Merced County's jobless rate dips a bit in April...CORINNE REILLY
Merced County's unemployment rate has decreased for the first time in seven months, though only slightly.
The county's unemployment rate was 18.3 percent in April, down from March's 20.2 percent but still well above the year-ago figure of 12.2 percent, according to recent data from the state's Employment Development Department.
Joblessness remains far higher in Merced compared with many other parts of the state and nation.
Unemployment hit 10.9 percent across California in April. Only four counties had higher jobless rates: Colusa, Imperial, Sutter and Trinity.
Nationally, unemployment stood at 8.6 percent in April.
Unemployment figures for May will be released at the end of this month.
Joblessness had been on the rise here since September. The small decrease in April comes as a welcome reversal for local job seekers, who still face one of the toughest employment markets in decades.
"We're still seeing just as many people as ever coming through our doors," said Michelle Allison, a program manager with the county's Workforce Investment Department, which assists job seekers. "Between 10 and 2 we're absolutely slammed."
Eddie Reefe, who spent Thursday searching online job postings at the department's Worknet center on 16th Street, said he's been looking for more than a year for a second part-time job to supplement the one he already has as a crossing guard and yard supervisor for the Merced City School District.
"It's been real tough," said the 28-year-old. "But I'm not giving up. You can't when you really need the income, you know?"
He said his search has convinced him that finding work is an especially difficult feat in Merced. "I always see a lot more jobs in Modesto and Turlock and other places," he explained.
Most of the jobs lost locally in April were in the construction sector, the Employment Development Department data showed. Most gains were in farming.
The highest unemployment rate ever recorded in Merced County was 21.7 percent in February 1996.
For information on how to file for unemployment benefits, go to www.edd.ca.gov.
Jim Boren: Valley's lack of clout
You'd think that Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, would be pleased that his party controls the White House, giving him better access to the executive branch than he had when George W. Bush was president.
But Costa seems frustrated that he can't get the ear of the president at a time when his congressional district is suffering as much as any region in the country.
It's an odd dynamic considering that most members of Congress are cheerleaders for a president of their own party. But the usually cool Costa has been simmering lately.
Costa didn't attend first lady Michelle Obama's commencement speech at the UC Merced three weeks ago, although he says he didn't snub her.
He had commitments in his district, he said. Besides, he invited her to meet with his constituents when she was in Merced, and that meeting didn't materialize.
Costa and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, were criticized for not attending the first lady's commencement speech at UC Merced on May 16.
That criticism angers Costa, who says the president and first lady have been invited to his 20th Congressional District several times.
Costa says he has sought out opportunities to lobby President Obama to come to the Valley to see the devastating impacts that the economy and the lack of water for agriculture have had on communities in his district.
He said he invited Obama after the State of the Union speech and at a meeting in February of the Blue Dog Democrats.
Costa said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has assured him that the president will make a trip to the Valley at some point to see the problems in his district, as well as the issues facing Cardoza's district.
The region is having a tough time because of the drought, a meltdown in the dairy industry, home foreclosures being among the highest in the nation.
Farmworkers are in food lines and family farms are going out of business.
Federal help is badly needed, and that's why it's important for Obama to be here.
The president has made several trips to California and could have easily diverted to the Valley if it had been a priority.
You can get angry over that or keep lobbying for a Valley trip.
That's why some thought it was a tactical error for Costa and Cardoza not to attend the first lady's speech.
It would have given the Valley Democrats another chance to make their points about the region's troubles.
Costa said he attended a White House reception prior to the first lady's Merced speech and had a quick conversation with her about the problems in his district.
"I said we need you and the president to come to the Valley and see what's going on," Costa said. "We would love for you to take some extra time when you go to Merced to see what is happening."
He said she was interested, but it never got to the point of working something out because it was only a quick chat.
One of the big problems for the Valley is the current congressional delegation has little clout, especially when compared to other parts of California.
A news story earlier this month pointed out that the region gets fewer federal funds than other areas of the state.
That leaves Costa and his colleagues with some choices.
They can either whine about their plight, or get into leadership positions so they can get something done for their districts.
Some may like playing the victim card, but that doesn't help solve the Valley's problems.
Oh, sure, congressional leaders may throw you a bone every once in awhile.
But I'd prefer being represented by members of Congress who are handing out the bones.
Our View: Let dairies find own equilibrium
Milk industry is suffering greatly; maybe it's time to look for new solutions.
Farmers can be a hardy lot, working in tough physical conditions, battling the weather, and dealing with an increasingly volatile global economy that sends prices soaring one year and plummeting the next.
But sometimes farms are like many other big businesses, looking to control their markets and minimize risk while turning to government to protect them from competition and the business cycle.
Milk prices have been low lately, and while that's good for consumers, it's not good for farmers, a good number of them here in Merced County. Naturally, they want to do something about it.
But threatening to collude to limit supply or, worse yet, asking the government to do it for them, are not the right approaches.
Last week, a group of California farmers started talking about dumping 2 million gallons of milk to drive up prices.
Another plan in the works has the government fining farms that expand more rapidly than the industry leaders deem appropriate, say 2 percent to 3 percent a year, and giving that money to farmers who agree to limit their production.
So far, both of these approaches seem unlikely to happen. But a herd-reduction program funded by farmers is sending 100,000 cows to slaughter nationwide, and the federal government has stepped up its efforts to increase demand and send milk prices higher.
The impact is very real for Le Grand dairymen Fernando De Silva and Jose Rodrigues who decided to sell off their 424 dairy cows and get out of the business.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been buying more milk powder at taxpayer-supported prices, and the agency plans to start subsidizing bulk exports of milk powder, butter and cheese.
The sad truth is that many farms expanded too rapidly when prices were high and export markets were healthy. As they made good money in 2007 and 2008, they grew their herds to 9.3 million cows nationally. Yields increased to a record 22 billion gallons in 2008.
Now the worldwide economy has slowed, demand has slackened and prices have dropped. The farmers want relief.
California's dairies amount to a $7 billion industry that is the single largest agricultural sector in the state. They employ thousands of people, pay taxes and have become an integral part of their local economies.
But they also rely on subsidized water to grow the feed that keeps them in business, and their factory-farm methods can be hazardous to the health of the waterways around them. Many critics question whether California is the best place for these huge operations.
Now these farmers want consumers to pay artificially high prices to get them through bad times, warning that letting some of them go out of business will ultimately be bad for us all.
We don't wish ill on any business, but we're not convinced that the plight of the dairy farmer rises to a level of concern requiring government intervention in the economy.
Perhaps it is time to end the long history of such meddling and let consumers and the industry find their own equilibrium in a free exchange in the marketplace.
It is time to let the cheese -- and the milk from which it comes -- stand alone.
Merced-area dairymen forced to sell herds as milk industry sours
Le Grand farmers sell their 424 dairy cows for slaughter and quit business...SCOTT JASON...6-5-09
LE GRAND -- In an afternoon, dairyman Fernando De Silva watched as part of his life was herded into a trailer and driven off to slaughter.
"I worked all my life," the 66-year-old De Silva mumbled Tuesday. "What for? Now, everything's gone."
De Silva, along with his business partner Jose Rodrigues, decided last month to sell their 424 dairy cows and quit the industry.
The stout man from The Azores watched, shoulders slumped with his arms resting on the metal fence, as friends and relatives shouted and swatted the cows into a trailer.
"Anda vaca!" ranch hand John Faustino shouted. It translates to "move cow."
He's worked for the Rodrigues De Silva Dairy ever since it moved from Los Banos to Harvey Pettit Road a decade ago.
Once all the cows are gone, sometime next week, he'll look at taking a vacation to his homeland, the Azores. He left in 1974 and hasn't gone back.
"Then whatever comes, I will take it," he said, puffing a cigarette.
The dairy employs four people but has a network of contractors, such as welders and feed sellers who help it run. The milk industry is under siege, and in an area filled with dairymen it could add to Merced County's problems.
"If they don't do something for ag, this will be a disaster," dairymen Tony Azevedo said.
With 2,300 cows, he's not sure what he'll do if the market doesn't improve.
A caravan of trucks drove just under 100 cows off to Madera where they'll be auctioned for slaughter, part of the dairy industry's effort to right a market that's terribly wrong for farmers.
Like all dairymen, De Silva and Rodrigues wake up losing money. They could either cut their losses or face bankruptcy.
The going rate for 100 pounds of milk -- the way it's sold off the farms -- is just above $8. It costs about $16 to produce it.
Cooperatives Working Together, in Virginia, is paying the nation's dairymen to retire their herds to reduce the amount of milk produced. The hope is that it will boost prices.
In the coming weeks, 103,000 dairy cows will be taken out of production, representing about 2 billion pounds of milk.
In the Western region, 127 dairies offered up 71,591 cows. CWT accepted 38,498 cows from 88 dairies.
The buyout is one part of the industry's effort to restore prices, Western United Dairymen chief executive officer Michael Marsh said.
The economic crash last fall caused foreign milk markets to dry up. About 12 percent of milk produced in the United States was exported.
This year, it's been at about three percent. The other nine percent has flooded the domestic market, driving down prices.
"The demand disappeared overnight and that's never happened, except perhaps during the Great Depression," Marsh said.
People are also going out to eat less, so restaurants are using fewer dairy products.
As a result, there's a slight uptick in the amount of milk in home refrigerators -- though it's not enough to off-set the other problems.
"How many glasses of milk can you drink in a day?" Marsh asked. "How much cheese can you eat?"
Some of the extra milk will go toward feeding Americans in need -- a $160 million federal program.
Another $200 million in federal aid will go toward subsidizing exports.
For Rodrigues, it's all too late. He made the decision last month to close his dairy, which caused him a few sleepless nights.
One consolation is that it may help other dairymen.
"I've been in this business all my life. It's not easy to sell," he said. "You get to a point. Every time I get up, we lose a thousand dollars. You have to stop somewhere."
Dairymen protest in front of Cardoza's office...Ken Carlson
Frustration over pitiful milk prices spilled over into a dairy farmers protest Thursday outside the downtown Modesto office of Rep. Dennis Cardoza.
About 15 dairymen from Merced and Stanislaus counties carried signs at Tenth Street Plaza, while the wives of some dairymen talked with a Cardoza representative on the fifth floor of the government building, where the Merced Democrat has an office.
"There are 2,000 dairies in this state that can't pay their bills," said Mary Fernandes, co-owner of an 800-cow dairy in Hilmar. "Mr. Cardoza is a voice. He is our voice. We are hoping he can do something."
The sign-toting dairymen in the plaza were less diplomatic. They charged that Cardoza and other valley representatives such as Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, were ignoring the industry crisis.
Milk is the No. 1 farm product in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, bringing $2.26 billion in gross income to farmers in 2007, according to county crop reports. Several thousand people in the region work at dairy processing plants.
Not breaking even
The milk prices paid to dairy farms started to tumble in the fall and were at 80 cents a gallon this week, about 60 cents less than what the dairies need to break even.
At current prices, Fernandes said, her family's dairy operation can hold out for another two months. She said the hardship spreads to the feed suppliers, lumber yards and other community businesses that sell supplies to dairies.
Experts say a few factors are hurting dairies, including an increase in feed costs, the recession's effect on export markets and excess milk production.
DeeDee D'Adamo, a senior policy adviser for Cardoza, assured the dairy farmers that their troubles are a priority for the congressman.
She produced a letter showing that Cardoza and Costa discussed the milk prices with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February, soon after his appointment by President Barack Obama.
Cardoza and Costa have supported federal action to address the issue, including $200 million in federal subsidies to make dairy exports more competitive on foreign markets and the distribution of dairy products for programs to feed the poor.
Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Modesto-based Western United Dairymen, said the industry association has been pleased with the support from the congressmen. He noted that dairy farmers have not received help from the state's milk pricing support system, however.
Federal action should help
Marsh said the federal action, along with a national herd reduction program, should have a positive affect on milk prices in the coming weeks.
To address the oversupply of milk, 103,000 dairy cows are being taken out of production through the cooperative that oversees the herd reduction program.
Even so, more dairies are expected to go out of business. Almost 100 were lost in California last year and an equal number of failures are expected this year, according to Western United.
Valley faces more cuts in water deliveries
Plan to save fish would drop delta water delivery...John Ellis
Federal regulators proposed sweeping rules Thursday that could cut water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by 10% to protect endangered Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead.
Combined with protections released last December to protect the endangered delta smelt, the cumulative effect of the latest rules could be a 30% or more reduction of water deliveries to millions of urban and agricultural users, state officials said.
Environmentalists praised the new rules, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. But Valley water groups said the rules will impose even more hardships on farmers, and they vowed to challenge the rules in federal court.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement that the set of rules "puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians and the health and security of the world's eighth-largest economy."
Westlands Water District spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said the new rules will ensure that the hardships on the Valley's west side -- a product of persistent drought and earlier water-delivery cutbacks -- will be permanent.
"This is our new normal," Woolf said.
Westlands, the largest agricultural consumer of delta water, is receiving 10% of its federal water allotment this year. That amount would likely be cut in half if the new salmon and steelhead rules were in place now, Woolf said.
San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority officials said the farms it serves already have lost 55% of their water supply due to prior federal regulations intended to protect fish and wildlife. These new rules will result in an additional 20% reduction, the authority said.
For their part, federal officials estimated a reduction of 5% to 7% of the total available water delivered annually by state and federal delta pumps. That translates to about 330,000 acre-feet per year.
California agriculture uses around 30 million acre-feet of water per year, federal officials said. Each acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or a 12- to 18-month supply of water for an average family.
The new rules also cover upstream management on the Sacramento and American rivers for the winter-run Chinook salmon and spring-run Chinook salmon, both protected by the Endangered Species Act. The rules call for, among other things, increased cold-water storage in Lake Shasta and changes in how flows are managed to aid salmon migrations.
Federal officials had to rewrite the salmon and steelhead management plan after U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno found an earlier set of rules did not adequately protect the endangered fish species. Wanger had previously made a similar ruling involving the delta smelt.
Woolf said Westlands "will promptly be suing" to stop the new regulations -- known as a "biological opinion" -- because the National Marine Fisheries Service enacted them without public hearings, independent review or an environmental impact statement, as required by federal law.
Another legal avenue some are advocating is seeking to employ a panel of seven Cabinet officials who could find that the economic hardship from reduced water flows is more important than protecting a threatened species.
The panel -- informally known as the "God Squad" -- was added to the Endangered Species Act in 1978. It has been invoked only a handful of times.
Environmentalists, however, hailed the new rules. Kate Poole, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called them "a step in the right direction."
Poole said she was "not surprised that Westlands and others are suing because these have become such polarizing issues."
She added, however, that the actual reduction announced Thursday represents just 3% of agricultural water deliveries this year, and it can be made up with water recycling and other water-saving measures.
"It's another hit, but its not that much in the overall context of the system," Poole said.
Because demand for water is growing along with the state's population, the delta is stressed and water reductions would be needed even without the salmon or smelt facing extinction, Poole said.
The rules for both the smelt and the salmon and steelhead govern water-pumping operations by the state Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The two agencies operate massive water pumps that send delta water to Bay Area urban users, San Joaquin Valley farmers and south to Los Angeles and San Diego.
Fall-run Chinook salmon populations returning to the Central Valley to spawn have declined steeply over the past seven years, down to about 66,000 salmon adults returning to the Sacramento River in 2008 from more than 750,000 adult salmon in 2002.
The fisheries service determined that the current water pumping operations by the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project need to be changed to protect a number of endangered or threatened species including winter and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and killer whales, which feed on salmon.
Representatives for commercial fishermen, who have not been able to fish for two seasons because salmon have been so scarce, applauded the plan.
"All these people, all these small communities on the coast of California depend on these salmon for their livelihoods," said Larry Collins, a San Francisco-based fisherman and vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
"Everybody needs these fish. We've got to put water back in the river," he said.
Westlands Statement on NMFS Biological Opinion on Salmon
FRESNO, Calif. The following is a statement from the Westlands Water District:
Federal regulators today have imposed an additional, new regime of restrictions, cutbacks and prohibitions on California’s water supplies without performing any environmental analysis of its potentially devastating effects. They have rushed this Biological Opinion into place without bothering to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, without public hearings or the kind of independent public review that the law requires.
This is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and of federal endangered species law.
The Westlands Water District intends to join with other public water agencies in bringing a lawsuit to have this Biological Opinion set aside and to compel the National Marine Fisheries Service to go back and perform the careful analysis it should have done to assess the potential harm this plan could do to public health and safety, communities and the environment.
A partial list of the impacts that the National Environmental Policy Act requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess can be found below.
If it were allowed to stand, this Biological Opinion would be a death sentence for large parts of California’s economy. Communities in the San Joaquin Valley are already experiencing 40 percent unemployment rates. This new order is so extreme and far-reaching that its adverse impacts will extend to businesses throughout the state. It will further reduce supplies for homeowners and increase uncertainty for almost everyone who expects to have water when they turn on the tap.
It is certainly not in the best interest of the United States or the Obama Administration to do this kind of damage to California. The implementation of these restrictions will prolong the recession, delay economic recovery, impact the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other goods and services, and adversely affect consumers throughout the country.
How much more water would this Biological Opinion take away from farms and cities and other environmental needs? The state estimates this new order may cut an additional 500,000 acre feet out of the system every year. But these additional cutbacks would come on top of existing federal restrictions that have reduced California’s water supplies this year by nearly one-third.
In the midst of the current drought, those existing federal restrictions have caused nearly 370,000 acre feet of fresh water to be wasted into the ocean in just the first five months of this year. That’s enough water to meet all the needs of 1.2 million people for a year. Now NMFS proposes to take another 500,000 acre feet out of the supplies that 25 million Californians rely on.
The good news is that because of existing water conditions, the most damaging aspects of the Biological Opinion are not likely to take effect until much later in the year. That means there will be time to ask the federal court to suspend this Biological Opinion and compel the federal fisheries agencies to comply with the law that requires the preparation of a proper environmental impact statement.
As a public agency, we have an obligation to do everything we can to minimize the damage that these new restrictions could do to humans, communities and the environment. The defects of the Biological Opinion demonstrate the folly of pursuing a piecemeal, species-by-species approach to the environmental needs of a complex ecosystem such as the Delta. We need to complete the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) as quickly as possible so that we can replace this kind of patchwork with a fully integrated, comprehensive program for repairing the environmental health of the Delta and making the long-term improvements that are need to restore the reliability of California’s water system.
Environmental Impacts that NMFS Failed to Assess--Why an Environmental Impact Statement Is Required
(The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that federal agencies undertaking any major action must analyze the environmental effects of that action. (42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).) Thus, it is imperative that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) first perform an appropriate environmental review of all the changes that the Biological Opinion (BiOp) would impose on the Central Valley Project (CVP), the State Water Project (SWP), and the resulting direct and indirect environmental impacts of curtailing water deliveries throughout most of Central and Southern California, including parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Depending on the level of export curtailment, the environmental effects from restriction under the NMFS BiOp would likely include impacts to aesthetics and agriculture from abandoned and fallowed agricultural fields, to air quality from the increased dust and particulate matter from those fields, to biological resources from the lack of water for use for wetlands and species outside the Delta, to geology and soils from the use of lower quality and higher salinity water, to hazards due to land subsidence from overpumping groundwater and lack of water for wildfires, to hydrology and water quality due to lack of imported water for replenishment, and to land use from the curtailment of drinking water supplies throughout California.
Human impacts resulting from chronic and severe water supply shortages are already evident throughout the Central Valley. Unemployment rates through many parts of the Westside exceed Depression era levels. Food lines are becoming all too common in several rural Westside communities and the demand can outstrip the ability of the food banks to provide. Demand for social services is peaking at a time when the ability of local and state government to respond is also severely depressed due to the broader global economic downturn.
The physical environment is also being impacted. In areas of the Central Valley where groundwater is available, concern is focused upon the future effects that salt buildup and subsidence will have upon the soil. Wildlife refuges rely on transfers for up to one-quarter of their water supply, which is now both less plentiful and far more expensive. Non-irrigated fields can often produce dust during the frequent wind events that occur throughout the region, compounding the already significant number of respiratory ailments associated with the San Joaquin Valley, such as asthma. Non-cultivated fallow fields can also provide excellent habitat for non-native plant species such as Russian thistle (aka tumbleweed), which, upon maturity, breaks from the soil and is transported with the wind. This migration can threaten remaining native plant ecosystems, impact crops and infrastructure such as highways and canals, and produce rashes and allergic reactions among people exposed to the noxious weed.
Any decrease in water supplies conveyed through and from the Delta that are the result of the NMFS BiOp would greatly exacerbate existing water shortages, as well as the drought’s environmental and economic impacts, and would generate cumulative impacts in conjunction with other recently implemented constraints upon the projects’ operations. Because of the dire water situation in California, these impacts could not be ameliorated by additional conservation measures, since aggressive integrated regional water management, including water conservation and use efficiency, is already being implemented throughout the affected regions, including mandatory water rationing in some areas. It is important that a NEPA review be performed to determine the least environmentally damaging way of meeting the NMFS BiOp’s protection goals.
Impacts on Groundwater
Between the years of 1985 and 2004, even with the use of imported water, groundwater production grew five percent faster than groundwater recharge throughout the extensive service area of the Metropolitan Water District. Reductions in deliveries from SWP have led to increased pumping, reduced groundwater recharge and dropping groundwater levels in many groundwater basins in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Thus, total groundwater storage in the SWP service area, which was already declining, will suffer additional losses if the NMFS BiOp includes increased restrictions on project operations, and such restrictions will almost certainly widen the existing disparity between the recharge and production of groundwater.
Metropolitan annually delivers 200,000 acre-feet of imported water on average to groundwater basins for dry-year storage and to prevent groundwater overdraft and its concomitant environmental impacts. If the NMFS BiOp includes additional restrictions on SWP operations, very few years will have Northern California water available for storage and overdraft prevention, effectively eliminating this tool and thus exacerbating future droughts.
Groundwater basins in Southern California that are routinely recharged with imported water are generally able to maintain groundwater production levels for two years after recharge has ceased. Thereafter, local groundwater production declines, and retail water demand then shifts to the local agency for full water service delivery. The rebounded demand on Metropolitan and its member agencies associated with the new NMFS BiOp will compound imported water shortages and substantially increase the potential for water supply rationing and its associated economic and environmental impacts within Southern California.
Impacts on Water Storage
Metropolitan is illustrative of the kinds of impacts the NMFS BiOp will have on water agencies throughout California. Following the 1987-1992 drought, Metropolitan’s Integrated Water Resources Plan established regularly updated strategies for managing shortages. Measures in the Metropolitan plan include contractual groundwater storage programs for SWP water. As of January 2008, Metropolitan had 773,000 acre-feet stored in these programs but, due to shortages caused by drought and court-ordered curtailments, Metropolitan has been drawing down this storage to maintain reliable water deliveries. As of October 2008, storage had been reduced to 664,000 acre-feet, indicating that the emergency supplies of water available to Southern California are rapidly declining even without the anticipated restrictions of the new NMFS BiOp.
Further restrictions on SWP operations would eliminate surplus imported water supplies in almost all years, likely making it impossible to recharge the groundwater storage used to maintain water supply reliability in dry years. Loss of this water management tool would have significant adverse impacts on water supply reliability in Southern California.
Impacts on Recycling
Groundwater basins within the service areas of many water agencies are recharged with recycled water, thereby reducing the demand for imported water. However, each cycle of urban use of recycled water typically adds 250 to 400 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids. When wastewater flows already have high salinity concentrations, the use of recycled water becomes more limited or will require much more expensive treatment. Consequently, higher quality blend water is required to render this recycled water usable for groundwater recharge and other activities.
Some Regional Water Quality Control Boards have adopted water quality control plans for groundwater basins within their jurisdictions that include water quality objectives for maximum amounts of TDS. When inadequate amounts of high-quality SWP or CVP blend water are available to meet the water quality requirements of these orders for recycled water recharge, recycled water cannot be used for recharge and member agencies must consequently defer or abandon water recharge efforts. Loss of high quality water to blend with recycled water for recharge thus contributes to additional groundwater recharge losses and the growing overdraft of groundwater basins in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
Impacts on Recycled Water Use
Recycled water is also frequently used for landscape and agricultural irrigation and industrial applications. However, such reuse becomes problematic at TDS concentrations of more than 1,000 mg/L. Some crops are also particularly sensitive to high TDS concentrations, and the use of high salinity recycled water may reduce the yields of these crops. In addition, concern for water quality in groundwater basins may lead to restrictions on the use of recycled water for irrigation on lands overlying those basins.
For example, diminished SWP supplies have already resulted in increased TDS concentrations in Metropolitan’s blends, in some instances, and this is impacting the ability to recycle the resulting wastewater. Further reductions in delivered SWP and CVP supplies would result in even greater impacts of this type in other areas as well.
Impacts on Subsidence
The most far-reaching and potentially destructive impacts due to increased groundwater overdraft are land subsidence and earth fissures. Land subsidence is the sinking of the Earth’s surface due to subsurface movement of earth materials. The major cause of subsidence in the southwestern United States is the over-drafting of aquifers. The negative effects of land subsidence include the permanent loss of groundwater storage space and changes in elevation and the slope of streams, canals, and drains.
Additionally, in some areas where groundwater levels have declined, surface streams lose flow to adjacent groundwater systems. These losses entail significant impacts to hydrology, as well as the biological systems that depend on those groundwater or surface flows. Land subsidence can lead to cracks and fissures at the land surface, which may damage bridges, roads, railroads, storm drains, sanitary sewers, canals, levees, and private and public buildings.
Impacts on Agriculture and Food Production
Agricultural operations in Fresno County, Tulare County, Kern County, San Diego County, and other areas of the State rely on Delta water, and this supply of water is already being impaired, with concomitant environmental effects. For example, effective January 1, 2008, Metropolitan called on participants in its Interim Agricultural Water Program to reduce their water use by 30 percent. Major citrus and avocado growers have had to stump or remove trees from their groves in order to comply with the water use reductions. The decreases in water availability for San Diego County agricultural operations as a result of the operational constraints due to delta smelt restrictions resulted in the loss of nearly 2,000 acres of avocados, as just one example.
To the extent the NMFS BiOp imposes further restrictions, even more fallowing and crop destruction will almost certainly occur. Fallowing, in turn, leads to losses in farm jobs, public health impacts, and other effects that must be evaluated before the NMFS BiOp takes effect. Curtailing the imported water supply would reduce crop availability and create economic impacts as farmers idle crops and fallow land.
Impacts on Soil and Air Quality
Land clearing and fallowing would have obvious attendant environmental impacts. Such actions may result in substantial soil erosion and loss of topsoil and additional dust and air pollutions emissions, including in those areas and counties, such as Merced, Fresno, Kern, and Kings Counties, where air quality is already in noncompliance with federal Clean Air Act standards. Additional fallowing and under-irrigation of agricultural lands that could result along the Westside due to further restrictions on project operations could add hundreds of tons per year of wind-borne particulates in the air in the San Joaquin air basin. In addition, the loss of significant amount of agricultural land would be a significant land use change.
Impacts on the Quality of Drinking Water
Because of varying levels of quality in their water sources, some water agencies must manage the salinity of the water they provide in order to maximize water use and meet the demands for drinking water of the citizens they serve.
Metropolitan’s blending practices provide an example of the necessity for high quality Northern California water. Metropolitan has adopted a policy to achieve blends of these source waters that do not exceed TDS concentrations of 500 mg/L. Metropolitan adopted this standard because salinities higher than this level would increase service costs, decrease the amount of water available, and reduce operating flexibility. For example, high salinity water has a residential impact resulting from the increased degradation of water heaters and other plumbing fixtures. Further, direct treatment of saline water without blending is costly and typically results in losses of up to 15 percent of the water processed. In addition, water with a high salinity content results in more saline wastewater, which lowers its usefulness and increases the costs of treating and utilizing recycled water.
Water agencies in the Central Valley must meet similar requirements and face similar costs. For example, unless higher salinity water is treated or blended, it will affect agricultural use and degrade the quality of soils in their service areas.
Impacts on Protected Species
Although a biological opinion’s purpose is to aid the recovery of listed species, if the NMFS BiOp decreases water agency imports, there will be a significant impact on other protected species. For example, the northwestern portion of Kern County is home to 14,000 acres of flooded water habitat, including the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, where migratory birds, including protected and listed species, nest and feed during the fall and winter. An additional 11,000 acres of recharge ponds are located in the Kern River fan area, which provides seasonal habitat during recharge cycles. These complexes depend on the fall and winter delivery of surface water to provide for migratory bird habitat.
If the NMFS BiOp significantly decreases importation of water beyond the limitations in the existing biological opinion, no Northern California water will be available to fill these ponds. Because local surface water supplies to fill the ponds are only available in locally wet years, curtailment of water for the purported benefit of the salmonid species would result in the destruction of this habitat for other protected species.
Another example of protected and listed species that could be harmed by any new restrictions imposed by the NMFS BiOp is found within the boundaries of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which receives water from both the SWP and CVP. Of the 163 miles of local streams used by Santa Clara for instream groundwater recharge, 129 miles are considered to be habitat for threatened or endangered species, including 32 species of plants, 50 species of wildlife, six amphibians, and three aquatic species listed as special status species under State or federal law.
Local reservoirs, streams, and artificial recharge ponds provide habitat for 11 native species and 19 nonnative species of fish. Populations of protected steelhead trout are known to exist in Coyote Creek, Guadalupe River, Stevens Creek, and San Francisquito Creek and their tributaries.
Santa Clara’s average in-stream flow releases for groundwater recharge are normally about 104,000 acre-feet. If dry hydrologic conditions continue, total groundwater recharge will be limited to approximately 84,000 acre-feet. Any new import restrictions in the NMFS BiOp would reduce this amount still further, significantly impacting these species.
Impact on Wildfires and Public Safety
As aquifers are depleted and imports are further curtailed, affected water districts will be forced to increasingly rely on their remaining water resources. One of the few remaining sources is emergency storage supplies, which water agencies and local districts will be compelled to tap in order to meet their constituencies’ demands. This will put the state at risk because of the compromised ability to ensure adequate flows in the event of large wildfire outbreaks, a large seismic event, major Delta levee failure or other catastrophic occurrence.
The on-going drought conditions have already created a situation of extreme fire danger and have resulted in destructive fires in many areas of the state. Such fires have had, and future fires will continue to have, devastating economic and environmental impacts, including air quality impacts, structure and crop destruction, and landslides.
Water ruling is troubling for ag
President Obama should convene 'God Squad' to override opinion's finding…Editorial
The biological opinion issued Thursday by the National Marine Fisheries Service is troubling for the many things that it does not say.
The rushed opinion will have a huge impact on San Joaquin Valley agriculture, yet the Fisheries Service did not take the time to consider all the factors that are jeopardizing fish populations. That's shoddy work.
This decision plays into the arguments of those who claim the federal government would rather protect fish than humans. We believe endangered species must be protected, but we also think there should be a balance struck when issuing opinions that will cause economic turmoil.
The federal opinion says salmon, sturgeon, killer whale and steelhead are jeopardized by the federal and state water projects. The practical effect of that conclusion would limit water pumped to Valley farmers and Southern California residents. Farmers on the west side of the Valley already are contending with decreased water deliveries because of previous rulings.
Both Democratic and Republicans members of the Valley congressional delegation have condemned the latest opinion.
They have good reason. While the Fisheries Service is blaming the federal and state water pumping for the decline in the fish populations, the agency does not take into account documented factors such as sewage dumping from Sacramento and Stockton, the private pumps that divert water without screens, other pollution from nearby urban areas and the impact of striped bass and other invasive species on the protected species.
It appears this opinion was targeted at agricultural uses only, and that is wrong.
The Obama administration must reconsider this ill-conceived action. One way is to convene the so-called "God Squad." The Endangered Species Act has a provision that would allow a panel of seven Cabinet officials to intervene. They could rule that the economic hardship from reduced water flows overrides protecting the threatened species.
The panel, which is informally called the "God Squad," was added to the ESA in 1978. It has only been used sparingly, but we believe this is exactly the occasion that the provision was intended for.
Officials from the Westlands Water District say they will go to court to overturn the Fisheries Service ruling.
We hope the Obama administration realizes how narrowly drawn this opinion is and how devastating it will be to the small communities that rely on farm water to survive. The president should not ignore the impact that his administration is having on some of the nation's poorest people.
Federal ruling helps fish, but water costs feared...Matt Weiser
Endangered salmon and steelhead in Central Valley rivers must have access again to historic spawning grounds above major California dams, according to sweeping new federal rules that could boost water bills for millions statewide.
The National Marine Fisheries Service unveiled the complex set of rules, called a biological opinion, Thursday in response to a lawsuit by environmental groups. Affected species are winter- and spring-run salmon, Central Valley steelhead and green sturgeon.
The rules require the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to restore access for fish to waters above Nimbus and Folsom dams on the American River, Shasta Dam on the Sacramento, and New Melones Dam on the Stanislaus.
Those dams were built decades ago without fish ladders and have blocked access to hundreds of miles of historic spawning grounds.
So dire is the situation that experts have concluded the rules are also necessary to save an endangered population of killer whales that range from British Columbia to California and primarily eat salmon. If California's salmon disappear, killer whales could be next.
"They've addressed the big issues," said Kate Poole, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "There's no question any more about the fact that the Bay-Delta ecosystem is in dire need of significant changes and fixes. This is one big step to do that."
The environmental group American Rivers, not a party to the lawsuit, said the new rules are unprecedented.
"This is the most significant single order for fish passage that we're aware of," said Steve Rothert, the group's California director.
Water agencies can appeal the rules. They argue that, over the long term, a state and federal habitat conservation plan they're now drafting will achieve the same goals, yet allow for more flexibility in managing water.
Under Thursday's new rules, water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta must be cut 5 percent to 7 percent under certain conditions, which may worsen water shortages in some areas.
The new federal rules mark the latest episode in the drama over a California aquatic environment spinning out of control. It comes on the heels of similar rules imposed in December to protect the threatened Delta smelt, which also reduced water availability for farms and cities.
Officials on Thursday said Californians may have simply pushed the limit of the state's available freshwater supplies.
"You're going to see less reliable water as it relates to farming in the Central Valley, and it will become more difficult to find replacement water for urban growth," said Donald Glaser, the Bureau of Reclamation's regional director. "We have to just find better ways to make efficient use of the water we have."
The rules also require changes at salmon hatcheries, including Nimbus Hatchery on the American River, to improve survival of wild salmon.
Reclamation also must adopt a new water flow standard for the American River, and find a way to flood the Yolo Bypass more often to improve salmon habitat.
But retrofitting the dams for fish passage is by far the most costly and significant measure. Building traditional fish ladders is likely to cost billions of dollars, though the rules don't require this. Instead, the fisheries service is ordering a multi-agency task force to recommend ways to restore fish above the dams by 2016, and then to carry out the best options by 2020.
The ruling also governs water operations of the California Department of Water Resources. DWR will share the cost of the new orders, agency spokesman Matt Notley said.
Glaser said costs will likely be passed down through water contractors to consumers throughout California. This could drive up water bills for millions of farmers and urban Californians from Red Bluff to San Diego.
"We are acutely aware of the significance of this opinion for the region's farmers and residents," said Maria Rea, manager of the fisheries service's Sacramento office, which prepared the rules. "What is at stake here is not just survival of the species but the health of the entire ecosystems that depend on them."
NRDC and other environmental and fishing groups sued the government to overturn prior federal rules protecting Central Valley salmon and steelhead. Subsequent investigations showed those rules, adopted during the Bush administration, were influenced by politics and lacked scientific rigor.
Thursday's new rules went through two independent reviews, but that didn't stop politicians and interest groups from pushing back.
"This federal biological opinion puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians and the health and security of the world's eighth largest economy," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Western Growers, a farm group, said the rules would cause "real and very serious harms to the human species."
Others, however, said restoring salmon could bring enormous benefits to the environment and the economy.
Will Templin, of the Upper American River Foundation, said there is still good habitat to welcome back migrating fish. A recent genetic study, Templin said, showed some rainbow trout on the upper American River are actually remnants of steelhead that once migrated from the ocean.
"For me, it'll feel like something long overdue," he said.
Restrictions placed on Delta water deliveries to protect fish populations...MIKE TAUGHER, Contra Costa Times
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- Federal regulators levied sweeping new rules on Delta water deliveries Thursday to prevent the thirst of California's farms and cities from rendering extinct several salmon runs, steelhead, green sturgeon and a Pacific Northwest population of killer whales.
The suite of regulations would ensure more cold water is available for spawning fish, and that water operators make it easier for fish to swim from upstream spawning grounds through San Francisco Bay and back again.
The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the new regulations would cut water supplies from the Delta beginning next year by about 5 percent to 7 percent, or roughly 330,000 acre-feet a year, enough water for a city of about 2 million people. Most of the water loss is due to measures to help steelhead migrate down the San Joaquin River, officials said.
The hit to Delta water supplies comes on top of rules put in place in December to prevent Delta pumps from driving another fish, Delta smelt, to extinction.
One major farming district, the Westlands Water District, immediately announced it would sue and called the new rules, "a death sentence for large parts of California's economy."
"I think you're going to see less reliable water, particularly as it relates to farming in the Central Valley," said Don Glaser, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The 844-page analysis and permit, known as a biological opinion, is required under the Endangered Species Act and spells out rules by which water managers operate two sprawling water delivery systems that run from Shasta and Oroville reservoirs in Northern California all the way to the Southern California desert.
It is the second of two major permits issued in the past six months that are meant to reverse a dizzying decline in the Delta, part of the West Coast's largest estuary and the bottom of a watershed that drains 40 percent of California on its way to San Francisco Bay.
Those projects had been governed by two permits issued in 2004 that allowed record levels of water to be extracted from the Delta but proved ineffective in preventing or slowing the steep decline of smelt, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.
The permit that was supposed to protect salmon and steelhead was altered by a Bush administration official who reversed the conclusions of agency scientists who found water operations could make those fish extinct. The result was declining fish populations and tough criticism from a federal inspector general, two science review panels and a federal court that in April 2008 ordered the permit be rewritten.
The other permit, which was written to protect Delta smelt, was also invalidated by a federal judge.
During the time those permits were in effect, several fish species nosedived toward extinction and even previously abundant fish, most notably the commercially valuable Sacramento River fall-run chinook salmon, declined steeply. Salmon fishing is closed for the second consecutive year, threatening a 150-year-old fishing industry and costing the state's economy an estimated $279 million this year.
The new rules require more cold water be held in reserve and regulate how flows are managed. They also require water managers by the end of 2016 to study fish ladders or other mechanisms to allow fish to pass dams that block of most of their historic spawning grounds.
"This is the beginning of the process of rebuilding what was lost during the Bush Administration," said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
Of the fish to be protected under the permit issued Thursday, the most imperiled is the Sacramento River's winter-run chinook salmon, which numbered nearly 100,000 during the 1960s. But with Shasta Dam blocking access to spawning grounds, those numbers were down to fewer than 200 fish in the 1990s. By 2006, winter run salmon had rebounded to more than 17,000 fish but then plunged to fewer than 3,000 in the last two years.
"What is at stake here is not just the survival of species but the health of entire ecosystems and the economies that depend on them," said Rod Mcinnis, southwest regional director for fisheries service.
Environmentalists and salmon anglers were generally pleased.
"The big issue now is getting it enforced and sitting down and working with the water guys to find something that's sustainable," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
Grader's organization represents commercial salmon fishermen who are enduring their second consecutive year of oceans closed to salmon fishing because of the collapse of fall-run salmon, which had been abundant until recent years.
Water agencies continually argue that other factors besides pumping are to blame for the decline in fish, and scientists and environmentalists agree.
But regulators have concluded that water operations in the Delta have exacerbated the other problems, including pollution and invasive species.
The permit issued Thursday concluded the winter-run salmon, Central Valley spring-run, Central Valley steelhead, California's green sturgeon population and a population of several dozen orcas that reside in Puget Sound - and depend on California salmon part of the year - all could go extinct without changes to water operations.
The fisheries service then imposed a series of requirements to prevent that from happening.
Jobless rate hits 9.4 percent in May; layoffs slow...JEANNINE AVERSA , AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON -- With companies in no mood to hire, the unemployment rate jumped to 9.4 percent in May, the highest in more than 25 years. But the pace of layoffs eased, with employers cutting 345,000 jobs, the fewest since September.
The much smaller-than-expected reduction in payroll jobs, reported by the Labor Department on Friday, adds to evidence that the recession is loosening its hold on the country. It marked the fourth straight month that the pace of layoffs slowed.
"This tide is turning," said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus. "We expect this trend of slower job loss to continue throughout the year."
Still, the increase in the nation's unemployment rate from 8.9 percent in April underscores the difficulties that America's 14.5 million unemployed are having in finding new jobs. Economists had expected the rate to hit 9.2 percent last month.
If laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.4 percent in May, the highest on records dating to 1994.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called the rise in May's unemployment rate "unacceptable" and pledged to help bring it down by aiding the unemployed get new skills or training.
President Barack Obama's stimulus package is expected to help bolster the economy. Vice President Joe Biden said he will join Obama on Monday in seeking to ramp up the pace this summer of the stimulus effort that Congress approved earlier this year.
Even with layoffs slowing, companies will be reluctant to hire until they feel certain that economic conditions are improving and that any recovery will last.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 6 million jobs.
As the recession - which is now the longest since World War II - bites into sales and profits, companies have turned to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to survive the fallout. Those include holding down workers' hours and freezing or cutting pay.
The average work week in May fell to 33.1 hours, the lowest on records dating to 1964. The number of people out of work six months or longer rose to more than 3.9 million in May, triple the amount from when the recession began.
Stocks rallied on the better-than-expected number of payroll reductions, but then gave back some of the earlier gains. The Dow Jones industrial average gained about 45 points in afternoon trading. Broader indexes also edged up.
Job losses - while slower in May - were still widespread.
Construction companies cut 59,000 jobs, down from 108,000 in April. Factories cut 156,000, on top of 154,000 in the previous month. Retailers cut 17,500 positions, compared with 36,500 in April. Financial activities cut 30,000, down from 45,000 in April. Even the government reduced employment - by 7,000 - after bulking up by 92,000 in April as it added workers for the 2010 Census.
Education, health care, leisure and hospitality were among the industries adding jobs in May. Solis believes the stimulus already has helped "to stabilize employment in the retail and service sectors" and played a role in reducing job losses in construction in May.
In another encouraging note, job losses in both March and April were less than previously thought. Employers cut 652,000 positions in March, versus 699,000 previously reported. They eliminated 504,000 jobs in April, less than the 539,000 initially estimated.
The deepest job cuts of the recession came in January when 741,000 jobs disappeared, the most since 1949.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke repeated his prediction this week that the recession will end this year, but again warned that any recovery will be gradual.
Many economists believe the jobless rate will hit 10 percent by the end of this year. Some think it could rise as high as 10.7 percent by the second quarter of next year before it starts to make a slow descent. The post-World War II high was 10.8 percent at the end of 1982.
Friday's report "supports the notion that the recession will end this year," Yamarone said. But pain will linger and the jobless rate will move higher. He predicts it will peak at 10.2 percent early next year.
The Fed says unemployment will remain elevated into 2011 given the expectation of tepid recovery. Economists say the job market may not get back to normal - meaning a 5 percent unemployment rate - until 2013. Economic recoveries after financial crises tend to be slower, economists say.
Evidence has been mounting that the recession is letting up, with fresh signs emerging earlier this week.
The number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits dipped for the first time in 20 weeks, and first-time claims also fell. Manufacturing's slide is slowing. Builders are boosting spending on construction projects and a barometer of home sales firmed.
Although shoppers remain cautious according to sales results from major retailers, Bernanke and other economists are hopeful that consumers won't return to the deep hibernation seen at the end of last year.
That's when the recession hit with brutal force, causing the economy to contract at a 6.3 percent pace, the most in 25 years. Consumers cut their spending at the time by the most in nearly three decades. Economic activity shrank at a 5.7 percent pace in the first three months of this year, despite a rebound by consumers.
Many analysts believe the economy is shrinking at about a 2 percent pace in the current quarter, and that the economy could return to growth as soon as the third quarter.
Ripple-effects from General Motors Corp.'s filing for bankruptcy protection - the fourth largest in U.S. history - could muddy the outlook, some analysts said. GM said earlier this week it will close nine factories and idle three others indefinitely as part of its restructuring. The closings, which will take place through the end of 2010, will cost up to 20,000 workers their jobs.
Avian expert bands his 500th falcon...LEE BERGQUIST, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE -- First came Lilly and then came Butch.
Lilly was No. 499, and when Greg Septon attached a pair of metal bands to the legs of Butch on Friday, he had reached a milestone.
Over the past two decades, Septon has placed identification bands on 500 peregrine falcons. No one else has banded so many in Wisconsin.
His accomplishment is the freshest evidence of the speedy raptor's comeback after resident populations were wiped out by the insecticide DDT.
On Friday, with the help of a broom-wielding assistant, Bill Holton, Septon climbed on a 120-foot catwalk at We Energies' Valley power plant.
Holton batted away the chicks' diving parents while Septon removed the young birds from a nesting box and brought them into a conference room at the power plant.
There, they squeaked in terror as he methodically attached the bands and took blood samples.
The work was done in 15 minutes, and before the chicks were returned to their nest, Septon was presented with a plaque from We Energies and an illustration of a peregrine from wildlife artist Thomas R. Schultz of Green Lake, Wis.
Septon, 56, first released peregrines in 1987 at the former First Wisconsin skyscraper while working at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He began banding the birds the next year.
Now he is a private consultant and has managed the peregrine recovery program in eastern Wisconsin for 22 years. His avian expertise has led to lectures in 17 countries and the publishing of more than 70 articles on natural history and conservation.
"Peregrine falcons are highly dependent on management, oversight and having people maintain relationships with folks where the nests are located," said Patricia Manthey, an avian ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Greg's efforts have been instrumental to their survival in Wisconsin."
Septon is still trying to get a handle on this year's population as he moves from nest box to nest box to band the chicks and check on their parents.
Last spring, there were 27 nesting pairs in Wisconsin - the highest since 1987. The adults produced 81 young.
"We are probably approaching what we had historically, but the picture has changed dramatically," Septon said.
DDT was responsible for wiping out peregrines by weakening egg shells. No peregrines are believed to have lived in Wisconsin from 1965 to 1987.
Before the insecticide was used, peregrines lived primarily on cliffs of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers and the Door Peninsula.
Now, most are living in urban haunts and nesting on office buildings and power plants, such as the Valley plant.
In metropolitan Milwaukee, peregrines also are nesting at the U.S. Bank building, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Miller Brewing and Froedtert Malt in West Milwaukee.
Four of the 27 nesting pairs live along the Mississippi, Septon said.
For those fortunate enough to see them in action, peregrines can deliver a spectacular aerial show.
The fastest birds on the planet, they are uniquely adapted to fold back their wings and literally fall in tight spirals from the sky until they strike their target at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.
Highly aggressive - even among themselves - experts have described the blow from a peregrine as a karate chop in the air.
They are also not entirely monogamous.
Septon has watched nesting females leave their chicks for a few hours to visit neighboring males before returning home.
"There's kind of a 'Peyton Place' thing going, and I haven't quite figured it out yet," he said.
The Department of Natural Resources has discussed internally the possible removal of the peregrine from Wisconsin's list of endangered species because the population is self-sustaining. The last time birds were released into the wild was 1992.
Septon thinks it's premature.
His concern: The bird relies on the charity of corporations for nesting sites, and chick survival is only about 30 percent to 50 percent.
He suggested the creation of a new classification - a "heritage" species for wildlife such as the peregrine, greater prairie chicken and bobwhite quail. These are species whose populations will never be high. The designation would give landowners certain incentives to maintain habitat.
As he banded Lilly and Butch, Septon described the trials and tribulations of different peregrines.
One of his favorites is a female named Atlanta whom he banded in 1996 in Green Bay, Wis.
Five months later, she suffered a broken wing from a gunshot in Indiana. She was treated for five months at the University of Minnesota and flown to Milwaukee in the spring of 1997.
Baggage handlers forgot about her and by the time she arrived, it was late at night and she was suffering from stress.
Septon took her home and fed her quail. In the morning, bits of feather were scattered on the floor of his library like snowflakes.
She spent time on the Racine County courthouse and power plants in Michigan City, Ind., and Pleasant Prairie before settling down at the Oak Creek power plant.
But not without a fight.
Employees of the plant described an epic battle with the resident female. By the time Septon got there, Atlanta's rival was nearly dead and would die soon after.
Atlanta has produced 36 young-and maybe more this year.
On Thursday morning after inspecting a nest on the U.S. Bank Building, he drove down E. Michigan St. and gazed momentarily through his sun roof at a pair of peregrines soaring overhead.
"I never get tired of watching them," he said. "I guess if I did, that would be the time to hang it up."
Big day on the Delta...Alex Breitler's blog...6-4-09
The report is out. Winter- and spring-run salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and a southern population of killer whales are now considered jeopardized by the state and federal water projects.
Fixes include more flows down the Stanislaus River during the springtime (could affect Stockton's water supply), more frequent closure of the Delta Cross Channel gates (would affect boaters), and of course, less suction from the south Delta pumps (the feds estimate the total impact on the state's water supply at 5 to 7 percent; the state Department of Water Resources says the impact on state deliveries could be closer to 10 percent).
And finally, the report warns water masters to be careful in planning a peripheral canal, lest it further jeopardize salmon and other species. If a canal is built, today's rules will have to be reconsidered.
Here is a PDF of the executive summary (6 pages... entire report is 844 pages):
11 REASONABLE AND PRUDENT ALTERNATIVE
11.1.1 Approach to the RPA
On Thursday, federal biologists will release their legal opinion whether salmon and steelhead are harmed by the ongoing operation of the state and federal water projects (which divert huge amounts of water from the Delta).
I'm told the report will be available after 11 a.m. here. A press briefing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
This has widespread water supply and ecosystem implications.
We'll have full coverage tomorrow online and in Friday's newspaper.
Protections expanded beyond smelt
Plan to help salmon includes opening dams, restricting pumping...Alex Breitler
SACRAMENTO - It's no longer just about the Delta smelt.
Federal scientists officially determined Thursday that California's vast network of dams, canals and pumps threatens the survival of salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon and even a small population of killer whales.
That means an additional 5 percent to 7 percent cut in the amount of water that can be exported from the Delta to cities and farms as far south as San Diego, they said.
The National Marine Fisheries Service set in place a series of strategies to stabilize the crashing species, including water supply reductions and passage for migratory fish over Shasta and Folsom dams to historic spawning grounds.
Also, the feds want more water flowing down the Stanislaus River during the springtime, which would sizably dent Stockton's water supply.
"Preliminary indications are it could be just devastating," said Kevin Kauffman, general manager of the Stockton East Water District.
The service also warned state officials that any consideration of a peripheral canal to solve the Delta's problems requires "careful planning" and several years of environmental review to avoid harming fish. State officials have proposed breaking ground on some kind of canal in 2011.
Don Glaser, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento, said the new rules mean added uncertainty for those who depend on Delta water, especially San Joaquin Valley farmers. Similar new rules to protect Delta smelt have already led to at least modest reductions in water; many have criticized this policy since the smelt, unlike salmon, has little apparent value.
"I believe that over time you're going to see less reliable water," Glaser said. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to operate our projects."
Stockton environmentalist Bill Jennings, head of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said environmental groups were pushing for similar rules two decades ago.
"It's the bare minimum to prevent the species from tumbling into the abyss of extinction," he said. "They've cut it awfully close. ... It certainly will not restore these fisheries."
Among the local impacts:
» An additional 200,000 acre-feet of water could be released down the Stanislaus River, officials said, leaving less in New Melones Lake for Stockton East and other federal contractors.
Stockton East, which supplies Stockton with drinking water, contracts for 75,000 acre-feet of water each year from New Melones. While it also receives water from the Calaveras River, losing New Melones as a source dries up ongoing efforts to recharge San Joaquin County's subterranean aquifer.
"It puts a dagger in the groundwater basin," Kauffman said.
» Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy also rely to a degree on Stanislaus water, though it's uncertain to what extent those cities will be affected.
Tracy also gets water directly from the Delta pumps; while that supply may be slashed, the city also has groundwater to rely upon.
» The Delta Cross Channel gates would be closed more often to keep juvenile fish from wandering into the interior of the estuary. This affects the mobility of boaters.
Previous Fisheries Service reports said that increasing water exports would not hurt salmon and steelhead. But those reports were thrown out last year by a federal judge who called the service's conclusions "inexplicably inconsistent."
Under the new rules, the Fisheries Service estimated annual water supply reductions of about 330,000 acre-feet, enough to serve the same number of families for about one year. For perspective, more than 6 million acre-feet of water has been exported from the Delta in recent years.
Many of the protections for smelt and salmon may overlap, officials said. Nevertheless, state officials projected their water deliveries, primarily to cities, would be slashed 10 percent under the salmon rules, on top of a worst-case 15 percent to 20 percent cut this year to protect smelt.
Thursday's 844-page report was blasted by Valley politicians. Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, said it was "disappointing that our courts and federal government continue to act in the best interest of fish, at the expense of human livelihood."
Others, such as U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, praised the news; Miller said it was "refreshing to see water management decisions that are based on science" and not politics.
Fisheries officials said they were mindful of the consequences of restricting Delta water. They had no estimate for what their rules would cost, although just one project - replacing a diversion dam near Red Bluff - was estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.
The plan is designed to save species, but not recover them. And indeed, Delta fisherman Dave Scatena said he doesn't think recovery is likely.
"At this point it appears we're on the brink of a major disaster," he said. "If we could just save some of them ..."
At a glance
Here are some of the new rules to protect salmon:
• New management of cold-water storage in reservoirs and fish passage above dams on the Sacramento and American rivers.
• More frequent closure of the gate at the Delta Cross Channel.
• Reduction in pumping at the state and federal export pumps near Tracy.
• Increased flows on the San Joaquin River, in which outgoing salmon have a poor survival rate.
• Increased flows on the Stanislaus River to aid steelhead. This could harm Stockton's water supply.
• Improvement of the genetic diversity of hatchery fish.
Group hopes to bring attention to watershed with trek to ocean...Alex Breitler
STOCKTON - The white-water boils of the wild and scenic Clavey River lay far behind a team of a dozen or so boaters who stopped by Stockton Thursday on their journey to the ocean.
The calm Stockton Deep Water Channel required considerably less skill to navigate, said Emilio Martinez, a 52-year-old artist from Modesto and one of only two people planning to complete the entire trip. Others are doing only a leg here or there.
"I'm not experienced with kayaks, canoes or anything," Martinez said, remembering the Class 5 thrill two weeks ago. "My stomach was queasy."
He did, of course, have a guide.
The trip downstream, piloted by the Tuolumne River Trust, is intended to raise the profile of that stream and its connection with the greater Central Valley watershed.
So often, people focus on how much water is sent out of the Delta to farmers and cities. For once, organizers said, they wanted to highlight the water coming into the Delta, and the lands through which it passes.
Rushing Sierra streams. Foothill reservoirs. Quiet, rolling rivers on the Valley floor.
"It's just important to show up and tell the story of the river," said Martinez, who hopes to finish the trip with Sonora farmer Owen Segerstrom, 25, who was born in Stockton and lived for five years in Lodi.
It hasn't necessarily been a relaxing vacation. Earlier this week, after several days of paddling, the team reached the San Joaquin River and jumped into a power boat.
That boat was grounded on a sandbar Wednesday. They were stuck on the water well into the evening.
That's just part of the adventure, the boaters said.
After a brief stop at Louis Park they climbed onto a patio boat and headed into the Delta. Today, they'll get back in their kayaks for a trip across San Francisco Bay.
While the vessels they use have varied, the trust says that every mile of the stream will be covered.
Seeing the gradual degradation of water quality from the Sierra Nevada to the Stockton channel was "disheartening," Segerstrom said.
"But it reinforces the urgency to do something about this."
To learn more
For more information about the Tuolumne River Trust, visit www.tuolumne.org.
San Francisco Chronicle
Plan would aid salmon, reduce water for people...Kelly Zito
Federal regulators prescribed sweeping changes Thursday to the dams, reservoirs and pumps that supply water to two-thirds of California in an effort to restore a salmon population whose steep decline has sounded an environmental alarm and led to the cancellation of two consecutive commercial fishing seasons.
While the measures could save the chinook salmon and other species from extinction, critics argue the plans reduce the water supply to people and farms at a time when the water system is strained by earlier environmental rules, drought, population growth and crumbling infrastructure.
On Thursday, an 800-page biological opinion released by the National Marine Fisheries Service found that operations of the state and federal water systems had jeopardized the state's spring-run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and Southern Resident killer whales. Moving water from one area of the delta to another and exporting increased supplies to cities and farms slashed flows for fish and boosted water temperatures, the report found.
The agency recommended increasing the amount of cold water stored at Shasta Dam, routing fish around a Red Bluff dam, closing "cross-channel" gates within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for longer periods, and cutting delta water exports by 5 to 7 percent. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which represents both the state and federal water systems, expressed initial support of the opinion but said it would examine the document in detail before moving forward.
The aim is to make waterways more hospitable and accessible to spawning salmon, while also preventing the fish from getting trapped in the giant delta pumps that funnel water to 25 million Californians and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Federal architects of the plan say California's future relies on reviving these fragile species.
The salmon population has declined by about 90 percent over the past six years, according to several West Coast fishing industry groups.
"What is at stake here is not just the survival of species, but the health of entire ecosystems and the economies that depend on them," said Maria Rea, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service supervisor for the Sacramento office.
Governor critical of opinion
State officials, however, issued a stinging rebuke of the opinion.
"This federal biological opinion puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians and the health and security of the world's eighth-largest economy," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "The piling on of one federal court decision after another in a species-by-species approach is killing our economy and undermining the integrity of the Endangered Species Act."
The governor said he would seek meetings with federal administrators to discuss the opinion.
Thursday's plan is the second released by the agency. Last year, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno tossed the service's 2004 opinion, which critics contended favored politics over science.
Commercial salmon fisherman, idled for the second season in a row, said the latest plan may resurrect an industry they say historically poured more than $2 billion a year into the state economy.
During a normal year, dozens of fishing boats would be lined up along San Francisco's commercial piers unloading salmon payloads as high as $20,000, said Larry Collins, vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. During a news conference Thursday held by Collins and other industry advocates, the piers were empty.
"We need to do what's right for these fishing communities, what's right for these fish, and we need to do it now," Collins said.
California water managers and representatives of agriculture greeted the plan with much more disappointment than hope. Most of the criticism rested on the plan's call for reducing water deliveries by 5 to 7 percent. The Department of Water Resources estimates deliveries have already been cut by as much as 20 percent after an earlier biological opinion on the threatened delta smelt. Around the state, drought and water cuts have forced many farmers to fallow prime farmland.
Rural, urban hardships
"It's another water supply cut on top of numerous ones over the years that are driving Central Valley economies into the tank," said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. "This is just more of the same."
The cuts also impact urban areas around the state, served mainly by the state water project.
"The new opinion ... further chips away at our ability to provide a reliable water supply for California," said Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow.
Several Bay Area agencies, including Santa Clara Valley Water District, Zone 7 Water Agency in Alameda County, Contra Costa Water District and Alameda County Water District, rely heavily on delta water.
Instead, Snow and others said the state must take a more comprehensive approach to solve the water network's myriad problems.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a state environmental and planning process whose goals balance both delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, may hold some of the answers. But environmentalists say fixing the water system is as much behavioral as it is structural.
"We have high hopes that the BDCP will help move us away from short-term fixes," said Ann Hayden, senior water resource analyst at Environmental Defense Fund. "But we also need to seriously address alternatives to water supply coming out of the bay-delta - recycling, conservation and groundwater management."
Feds release Calif. plan to protect chinook salmon...JASON DEAREN Associated Press Writer. Associated Press writer Garance Burke in Fresno contributed to this report.
SAN FRANCISCO—Federal regulators on Thursday released a court-ordered plan to help struggling chinook salmon that includes opening California dams and restricting pumping, prompting howls of protest from state officials because it will further reduce the amount of water available to farms and urban areas.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has "provisionally accepted" the findings of the National Marine Fisheries Service and will "implement actions required to meet the needs of the listed species," said Don Glaser, regional director for the bureau, which manages some of the dams involved. Glaser said the bureau will not formally accept the findings until staff reads the entire 800 pages of the opinion.
The fisheries service had to redo its salmon management plan for the upper Sacramento River and Shasta Reservoir after a federal judge in Fresno threw out its previous plan last year. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger found that allowing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water pumps and dams to continue operating as they have would threaten the imperiled species.
The fisheries service estimates that state and federal water regulators will lose 5 to 7 percent of the already limited water they have to manage under the new plan. Pumping restrictions this year due to another protected species, the delta smelt, already have meant a 17 to 20 percent reduction in water supply, said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California water regulators and Central Valley lawmakers immediately criticized the new plan, saying it would limit the amount of water pumped to farmers and Southern California residents and place an undue share of the burden on the valley's economy.
The plan "puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians and the health and security of the world's eighth-largest economy," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "The piling on of one federal court decision after another in a species-by-species approach is killing our economy and undermining the integrity of the Endangered Species Act."
The Westlands Water District, which supplies irrigation to the giants of agriculture in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, said it would join with others to file a lawsuit challenging the fisheries service's findings.
"If it were allowed to stand, this ... would be a death sentence for large parts of California's economy. Communities in the San Joaquin Valley are already experiencing 40 percent unemployment rates," Fresno-based Westlands, the nation's largest water district, said in a statement.
State officials argued that a multi-species approach—one that combines the court-mandated water pumping restrictions for the delta smelt with salmon and other species protections—would be the best way to achieve habitat and conservation while maintaining a reliable water source.
California is trying to eventually do that. State officials said Thursday they are working to draft a long-term plan to preserve species and ecosystems in the delta that would also set guidelines for pumping levels that meet federal and state wildlife laws.
Fall-run chinook salmon populations returning to the Central Valley to spawn have declined steeply over the past seven years, down to about 66,000 salmon adults returning to the Sacramento River in 2008 from more than 750,000 adult salmon in 2002.
The decline of fall, spring and winter-run salmon—which return from the sea to lay eggs in their native freshwater habitat—is blamed on a lack of water and increased water temperature caused by the vast series of pumps and canals used to move the precious resource around.
The fisheries service determined that the current water pumping operations by the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project need to be changed to protect a number of endangered or threatened species including winter and spring-run chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and killer whales, which feed on salmon.
The opinion said the dams and pumps trap out-migrating juvenile salmon in the delta, where they can die before they reach the sea. Fishermen groups and environmentalists have argued for years that salmon need more water for an uninterrupted transit through the delta.
Representatives for commercial fishermen, who have not been able to fish for two seasons because salmon have been so scarce, applauded the plan.
"All these people, all these small communities on the coast of California depend on these salmon for their livelihoods," said Larry Collins, a San Francisco-based fisherman and vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
Los Angeles Times
Temecula denied annexation of land intended for gravel quarry
After contentious public debate, commissioners vote against handing over 5,000 acres to the city. Opponents of the mine say it would ruin air quality and harm an ecological reserve...David Kelly
Reporting from Riverside — Temecula's efforts to derail a proposed gravel mine near a pristine environmental reserve just outside of town were dealt a severe setback Thursday when officials voted against letting the city annex the land.
The 5-2 vote came after 10 hours of contentious public debate in which hundreds of avocado farmers, scientists, doctors, Native Americans and ordinary citizens tried to convince members of the Local Agency Formation Commission that an open pit quarry would spell disaster for southwest Riverside County.
Opponents said the mine would ruin the region's air quality, sever the last remaining wildlife corridor linking inland California to the coast, increase truck traffic and cause irreparable harm to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.
"We are citizens from all walks of life joining together to protect Temecula's southwest hills from being scarred for life," Barbara Wilder said. "The opposition has made it clear that it's all about them. This land should not be handed over to them for a commercial venture. Open spaces are rare and declining daily."
Mark Macarro, chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, told commissioners the annexation would protect the place where tribal tradition says the Earth was created and the tribe was born.
"This is our Eden," he said. "We cannot re-create where the world was created. There is only one Eden."
Liberty Quarry, owned by Granite Construction, has been on the drawing board for more than three years. The mile long, 1,000-foot-deep quarry would be one of the largest operations of its kind in the state, producing 5 million tons of gravel a year with annual revenues expected to top $60 million. An estimated 1,400 trucks would come and go each day.
Temecula had hoped to annex 5,000 acres that included the mining site and put a stop to the plans.
Proponents of the 415-acre quarry, which include cities like Banning, labor unions, mining interests and those hoping to sell their homes to Granite, say the hazards have been grossly exaggerated by those who simply don't want the gravel mine in their backyards. They also say the fast-growing region needs gravel and that it's better to have it nearby and accessible rather than trucking it in from remote areas.
"Locally generated aggregate is actually a green industry," said Gregg Albright, deputy secretary for environmental policy for the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. "The further you have to drive, the more greenhouse gases you emit."
Redlands economist John Husing also spoke Thursday in support of the quarry. He said the economic effect on the community wouldn't be especially great with only 277 jobs created but added that the growth of the area would boost demand for gravel. Ultimately, he said, such decisions require regional solutions.
Other backers derided opponents as environmental extremists more concerned with animals than people.
"If you have ever gone to the quarry site, you would see it's just a pile of rocks," Bob Kowell said. "If we only build things based on emotions, we will never go anywhere and our country will go downhill."
When it came time to vote, only commissioners Bob Buster and John Tavaglione supported annexation. Both men are also county supervisors.
Buster seemed especially troubled by the proposed mine.
"This isn't a small mine; it's a mega-mine. This is the introduction of a huge new land use in one of the most fragile areas we have," he said. "This will be right at the entrance to Temecula, right on the front doorstep. Can we cut Temecula out of the decision-making process?"
Despite their disappointment with the vote, opponents of the mine were heartened by the support of Buster and Tavaglione. In the months ahead, it will be the Board of Supervisors who ultimately decide whether the mine goes in.
"We will just go to the next phase now," said Kathleen Hamilton, president of Save Our Southwest Hills, which began efforts to oppose the quarry. "I think we will have a good chance with the Board of Supervisors."
Federal directive to cut California water deliveries
Farmers and urban users will see about a 5% to 7% annual reduction from actions intended to help salmon and other fish...Julie Cart
Warning that salmon and other fish species are in danger of extinction, a federal agency Thursday issued directives that will guide the way dams, pumps, canals and other waterworks in California operate to help ease pressure on the Pacific coast's collapsing salmon fishery.
The biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service affects waterways from the American River to the San Joaquin and will reduce water deliveries to farmers and urban users by about 5% to 7% annually, according to officials. Complying with the court-ordered prescriptions could cost "hundreds of millions" and would be passed on to water users, according to a federal water manager.
The 800-page document is the latest in a series of actions to address the increasing obstacles to the salmon's twice-yearly runs: upstream migration for spawning, when the fish require cool, abundant water, and downstream emergence of juveniles, which must negotiate the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta's maze of gates, canals and diversions to reach the sea.
Maria Rea, the federal Fisheries Service officer primarily responsible for the biological opinion, said as much as 98% to 99% of young fish attempt- ing to exit the San Joaquin water system are succumbing to pollutants, unfamiliar food, predators and pumps removing water for irrigation and urban use.
The new document replaces a 2004 biological opinion that found that increased pumping of water to the Central Valley and Southern California posed no harm to threatened and endangered populations of California salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon. A federal judge last year ruled that the agency had erred and ordered it to redraft the opinion.
Rea called the document "One of the most complex and scientifically challenging" the agency has ever undertaken, and said, "What is at stake here is not just the survival of the species but the entire ecosystem that depends on them."
Some commercial fishermen applauded the changes. This is the second straight year that the state's salmon fleet has been barred from fishing off the coast. California officials estimated that the ban equates to a loss of 2,200 jobs and $250 million in revenue.
"We've given as much blood as we can give," said Larry Collins, vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns. .
The announcement was not universally embraced, though. "Public water agencies have faced cutback after cutback in failed attempts to boost fish populations," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors.
Don Glaser, regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal government's water management agency, said his office would "provisionally" accept the directives but hasn't had a chance to fully assess the implications.
Taken with federal requirements to reduce pumping to protect the delta smelt, Thursday's announcement will stress California's water system, Glaser said.
"I believe you are going to see less reliable water, particularly as it relates to farming activities in the Central Valley," he said, "and it will become more difficult to find replacement water for the urban growth that is anticipated in Southern California."
San Diego Union-Tribune
Federal ruling could limit water for Californians
Regulating rivers to protect fish may cost millions...Michael Gardner, U-T Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO — Escalating the conflict between fish and people, a powerful federal agency yesterday ordered a new round of safeguards for endangered species that could cost millions of dollars and further drain the state's already over-tapped water supply.
The decision, which will likely be challenged in court, is aimed at protecting Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon that migrate and spawn along major Northern California rivers: the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin.
The National Marine Fisheries Service also based its sweeping action on the need to protect Southern Resident killer whales, which rely on salmon for food.
There will be no immediate effect on water deliveries out of the Sacramento delta because the fish have already run the river courses this summer, according to Maria Rea, a supervisor in the federal agency's Sacramento office.
Also, the order was crafted to provide “leeway” to keep water flowing to farms and cities during a drought, she added. But just how much has not been determined.
But when the fish are migrating in late winter and early spring, the order could require pumps to slow, squeezing water deliveries to San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California households by between 5 percent and 7 percent, or up to 330,000 acre feet – enough for 660,000 homes a year.
That would be on top of the sharp water curtailments to protect the tiny delta smelt.
The decision also could cost ratepayers and taxpayers millions to make river flows and water temperatures more conducive for migration and spawning. Eventually, the order could force state and federal water officials to greatly modify operations at dams that are a danger to fish.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired off an angry response, claiming the agency's action “puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians . . . The piling on of one federal court decision after another in a species-by-species approach is killing our economy . . . ”
Several water agencies echoed his criticism.
But California commercial salmon fishermen rushed to defend the decision, noting that federal agencies have shut them down for the last two years, costing the industry millions and throwing hundreds out of work.
“All these people, all these small communities on the coast of California depend on these salmon for their livelihoods,” said Larry Collins, a San Francisco-based fisherman. “Everybody needs these fish. We've got to put water back in the river.”
The order comes as California remains mired in a third straight dry year. In the hard-hit Central Valley, the drought and delivery shortages have forced farmers to idle fields. Field hands can't find work, and businesses are being shuttered.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is not taking that pain lightly, insisted Rea.
“We are acutely aware of the significance of this opinion for the region's farmers and residents,” she said. “That's why we made every effort to lessen the cost.”