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Keeping Up With the SWRCB

No one can give any definitive testimony that all the water we devote to the smelt is doing them any good.

Feb 19, 2015

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We did our best to follow the testimony in the public workshop on the Temporary Change Urgency Petitions submitted for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. Translation: trying to figure out why so much water is targeted for smelt versus people.

One of the first things we noticed was how many agencies and how much time is devoted to trying to figure out what makes the smelt tick. It seems no one really knows. No one can give any definitive testimony that all the water we devote to the smelt is doing them any good. Nevertheless, we keep doing it anyway.

Something else we noticed are the rules the unelected bureaucrats are asked to follow. The Endangered Species Act and corresponding BiOp(Biological Opinion) require the bureaucrats to make decisions based only on how the smelt is impacted. There is nothing in the law that requires them to take human consequences into account. This is why our elected officials need to change the law. Until the law is changed, the bureaucrats will keep doing the same thing because that's what the law tells them to do.

The House of Representatives has attempted to do this, however the Senate has refused to follow. Maybe with the new Senate this can be changed, but they seem to have a lot of other issues on their plate right now. And, of course, there's the issue of the Presidential veto which might be difficult or next to impossible to override.

Remember that in 2010 former Federal Judge Oliver Wanger found that the manager in charge of federal delta smelt regulatory measures was "that of a zealot," making her "unworthy of belief." He expressed sadness and "remorse for our justice system for what has been placed before the Court." The court concluded its hearing by finding that, as a whole, the federal agencies in this case are "unworthy of their public trust."

The science of the delta smelt has not advanced. They can no more prove today that increased water for smelt does them any good, any more than they could in 2010.

We know this: if you give a farmer water he can tell you what you're going to get, how many tomatoes, how much garlic, how many almonds or grapes. You know how many workers will be employed. You can calculate how the money circulation impacts the economy. If you give fish the water they give you a bunch of maybe's, could be's, and hope. They can't quantify what the water will do and can't quantify what it has done. It's very iffy.

They have no conclusive science, yet they still get the water. We suggest the Board spend more time on the ammonia spilled into the Delta (The Great Delta Toilet Bowl) by wastewater treatment plants like Sacramento's and also consider how many smelt are eaten by the striped bass.

The Board concluded their meeting by deciding to study the issue further until their next scheduled meeting in early March. That means we haven't been pumping water for the past two weeks while waiting for this meeting and we won't pump for the next two weeks while we do further studies. While the can gets kicked down the road we continue to go without. Status quo.

This is a retively small thing in the scheme of things. If we can't get this done, how can we ever hope to do big things like dams?




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