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Awash In Water and Profits, Cal Growers Denied More

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View John McManus's blog posts
16 June 2011, 11:43 AM
Judge deals them a setback in latest ruling
Sacramento River salmon

It’s hard to view the recent actions of some big agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley as anything but hostile to the state’s wildlife. Some of the biggest growers are refusing to take an overflowing allotment of irrigation water as enough and are cluttering up the court system with lawsuits aimed at wringing every last drop of water for themselves, no matter what damage that causes native fish species. 

The big growers went to court last week trying to force state and federal operators of water diversion pumps in the Sacramento/Bay delta to crank up to the max even though thousands of juvenile fall run king salmon have been killed at the pumps over the last few weeks. The young fish are trying to migrate from the rivers where they were born to the sea. The carnage at the pumps lead pump operators to ratchet back pumping. This infuriated water users but the judge refused to order more salmon killing, agreeing that federal law requires pump operators to take steps to protect t salmon runs that traverse the Sacramento/ Bay delta.
As the judge was ruling, a respected policy center released a new study showing that although the big growers moaned and groaned during the recent three year drought, most also found a way to keep the water coming and earned near record profits.   This happened while wildlife that lives in or migrates through the Sacramento/Bay delta suffered sharp declines due to lower than usual water flows.

The fight over the health of the Sacramento/Bay delta is a fight over the most important estuary on the west coast of north America. Protecting the delta has been the aim of years of Earthjustice work with notable successes in 2008 and 2009 when our litigation forced federal wildlife officials to replace weak rules with better ones. Protecting the delta has almost meant protecting the jobs of tens of thousands of Californians and Oregonians whose lives and work revolve around the salmon industry. Perhaps nowhere is the connection between a strong clean environment and economic health so clear. 

the DWR said something like they were "most likely" fall run fish - all 50,000 of them, all dead. These fish could have easily been endangered spring run salmon too - I'm not a fish biologist, just a fisherman - but I don't buy it. Genetic testing these days is easy, fast, and cheap, yet no testing is done on the victims of this horrendous fishkill. Why? Maybe the DWR doesn't want to know what it kills? This stinks. Spend a couple thousand bucks on 100 samples to make sure you're ONLY killing fall run fish!
And then again, even if it's "just" fall run chinooks who are not on the endangered list - that's still the bread and butter for our fishermen!!!! What did we ever do to the westlands guys? Did we ever go up there and cut down 50,000 Almond trees? No we did not.

And the 50,000 dead salmon are just the tip of the iceberg, that's only the number of fish that actually got "salvaged" - the real number of dead salmon is probably 10 times higher.
Aargh, now I'm all upset again....

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