React to BiOp
Feb 06, 2019
“Recognizing the failure of the existing biological opinions issued a decade ago by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for Delta smelt and by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for salmon, the Bureau of Reclamation released a new biological assessment which serves as the basis for new biological opinions that will be released within 135 days. The Biological Assessment details the manner in which the agencies will operate the project and make operations more effective in preserving fish and delivering water to communities and farms. The Bureau of Reclamation is now taking a common-sense approach and applying scientific principles to water supply and fishery protections.
“The current, outdated biological opinions have been plagued with operational problems that experts determined were largely ineffective at helping the endangered fish they were intended to help,” said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. “In addition, the two outdated biological opinions often worked against one another, such as requiring more upstream storage for salmon to keep temperatures lower and at the same time, requiring more water to be released to the Delta to benefit smelt. These biological opinions have failed all parties – fish and wildlife, communities, and farmers,” he said.
The Bureau’s new Biological Assessment takes into account the failures of the older biological opinions and creates a new process to modernize operations, utilizing science and operational flexibility to improve the operations and efficiency of the Central Valley and State Water projects. The Biological Assessment makes several changes to the operations of the Central Valley Project, based on the experience with the older biological opinions, the drought, and prior policy decisions. This modern Biological Assessment requires science-based operational changes that respond to actual conditions rather than follow a calendar-based approach to species protections. Using a smarter approach encourages adjustments that will allow for better temperature control for salmon while reducing the impacts on the Delta. It bases flow requirements on a variety of factors rather than using flow as the sole determinant for water project management.
The Biological Assessment moves away from the failed presumption that water projects are the only cause of the decline in fish species.
“The new Biological Assessment starts with a “clean slate” and seeks to determine those effects that are unrelated to the projects but are impacting fish populations in order to manage the projects. By focusing on a more integrated and holistic approach, federal and state agencies can utilize science and effective operational measures in the new biological opinions to address all the factors impacting the fish populations, he said.
The operations analyzed in the new Biological Assessment are intended to allow the projects, designed and built to provide water to California communities, to fulfill that obligation and provide critical information to federal and state agencies that will improve the conditions for fish and wildlife and the Delta habitat.
Today the Trump administration released a new proposal aimed at increasing water diversions from the Bay-Delta ecosystem at the expense of salmon and the tens of thousands of fishing industry jobs that depend on them https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=64503 . In spite of years of declining salmon runs and industry losses, the administration is saying the water diversion system that moves billions of gallons of Central Valley water from where nature intended it to the western San Joaquin Valley doesn’t damage salmon. Today’s announcement, called a biological assessment, is a step towards abandoning federal rules governing the damaging effects of the giant state and federal water diverting pumps in the Delta, which were adopted in 2008 and 2009.
“This is a blatant water grab that threatens thousands of fishing jobs and families in California,” said GGSA secretary Dick Pool who also owns Pro Troll tackle company. “For the administration to claim that the giant federal water project, which includes the massive diversion pumps in the Delta, can run at full bore and not harm salmon runs is simply not credible.”
“The Trump administration won’t be able to get away with killing off our salmon runs if the state refuses to cooperate. We call on the Newsom administration to just say no to this attack on California’s salmon fishing families,” said GGSA director Noah Oppenheim who is also executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a group representing commercial fishermen.
“We’ve seen what happens when water users are given free rein to divert Bay-Delta water. It was the norm prior to 2008 and it killed so many baby salmon attempting to get to the ocean that all ocean salmon fishing had to be shut for the first time in history in 2008 and 2009,” said GGSA director Mike Aughney who also publishes USAfishing.com.
The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to restore California’s largest salmon runs in the Central Valley rivers because they provide the bulk of salmon caught off our coast and inland rivers. We serve the sport and commercial anglers that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable resource. Salmon recovery is our passion.
Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity and $700 million in economic activity and jobs Oregon in a normal season. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.