Overflowing rice bowls

Submitted: Oct 29, 2013
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

 

 Isn't it just amazing how Man -- in His Form as California Rice Grower, the most highly subsidized farmers in America -- converted wetlands to rice paddies north of the City of Sacramento and now, having expropriated so much water it has threatened whole aquatic species with extermination, now Man, that protean being, also appearing in the Form of the federal Bureau of Reclamation, is extoling His scientific genius for raising some hatchery salmon in flooded rice paddies. Many the severely endangered Chinook salmon will recover. But the University of California scientists, of course have created not only one place where this masterpiece of environmental engineering has occurred once, but they are announcing they have created a "a win-win model that can be replicated around the state,"

 

 

We note that destroying wetlands to create rice paddies that later – after the riches have been made – become a win-win/public-private welfare program for a few rich rice-grower families and some tanks of hatchery salmon smolts, is not the same as restoring fish and wildlife habitat. There is no indication in the press-release that farming rice mainly for export to Asia will not continue as it has done on rice paddies farther north that have been flooded for years for migratory waterfowl. Nor is there any mention of pesticide residues in the paddies that will come to rest in the tissues of the surviving salmon.

 

 

But our main point is that when fish and wildlife habitat is saved or restored, it is the result of conflict rather than a public/private partnership. And often this conflict is against the same resource agencies charged with protecting the environment. For example, it is this same Bureau of Reclamation that fought in federal court for 25 years to block the restoration of water to a 90-mile reach of the San Joaquin River. The Natural Resource Defense Council, other state and national environmental organizations, and the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center prevailed in the end and river restoration projects are underway despite new agribusiness lawsuits, darting out to harry and harm like predatory exotic species lurking in abandoned and flooded mining pits. - blj

 

 

 

 

 

 

10-27-13

Sacramento Bee 

Researchers say Calif. salmon experiment a success…The Associated Press

http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/25/v-print/5851839/researchers-say-calif-salmon-experiment.html

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Flooded rice fields appear capable of serving as substitutes for now-depleted wetlands and helping California's Chinook salmon population recover, researchers have concluded.

In a report submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the researchers said salmon raised in replicated rice fields near Sacramento as part of their experiments were the fattest and fastest-growing salmon ever documented in freshwater in the state.

"We're finding that land managers and regulatory agencies can use these agricultural fields to mimic natural processes," study co-author Carson Jeffries, field and laboratory director of the University of California, Davis' Center for Watershed Sciences, said in a news release on Thursday.

The state Department of Water Resources and a nonprofit called California Trout also participated in the report, which is dated Oct. 1.

Juvenile Chinook salmon in California's Central Valley have traditionally been reared in wetlands, where they fatten up before heading off to the ocean. A salmon's size is an indicator of its likelihood of returning to spawn as an adult, according to the study.

The goal of the researchers' experiment was to determine whether rice fields flooded between harvests could stand in for the wetlands that once filled the area.

In February, they introduced thousands of juvenile Chinook salmon into replicated rice fields built in the Yolo Bypass, a flood plain outside Sacramento.

Three types of rice fields were tested, with researchers concluding that the fish did not show a preference for one in particular.

High densities of zooplankton that the juvenile salmon feed on were found in all three types of fields, according to the study.

"This is a win-win model that can be replicated around the state," said the study's lead author, Jacob Katz, a biologist with California Trout.


10-29-13

Fresno Bee

San Joaquin River water releases will increase…Mark Grossi

http://news.fresnobeehive.com/archives/4065

Starting Tuesday, you’ll see San Joaquin River water pouring faster out of Friant Dam. It’s part of the experimental flows in the river restoration project.

The releases first will ramp up to 1,050 cubic feet per second — about 2,000 acre-feet of water in one day.  Later this week, it will be dropped to 700 cfs through Nov. 6. Then it will drop to 350 until the end of February.

The restoration project, which began four years ago, is supposed to reconnect the dried parts of the river with the Pacific Ocean. One goal is to bring back runs of salmon that died off decades ago.

The releases over the next several days mimic nature by attracting migrating chinook salmon to move upstream for spawning, a bureau spokeswoman said. Biologists and other wildlife officials are studying the river’s reaction to the reintroduction of fish and flows.

Biologists have tagged and planted salmon in the river to follow their progress.

A big concern is seepage downstream. The flows have gotten into farm fields and caused damage on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side, growers say.

Federal officials have installed underground water monitoring systems to detect when groundwater is rising in reaction to the extra flows. Also local land owners have been alerted to call or email federal officials if they see seepage. Leaders say they are prepared to reduce the flow if problems appear. 

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