We're not surprised to see that scientists can't seem to rank the problems in the Delta in any meaningful order(see article below). They now say there are over 40 potential causes for the Delta's decline. It was 18 years ago that the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) began to limit water exports from the Delta with the intent of improving the water quality. Despite reducing water exports for farmers all these years, the Delta has continued to decline. Farmers have been screaming in the wilderness for years that there are other problems and to take away their water would damage the economy, but would not stop the Delta’s decline. The farmers aren’t scientists, but they were right. Finally, in December there was good news. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted to require Sacramento to clean up their sewage discharges. This has apparently started a whole new conversation, and one that is overdue and welcomed. This new conversation is taking place within the Delta Independent Science Board at the request of Assemblywoman Jean Fuller of Bakersfield who's concerned about predator alien species like the stripped bass. You would think that before bureaucrats ruin the economy and put farmers and fisherman out of business they'd find out what is really causing the problem and not just shoot from the hip. We're not afraid of the truth regarding water exports to farms and families South of the Delta, but are hoping for once to get an honest assessment that uses some common sense.
Delta's Biggest Enemy Hard To Pinpoint
January 31, 2011
There are more than 40 potential causes for the Delta's decline, scientists said Friday, but ranking them in order is just too difficult.
"We're not in a position now - we may be in a position later - to say it's these three stressors that are causing 90 percent of the problem, or one stressor causing 45 percent of the problem," said Richard Norgaard, chair of the Delta Independent Science Board, a panel of 10 experts established by California's sweeping water reform in 2009.
"At the present state of knowledge, we just think there's a lot of interacting stressors," Norgaard told the Delta Stewardship Council on Friday.
The result of the board's work so far is not likely to satisfy anyone hungering for immediate answers.
Then-state Assemblywoman Jean Fuller of Bakersfield, now a Republican in the state Senate, requested an "assessment" of the contributing factors in August along with 22 other elected officials.
In particular, Fuller has said she's concerned that predatory alien fish such as striped bass are chowing down on native species, causing their numbers to decline to the point where officials restricted how much Delta water could be sent south to her district.
Many environmentalists, on the other hand, have argued that the millions of acre-feet of water pumped from the Delta each year are the fundamental problem.
But the list of the Delta's many cuts released last week is broad.
Certain "drivers," such as climate change, may exacerbate "stressors" such as sea level rise or diminished water supply, and there's not much local officials can do within the Delta itself to stop that.
Other problems date back decades or longer - the elimination of wetland habitat, the persistence of mercury from the Gold Rush days, upstream dams and invasive species.
Some are happening right now, such as water diversions from upstream tributaries, from within the estuary itself and from the giant pumps near Tracy that supply much of the state and kill fish in the process.
And finally, there are problems still to come, such as continued subsidence or sinking of Delta islands, and the expansion of cities such as Stockton that contribute pollution to the estuary.
Ultimately, the scientists said they could not conclude that any one factor, or any small combination of the 40-plus factors, is the root of the Delta's problems.
While the scientists aren't promising to ultimately rank all of these factors, they said they'll work with the council to say which combination of problems might help meet certain goals.
Members of the Delta Stewardship Council must write a plan by year's end that balances the "co-equal goals" of restoring the estuary's ecosystem while ensuring a reliable water supply for the 25 million Californians who rely on the Delta to some degree. The scientists' evaluation can help shape that plan.
Council member Randy Fiorini, a rancher from Turlock, said it was a "very, very useful report.
"It outlines how complex the issues that we're dealing with are," he said.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/breitlerblog.
A long list
Scientists say many causes may be contributing to the decline of the Delta:
• Global causes: Climate change (sea level rise, changes in water flows, higher temperatures and changes in ocean conditions); earthquakes; population growth; state economy.
• Historic causes: Habitat loss; mercury from the Gold Rush accumulating in fish; toxic selenium runoff from farms; sinking Delta islands; artificial levees that may break, causing flooding; upstream dams that cut off breeding areas for salmon; agricultural subsidies; development, zoning and building codes; invasive species.
• Current causes: Water withdrawals upstream of the Delta, in the Delta and outside of the Delta; fish sucked into export pumps; nutrients from farm runoff and city wastewater treatment plants; pesticides; metals that enter the water from farms, cities and industry; channel dredging; illegal harvest of threatened species; hatcheries that alter the genetic makeup of fish.
• Anticipated causes: Landscape changes; urban expansion; land use along streams feeding the Delta; people's lifestyle decisions on where and how they live.