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The Great Lie!

Our groundwater is being mined to the point of exhaustion to replace the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet required for this flawed experiment.

Dec 03, 2013

On November 9th of this year, a SalmonFest was held in Fresno by the organizations expousing the San Joaquin River Restoration program (see here). The primary sponsors behind this event are the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) headquartered in New York, with California offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica, and Trout Unlimited headquartered in Arlington, Virginia with a California office in Berkeley. As usual, a few locals are trotted out to give the appearance of local support.

Rene Henery (Trout Unlimited) wrote an op-ed for the Fresno Bee below extolling the virtues of this program with his claim that, "The San Joaquin River Restoration program has embarked on a new approach to land and resource stewardship that seeks to reconcile and integrate the needs of the environment, agriculture and flood management."

Before embarking on a trip to the East Coast to join in one of the wine and brie congratulatory parties put on by these organizations for the elite of the country, you might want to read the article (also below) about Louis Moosios, an accredited guide and boat captain on the SJ River. His view of these programs and their effects on the environment are drastically different from the propaganda put out by the East Coast strangers to our area.

So, what is going on? The restoration program is the result of a settlement between the NRDC, Friant farmers, and the federal government. However, its terms were enacted into law in 2006 under a bill carried by Senator Feinstein and Congressman Costa. It had two goals: (1) An attempt to restore a self-sustaining salmon river, and (2) To mitigate the water losses to the East Side of the San Joaquin Valley.

In order to insure adherence to the terms of this agreement, Senator Feinstein required all parties to sign a 'blood oath'. Regretttably, within weeks of the signing on Sept. 6, 2006, the NRDC started filing lawsits involving the Delta. This had the effect of making it impossible for the water losses to be mitigated, a clear violation of the 'blood oath'. In addition, the climate warming claimed by the NRDC in their "In Hot Water" release indicated that it would be impossible for the salmon to exist under these temperature conditions.

Also, the cost has increased exponentially, and although the agreement promised 'no harm' to third parties, it appears that promise has also gone by the wayside. Regarding the self-sustaining part of the agreement, the government's plan so far has been to truck the salmon from where they get stranded in the river to where they are trying to go. There is no historical evidence to date that the local Native Americans provided the same service to the salmon of their era. Were the consequences of this fiasco not so catastrophic, it would be humorous.

Where are we today? The Valley is being subjected to a program primarily demanded by environmental elitists from outside the area. Our groundwater is being mined to the point of exhaustion to replace the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet required for this flawed experiment.

Is there a solution? You bet! The politicians from our area need to demand this law be changed to simply allow for the current fishery below Friant Dam to be extended. It is a vibrant fishery now, but without salmon. The money saved could be used to enhance salmon fisheries already thriving in the North. The water could be recycled back to the area with this fishery. Bottom-Line: (1) More total salmon, (2) Water losses mitigated, (3) Immense savings in cost, and (4) It would help mitigate the economic disaster the citizens who live and work in the Valley are headed for.


A living San Joaquin River helps all

By Rene Henery

The SalmonFest on Nov. 9 marked more significant milestones on the path to a living San Joaquin River. The highlight for many festival-goers was adult Chinook salmon released to spawn below Friant Dam for the second consecutive year.

But other milestones were in some ways more important: A diverse slice of the local community gathered on the river’s banks to celebrate steps toward restoration; the next generation of anglers enjoyed f ly-casting lessons and bank fishing; and at least two generations who have never known California as the West Coast salmon hub it was historically witnessed the majestic fish for the first time.

Although these successes mark the trail to long-term recovery, restoration on this scale will not happen overnight. The extraction of water and gravel from this system, levying of its banks, disconnection and development of its f loodplains, and transformation of its historic channel network into canals and f lood bypasses have radically altered the landscape.

While progress is steady, the pace can seem slow at times, leaving some wondering whether the river can really be brought back to life.

Trout Unlimited and our partners in the San Joaquin River Restoration Program believe the answer is unequivocally yes. We are confident that our collective investment in this restoration will ultimately deliver robust and sustained dividends for Central Valley businesses and communities.

Moving forward into a new era where salmon runs, f lood protection and agriculture co-exist requires vision, investment, perseverance and patience.

Like the California Water Project and other grand infrastructure projects of our past, a significant component of the San Joaquin Restoration Program is about water infrastructure. Within the restoration area, two dams, Mendota and Sack, facilitate water diversion for agriculture — and impede fish passage. Although the fish ladders on both of these dams are required to be functional under California law, they are not.

Similar laws require that sufficient f low be released downstream of these dams to maintain fisheries in good condition (one of the key legal issues precipitating the historic settlement that gave birth to the Restoration Program). Restoration projects designed to address these impediments without interfering with water management include a bypass channel and f loodplain circumventing Mendota Dam, and a cutting-edge fish ladder and fish screen for Sack Dam.

The price for the Restoration Program — seen by some as high (although it pales in comparison to that of many other contemporary infrastructure projects) — is driven not by the needs of the river in order for it to support salmon and a healthy ecology, but by projects designed to maintain our existing water management practices while restoring the landscape and natural systems those practices have historically undermined.

This is no small task. Fortunately, the Restoration Program is partnered with Mother Nature, whose regenerative abilities provide a substantial cost share. Given water in the river at the right times, unimpeded passage and cobble to spawn in, salmon will migrate and reproduce. Given f loodplains along the channel and suitable f lows, juvenile fish will grow large, vegetation will colonize and expand, birds and wildlife will return. Given a living river, more people will come to fish, f loat, swim, walk and otherwise recreate throughout the year.

The San Joaquin River Restoration Program has embarked on a new approach to land and resource stewardship that seeks to reconcile and integrate the needs of the environment, agriculture and f lood management.

Until recently, these needs were perceived as incompatible. In fact, they are tightly connected, and reintegrating our institutions, infrastructure and culture to leverage that connection may be the greatest opportunity of this time. For example, restored f loodplains provide transitory storage for f loodwaters and facilitate groundwater recharge — this in a region where unmaintained levees routinely fail and f lood agricultural lands and where, after decades of intensive groundwater extraction, subsidence is occurring as rapidly as a foot a year in some locations.

These benefits, although enhanced by cooperative planning, are ultimately the product of a living river — courtesy of Mother Nature, no extra charge.
› Rene Henery, Ph.D., is California science director of Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit supporting trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.


Return of salmon to San Joaquin River comes at cost

River plans mean less fishing, more poaching.

By Marek Warszawski
The Fresno BeeFebruary 1, 2012
Few people, if any, know the San Joaquin River as well as Louis Moosios.

The 36-year-old fishing guide, whose family owns 400 acres on the Madera County side, has been fishing, boating and swimming in the river since he was a boy.

Piloting his 14-foot aluminum skiff up river, Moosios keeps the 40-horsepower outboard's throttle steady through a series of bends and side channels, and even across a small weir.

"I've snorkeled the entire river from [Freeways] 41 to 99 -- that's how you get to know every little turn, every little bush, every big rock and fish hiding spot there is," Moosios says.
Moosios picks me up below Riverside Golf Course, and it's a 10-minute run to one of his favorite spots: a reclaimed gravel quarry connected to the river. We're here to fish and talk about the river restoration, especially aspects of the project that have received scant attention even though they'll affect nearly everyone who uses the river for recreation.

By now, everyone should be aware Chinook salmon are slated to be reintroduced to the San Joaquin, perhaps as soon as this year. And like in other California rivers where salmon have been re-established after a long absence, those fish will either be off limits to anglers or strictly catch and release.

But what seems to be lost in all of this, even though it's spelled out in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, is that the presence of salmon will also mean the end of all trout fishing and, potentially, bass fishing.

No more trout fishing in the San Joaquin? It says so right in Section 3.3 of Chapter 21, which quotes California Fish and Game Commission policy: "Domesticated or nonnative fish species will not be planted, or fisheries based on them will not be developed or maintained, in drainages of salmon waters, where ... they may adversely affect native salmon populations by competing with, preying upon or hybridizing with them."

Think about what that means for a moment.

No more trout plants at Lost Lake Park or North Fork bridge, the two most popular spots on the river.

No more trout derbies at the Fresno County Sportsmen's Club.

Thousands will have to go elsewhere.

The report states that 18,000 anglers use Lost Lake Park every year. What are all those people supposed to do now? Simple, it concludes: They'll just have to go to the Kings River instead.

Even though the report lists the impact on trout fishing as "potentially significant," I'll bet this is the first you've heard of it.

By the time the San Joaquin flows into Fresno, where Moosios and I are spending the afternoon, it becomes a warm-water fishery inhabited by bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish. And, yes, the fishing for those species will be affected as well.

Most of the best bass fishing takes place in reclaimed gravel quarries. But the report states these ponds, and there are many of them, must either be filled in or separated from the river so that juvenile salmon don't get swallowed by predators.

What happens to the fish in these ponds when their habitat gets cut off from the river? Water levels, temperature and quality are impacted to the point where "fish populations may decline or may be eliminated over the longer-term if conditions for fish deteriorate."

Guess that means no more bass fishing in the San Joaquin, either.

This is where Moosios has a problem, noting that most of the river's invertebrates and insects, potential food sources for salmon, are produced in these ponds, then flushed into the river.

Isolate all the ponds from the river, and you're affecting the health of the river as well.

"They need to do a lot more research before they separate these ponds from the river," Moosios says in between casts. "They might be spending money in one place that costs them even more in another."

Even without salmon, the river restoration has already adversely impacted fishing. To demonstrate, Moosios steers us toward a gravel bar. Once we get out, I immediately notice dozens of saucer-shaped clusters of pebbles.

Moosios explains these are bluegill nests, established when the river was running high. But one night a couple of months ago, during mid-spawn, water levels dropped, leaving the entire colony high and dry.

"When they dropped the river, millions of bluegill fry in these nests dried up and died," Moosios says. "People like to catch bluegill, and these nests could've repopulated the whole river."

Whether guiding clients or fishing by himself, Moosios spends several days a week on the San Joaquin. More than anything, he fears that having salmon in the river will bring out the worst kind of people: poachers.

Moosios has plenty of first-hand experience with poachers. He's caught people trespassing on his property carrying 100-pound stringers. He's seen people use a car antenna and surgical tubing to make homemade spears called Hawaiian slings. He's found fishing lines tied to bushes with baited hooks just left in the water. He's seen gill nets strung across the entire channel, entangling every fish that happens by.

What'll happen when salmon are present? Moosios practically shutters at the thought.

"The poaching is going to go crazy," he says. "People are going to see these fat salmon in the river, and they're not going to be able to help themselves. The only way they're going to stop it is if [the Department of Fish and Game] puts a full-time warden on the river between Friant and 99."

Given California's budget woes, and the fact that the DFG is already vastly underfunded, good luck with that.

Before we exit the pond and try our luck in the river -- where Moosios uses a crankbait to catch and release a 4-pound spotted bass, a female plump with eggs -- he has one more thing to show me.

In November, you might remember hearing about a large deer that went for a run through northwest Fresno before being captured in someone's garage. Three local TV stations carried the story with all the requisite cuteness.

"Since that story was on the news, I've been noticing more people on the river with bows and guns," Moosios says. "That's probably what happened to this animal."

Glancing down alongside the boat, a disturbing image begins to take shape. It's a large deer with its head chopped off. The carcass just lays there, half submerged. Hard to imagine a more pitiful sight.

If a 200-pound deer can be poached, in full view of a line of luxury bluff homes, salmon don't stand a chance.

San Joaquin Guide Service
Louis Moosios, a fully accredited guide and boat captain, offers fishing, boating and sightseeing trips on the San Joaquin River and Millerton Lake.
-- Details: sanjoaquinguideservice.com or (559) 351-9500.
The reporter can be reached at marekw@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6218.

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