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Expensive Fish!

Taking the conservative cost estimate, each of the five fish caught cost taxpayers and water users $178,000,000.

Apr 29, 2019

Scientists are excited that "five adult Chinook salmon have been discovered in the same area of the San Joaquin River for the first time in decades."  So are we.   We would hope after all the water we've sent down the river we would get some salmon in return.  

The Fresno Bee story A big first for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program: Spring-run Chinook salmon return, however, has a lot of iffy phrases like "indication of the possibility" or "scientists could determine"...seems like a lot of maybe's, leaving us to wonder where exactly we are in the restoration program.  The fish were some "of more than 38,000 juvenile spring-run Chinook released into the river two years ago, in March 2017."

We're not scientists so we're not exactly sure how excited to be about 5 salmon returning out of 38,000, but we know these scientists are willing to throw a lot of water down rivers to get a few fish.  Remember, this water isn't allowed to be captured or saved in the underground aquifers.  While this water flows to the ocean to improve the ecology of the river and the delta, it is creating an ecological disaster in the underground water supply.  

Wayne Western Jr. writes in The Sun (Salmon are back in the San Joaquin, but what did it cost us?) that "cost estimates of this effort range from $890 million to $2 billion to restore 153 miles of the river from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River...Taking the conservative cost estimate, each of the five fish caught cost taxpayers and water users $178,000,000."

That could be a record even in the world of ridiculous fish stories of California.  The Modesto Bee reported in 2015 in an article titled $100,000 Per Fish!!!  that the project could cost $70 million to $150 million and benefit 500 to 1000 salmon.  Or The $2 Million Fish: The Result of Jerry Browns Water Policy where the water was worth $21,000,000.  It saved 9 fish.

We would hope that while a lot of time is spent lecturing farmers about how they are depleting the underground water supply by pumping, legislators and bureaucrats could do more to help farmers get more surface water for farming and for replenishing the underground.

California spends $178 million per fish to bring back salmon

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