of all of our water and soil problems. Hello?? Take a drive through an suburban development. There is more fertilizer used on the average American yard then farmers are using. And where does all that end up. Yep, in our waterways. Yes, we are all for protecting our planet. We all should be good stewards of the land. But I see people in the city pollute our streams and rivers in hundreds of ways. Do people not understand that when it rains, the runoff from roofs, sidewalks, driveways, gutters carries all that trash, oil, pet waste, cigarette butts, etc. right into our streams, rivers, bays and ultimately our oceans. STOP negatively using terms such as Agribusiness and please when you do use those terms, use them in the correct context.

Hello there Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous,
Jim didn't call Westlands an "agri-business", but an "agri-business group", and though maybe the term isn't 100% correct, I tried to come up with a better one and failed.
And from a commercial fishermen's point of view, what can be good and positive about a water district that serves farm (or agri) businesses such as yours, while with total disregard destroying public resources that others depend on?
As a commercial salmon fisherman and American food producer, I'm pretty tired of the constant attacks on my livelyhood by those who are represented by Westlands. You may or may not belong to that group - you haven't specified where you conduct your business...
My fishery has been totally and utterly ruined by the ever-increasing water demands of Californian "Agri-Businesses" who demanded an increase of water pumped from the Delta over the last decade. Water exports went up from an average of 4 1/2 million acre feet to an average of 6 million acre feet annually. During the same time that the pumping increased, our salmon crashed. We have not fished for 2 years now and face a possible 3rd total shut-down of our fisheries this year - thanks to Westlands, and CA agriculture in general, but most of the credit has to go to Westlands.
Agriculture uses around 80% of all developed water in CA. Those who started farms in the Westlands knew from the start that their water was not always guaranteed, since Westlands was and is the most junior water rights holder, and is only supposed to receive "surplus water" from the system. Permanent crops, such as Almonds for example, should have never been planted in this district!
I have no beef with farmers. We need broccoli and rice to go with our fish for dinner... but the show that Westlands puts on these days is over the top and outright evil in my opinion.
Thanks for reading.

Hello Capt Mike~I was happy to read your response. And its Cowgirl, thank you. I really know nothing about Westlands, being an East Coast fifth generation farm family and all. And I have absolutely no "beef" with fisherman. Fisherman, farmers....we are the people who put food on the American table and we are the ones that are going down the toilet because of BIG BUSINESS.....whether its factory farming or corporations like your Westlands. My issue was about the term "agribusiness" because it puts those in agriculture in a bad light, only because people lump all farmers into the same corral (or in your case, boat) when they read or hear the term "agribusiness". From what I have read, I agree with you 100%. But it sounds to me like you just don't like farmers, period, and you blame them for your problems. I am pretty tired of the constant attacks on farmers, from people who have no clue what we have to go through on a daily basis. And we aren't making any money, either. Dairy farmers are going under, from California to Virginia. Dairy farmers are commiting suicide right and left because of the price of milk and expenses that have spiraled out of control. I could go on and on. Instead of fisherman and farmers being on opposite sides of the fence, maybe we learn to work together to solve some of the problems we each face.

Hello Cowgirl,
I like farmers well enough. My wife and I sell our fish at the local farmers' markets, and we get along most excellently with our neighborhood family farmers. They produce some fantastic bell peppers, tomatoes, broccolies, potatoes, etc... and life would be a lot different without all that great produce.
Now these farmers I know face the same problem that I face. A handful of mega corporations suck up all the water, leaving the rest of us holding the bag.
Google up a guy named Stewart Resnick, he's the driving force behind Westlands. Resnick makes some $80 Million annually re-selling farm water to urban developers - all the while folks like Farmer2 get mad at people who cry for fish protections.... I just got reports of another Central Valley farm corporation reselling their farm water to another developer in Redwood City (hundreds of miles away), with contracts for 80 years.....
Those are the kind of "farmers" I don't like. If you want the farm water, you'd better grow something with it, otherwise leave it in the river.
Another thing that irks me is the proliferation of perennial crops that has recently taken over our agriculture. Speculators flock to our Central Valley and invest in these crops like Almonds. John Madden for example today owns 1000s of acres of Almonds - he should stick with football...
Westlands is the most junior water rights holder in the world - nobody in Westlands should EVER have planted perennial crops - but they did - a lot! Now the good farmers of Westlands have created a constant demand on water in a State that has an intermittent supply, and it takes all flexibility out of our water management.
A couple of decades ago, 3 years of 70%-80% of normal rainfall would not have been called a "drought", today they post signs about "government created dustbowls" along the freeways in the Westlands, and call it the "worst drought of the century".... and their congressmen are calling for the "God Squad" to remove fish protections... and they file injunctions against fish protections in federal courts... how would you like that if your livelihood depended on healthy runs of salmon that can only survive if there's water in the river?

Let's set aside corporated greed and protect the planet.

Let's set aside enviromental greed and fix the darn problems. Otherwise, we shall be bowing down do our new masters... China.

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