Restore Salmon And Water Quality! 60% Inflows needed!

Delta

After decades of degradation from inadequate freshwater inflows, the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) is poised to take action to provide relief to the San Francisco Bay-Delta and at least some of the rivers that feed it. The Board has proposed revisions to the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan aimed at updating minimum flow releases for the lower San Joaquin River and its major tributaries in order to protect fish and wildlife and control salt water intrusion in the southern Delta.

Please submit a comment email or letter to the State Water Board urging that it adopt water quality standards that restore 50-60% of the freshwater inflows that formerly flowed into the south Delta.

COMMENTS ARE DUE BY NOON ON JANUARY 17, 2017.

Currently, more than 60-70% of the unimpaired flow from the lower San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers is diverted half of the time from February-June. Much of the time, NO fresh water from the upper San Joaquin River flows into Delta. This is due to massive dams on each river that divert flows for agricultural and urban use. Under the Board’s preliminary recommendation, freshwater flows could range from 30-50% depending on the success of non-flow measures (such as habitat restoration), with a starting point of 40% of the unimpaired flow from February-June.

A science-based flow criteria report released by the Board in 2010 determined that approximately 60% of natural flow between February and June would be fully protective of fish and wildlife in the San Joaquin Basin.  In 2013, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also determined that 50-60% of natural flow should remain instream to protect and restore salmon and the health of our rivers.

Higher flows will improve the ability of salmon and other fish to migrate to and from their natal streams to the ocean, reduce the concentration of river pollutants, and lower water temperatures. Flows also should be adequate to inundate floodplains, which serve as critical rearing habitat for juvenile fish.

Historically, populations of spawning salmon exceeded 400,000 fish in these rivers, but in many recent years that figure has plummeted to just a few thousand. California’s salmon population was so low in 2008 and 2009 that the commercial fishing season had to be cancelled, resulting in the loss of more than 2,200 jobs and $255 million in annual revenue.

The Bay-Delta forms the largest estuary on the West Coast, providing habitat for more than 500 species of wildlife.  It serves as a major stopover on the Pacific Flyway and as a migration pathway for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.  Once a Garden of Eden, the estuary is now in desperate need of help. Due to upstream dams and diversions, the Delta no longer meets water quality standards and a host of fish species, including salmon, steelhead, and the tiny Delta smelt, have declined towards extinction. The Bay Delta Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to correct decades of mismanagement.

The improved flows recommended by the Water Board will also enhance recreational values in three state parks (Caswell, Hatfield, and McConnell) along the lower Stanislaus and Merced Rivers, as well as in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge along the lower San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers.

Through better management of snowmelt, implementation of water efficient technologies and irrigation practices, replacing water-intensive crops with water-efficient crops, and retirement of polluted and drainage impaired agricultural lands that should have never been put under irrigation, we could grow more food with less water. California’s urban communities have already demonstrated during the drought that they can reduce water use by 20-30%. By using our precious water more efficiently, we can continue to enjoy a thriving economy while restoring the rivers and waterways that make California such a special place to live and visit.

Your voice in support of higher flows on these rivers will help to push the State Water Board to do the right thing. Unfortunately, southern San Joaquin Valley agribusiness has already mobilized a firestorm of protest against the Board’s draft flow recommendations. But what the irrigators forget is that water is a public trust resource that belongs to all Californians and the Board has the responsibility to ensure that water is put to beneficial use, not only for agriculture and communities, but also for our rivers and estuaries, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.

The environmental stakes are high, as the outcome of this plan will influence a similar process just started for the Sacramento River, which feeds into the North Delta.
Please act TODAY.

Here’s how you can help:

Please submit a comment email or letter to the State Water Board urging that it adopt water quality standards that restore 50-60% of the freshwater inflows that formerly flowed into the south Delta. Comments are due by noon on March 17, 2017.

Feel free to use the sample email/letter below. If you email your comment, please include in the subject line: “Comment Letter – 2016 Bay Delta Plan Amendment & SED.” A copy of your email will be automatically sent to your state legislators. Please email your comment by Jan. 17 to: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

If you prefer to send a letter in the mail, please send it to:

Jeanine Townsend, Clerk of the Board

State Water Resources Control Board

1001 I Street, 24th Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814-0100.

To review the State Water Board fact sheet about this proposal, visit: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/bay_delta_plan/water_quality_control_planning/2016_sed/docs/ph1_fact.pdf. This link will also lead you to the full summary, Substitute Environmental Document (SED) and other supporting documents.

For more information about this alert, please contact Steve Evans at sevans@friendsoftheriver.org.




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