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Wasting Water

No one ever thinks to look at environmental water wasting. But, they waste the most of all.

Jun 08, 2012


Families Protecting The Valley Newsletter


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Wasting Water

The House and Senate are at odds over the San Joaquin River Restoration. If Congressman Jeff Denham and House Republicans aren't successful in their efforts to change the restoration plan, there could be a lot of money spent and water wasted to reintroduce salmon into a river that's not ready.

When we think about wasting water we usually think of washing the car, or the driveway, low-flush toilets, overwatering the lawn and other personal water uses. Farmers also get undeserved blame and unending lecturing from environmentalists for their water use. No one ever thinks to look at environmental water wasting. But, they waste the most of all.

The San Joaquin River Restoration project is a good example. As Congressman Jeff Denham says in the press release below, the restoration program "continues to push forward on an ill-advised path of wasting water out to the ocean under the guise of saving salmon."

There is much that needs to be done to the river to make it ready for salmon recovery. It takes a lot of money, money we don't have. There is no point in sending water down the river to the ocean for salmon recovery until the river has been properly made ready for restoration. The environmentalists don't seem to understand or care. They are stubbornly pushing ahead with a doomed plan. Think about it: we send water down a river that's not ready for salmon in an senseless effort to restore salmon, the water goes to the Delta where it can't be pumped back into the California Aqueduct because of ESA rules protecting the Delta Smelt, and so the water flows out to sea.

In addition, a restoration program called a ’warm water’ fishery has been repeatedly offered as a compromise. This compromise would restore the San Joaquin River 24/7, 365 days per year, and eliminate Valley water losses. Thus, society would have a live, restored river and would not lose the vast amount of water that is being beneficially used now. However, environmentalists are only satisfied with a program that attempts to establish a self-sustaining salmon fishery which requires the most water, and inflicts the most damage on the San Joaquin Valley. Unfortunately, politics and the settlement of an environmental lawsuit have combined to render some of our politicians scared to support any legislation to solve the situation. For instance, Senator Feinstein and Congressman Jim Costa refuse to consider this compromise proposal unwilling, apparently, to stand up to the environmental lobby.

House Approves Denham Amendment to Prohibit Reintroduction of Salmon into Insufficient San Joaquin Habitat


WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) today introduced an amendment to H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2013, to prohibit National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from using any funds to reintroduce salmon into the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley of California, which currently does not have a complete system to provide a sufficient habitat for the reintroduction of salmon.

You can view Representative Denham’s remarks in support of his amendment here, and his remarks as prepared follow:

Thank you Mister Chair, the amendment that I am offering is intended to fortify the underlying Appropriations Bill.

The underlying bill funds the National Marine Fisheries Service, and this amendment seeks to ensure that funding doesn’t have a detrimental impact on my district.

This amendment was adopted on this Floor by voice vote last year and added to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. Further, in supporting H.R. 1837 earlier this year, you would have supported what this amendment will achieve.

The San Joaquin River Restoration Program continues to push forward on an ill-advised path of wasting water out to the ocean under the guise of saving salmon.

Every year, the San Joaquin Restoration Program would require the reintroduction of Salmon in to the San Joaquin River if the ill-advised attempt to introduce the species fails.

The problem is that the river is not yet in a condition where the salmon can survive.

There are still myriad of projects along the river that need to be completed from a bypass at the Mendota pool, at least 3 fish screens, and in one section of the river the Administration hasn’t even designated a channel for where the river should flow and will not for another one to two years.

Premature introduction of salmon in to the river will only lead to their death, at a high cost to the taxpayer, and the local community.

This amendment simply prohibits the premature reintroduction of an endangered salmon species into an uninhabitable river.

Central Valley salmon runs are struggling to regain healthy numbers. This amendment ensures that bureaucrats don’t purposely reduce the numbers of available salmon in other streams to plant them into the San Joaquin system and further threaten and endanger current runs.

Agencies already possess the necessary authority to make the right decision and delay the reintroduction of salmon into a river that cannot sustain the life
cycle of the salmon. But they continue to bend to an environmental agenda.

More time is needed to build the infrastructure required by the San Joaquin River Restoration Program before this river can sustain a salmon run.

Finally, even the National Marine Fisheries Services has doubts about the success of reintroduction.

Contained within the Final Draft of their Reintroduction Strategies, the Service stated the river would not support full-scale reintroduction of the salmon.

And, further, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce jointly stated that completion of Phase 1 of the Restoration project was needed before reintroduction of salmon can be successful.

Mr. Speaker, this is a common sense amendment to prevent taxpayer dollars from being wasted on killing an endangered species.

I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment and I yield back the balance of my time

Congress split over San Joaquin River funding

By Michael Doyle - Bee Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON The San Joaquin River restoration plan once again divides the House and Senate.

On Friday, the Republican-led House took up an annual energy and water spending bill that pointedly omits any funding for restoration of the river.

The Senate's bill, by contrast, steers $12 million toward efforts to restore water and salmon to the channel below Friant Dam.

Caught in the middle are the farmers and federal officials trying to make the restoration work.

"The proposed construction activities will be starting in the near term, so the funding needs will be increasing," Ron Jacobsma, general manager of the Friant Water Authority, said Friday.

The river funding dispute will have to be negotiated as part of a final bill that provides about $32 billion for an assortment of energy, Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers programs. It's a nationwide package with special relevance for the Central Valley, serving both irrigation and environmental purposes.

The House bill, for instance, includes $36 million for restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 10% cut from this year.

The bill and its accompanying verbiage also push policies in certain directions.

Lawmakers, for instance, are using the House bill to encourage quicker completion of studies for potential water storage projects on the Upper San Joaquin River and in the Sacramento Valley, among other locations.

On the San Joaquin River restoration, more than mere dollars separate members of Congress.

Farmers and environmentalists agreed six years ago on a long-term restoration plan, thereby ending a lawsuit begun in 1988.

House Republicans want to kill the current river restoration program and replace it with a far less expensive plan focusing on warm-water fish instead of salmon.

Driving the point home, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, authored an amendment to be considered when the House resumes debate next week that prohibits federal funds from being used to reintroduce salmon to the river in fiscal year 2013.

Current plans still call for salmon to be reintroduced by Dec. 31, though there are hints that federal officials won't meet this deadline.

"The reintroduction of the spring run of salmon may be delayed, but they are still trying to find a way to do it shortly after this year," Jacobsma said.

The Obama administration opposes the current House bill and officials have threatened a presidential veto, citing in part the attack on the San Joaquin River plan.

"The administration strongly opposes the committee's elimination of funding for this program, which would undermine the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement's goals to restore and maintain fish populations and reduce or avoid water supply impacts," the White House's Office of Management and Budget stated.

Even if Congress omits funding for next year, though, some money already has been made available, potentially enabling some work to proceed.

San Joaquin River salmon restoration in a year? Really?

Mark Grossi/Fresno Bee

After The Bee's story Monday about state and federal efforts to guide migrating salmon in the San Joaquin River, a Valley farmer along the river said the vast restoration of the San Joaquin is not on schedule.

He's worried about land next to the river on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. And he seems to have a point.

A landmark agreement signed in 2006 calls for salmon restoration to begin in late December 2012. The reviving of the long-dried San Joaquin and long-dead salmon runs is news around the country.

But small dams on the river need to be bypassed in some way. A vast stretch of the river channel may need to be rebuilt. The channel needs to be opened up in some places.

None of that has taken place, says Cannon Michael, vice president of Bowles Farming Co., based in Los Banos.

He said hundreds of millions of dollars need to be spent re-establishing a river that has been dead since the 1950s. Yet these important river projects are underfunded right now, he said.

Nothing is likely to get done anytime soon, Michael says. Without those projects, how can salmon make a comeback 13 months from now? Good question.

The schedule is outlined in the restoration agreement, which was signed by environmentalists, federal officials and east Valley farmers, who have irrigated with river water for decades.

The three groups called settling parties know about the schedule problem and are talking about it. But with the deadline approaching next year, nothing has been said publicly yet.

"Someone from the settling parties needs to come forward and admit that the schedule needs to be reworked and the timeline extended," Michael says. "Acting like all is well and things are going according to plan makes those of us involved not have any trust in the process.

"We are still willing to work with the program, but we need someone to be honest at some point soon."

It is important to note that Michael and other farmers along the Valley's west side are not among the settling parties even though some of their land already has been damaged by experimental flows on the river.

Understandably, they say they want to know more. I think it's time to start asking a few more questions about the timetable, the funding and those projects.

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