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Written By: Dan Bacher, January 27, 2014
The year 2013 was the driest year on record in California, with rivers such as the Capital City's American reduced to the lowest flows in decades.
Besides drought, the year was overshadowed by the amping up of Governor Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels to export water to corporate agribusiness and Southern California water agencies. The over 40,000 pages of the plan and environmental documents were released on December 13.
Meanwhile, the forces against the tunnels continue to build momentum, with a number of rallies and protests held against the plan during the year, culminating with a big protest of over 400 people at the State Capitol on December 13.
Other environmental crimes of note include the Westlands Water District’s unsuccessful litigation attempting to block the release of Trinity River water down the Klamath to avert a possible fish kill, the passage of Senate Bill 4 to greenlight fracking in California and the release of the fall midwater trawl survey documenting record low numbers of Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species.
In addition, the export of massive quantities of water from Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs all summer resulted in extremely low lake levels, the violation of water standards protecting spawning winter run salmon on the Sacramento and the relaxing of Delta water standards.
To honor those who did the best to exterminate fish populations, violate the public trust and crush fishing rights in 2013, we are proudly giving out the “Cold, Dead Fish” awards for deserving individuals, elected officials, organizations and agencies.
We’ll start off with the “Foot in the Mouth” prize that goes to former Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral, who became the focus of a huge controversy when he acknowledged on April 15, 2013 that "BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved.'"
He made his controversial comments while speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) in a private conversation after a meeting with Northern California Indian Tribes, as first revealed in Restore the Delta's "Delta Flows" newsletter.
After Meral made the revealing, candid comments, five Congressional Democrats - George Miller, Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui and Anna Eshoo - called for Meral's immediate resignation. Meral rejected those initial calls for his resignation, but did resign from his position on December 31 to go work for the Natural Heritage Institute, a corporate “environmental” NGO, to promote the tunnels.
The Westlands Water District and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority filed a lawsuit in federal court in Fresno on August 7 in an attempt to stop increased flows on the Trinity River set to begin on August 13, a move that threatened to cause another fish kill on the river like that of September 2012.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) responded by intervening in the lawsuit in support of increased releases down the Trinity. Fortunately, Fresno Federal Judge Lawrence O'Neill Thursday on August 22 lifted a temporary restraining order blocking releases of cold water from Trinity River reservoirs intended to help migrating salmon avoid an Ich parasite infestation similar to one on the Klamath River in 2002 that killed over 34,000 adult salmon.
For their underhanded attack on salmon and other fish, the district and authority win the coveted “Unsuccessful Salmon Exterminator” award.
In yet one more example of the revolving door between government and huge corporations that defines politics in California now, State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) on February 22 suddenly announced his resignation from office in order to take a “government affairs” position at Chevron.
Rubio, who was leading the charge to weaken the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and make it friendlier to corporations, said he resigned in order to spend more time with his family.
Then on September 18, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Laura King Moon of Woodland, a lobbyist for the state’s water exporters, as chief deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR)!
Moon has been a project manager for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan since 2011 while “on loan” from the State Water Contractors, a non-profit association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project.
For their outstanding efforts to serve corporate interests at the expense of fish, rivers the oceans and the people of California, Rubio and King Moon are proudly bestowed the “Revolving Door of Corruption” award.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, receives the “Toxic Avenger/Petro Princess” award for overseeing the removal of fishermen and tribal gatherers from vast tracks of California ocean waters as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast while lobbying for the expansion of offshore oil drilling, fracking and the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.
Not only did these alleged “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering, but it was revealed by Freedom of Information Act documents in the summer of 2013 that the massive fracking of Southern California waters was taking place during the 8 years that Reheis-Boyd was serving on the task forces for the South Coast, Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Central Coast.
In 2013, the Obama administration continued and expanded the Bush administration war on salmon and other fish, as evidenced by the Bureau of Reclamation's sharp cut in reservoir releases that left the eggs of recently spawned fall-run Chinook salmon high and dry in the upper section of the Sacramento River from Redding to Chico.
Reclamation reduced water releases into the upper Sacramento River from 6000 cubic feet per second (CFS) on November 1 to 3750 CFS on November 25. Many fall run salmon built redds in October and early November in the shallows during higher water conditions.
This carnage took place after a spring when nearly half of the winter-run chinook salmon perished in canals and drainage ditches in the Sacramento Valley and after a summer when the Department of Water Resources and Reclamation released massive quantities of water down Central Valley rivers to export to corporate agribusiness. For their efforts to destroy salmon and other fish populations, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation receives the “Rotting Winter Run Chinook” award.
The recent killing of salmon eggs takes place as the Obama administration continues and expands some of the worst environmental policies of the Bush administration, just as Governor Jerry Brown continues and expands some of the worst environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration.
The Obama administration's horrible environmental policies include backing the construction of two massive fish-killing tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, promoting the privatization of fisheries through the "catch shares" program, and fast-tracking the approval of genetically engineered salmon for human consumption.
For his outstanding efforts to exterminate fisheries, President Barrack Obama is proudly bestowed the “Dead Fish President” plaque.
Many fish populations have collapsed to record low levels in the past few years, due to massive export of Delta water to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies under the Obama and Brown administrations.
The most recent salmon egg and fish carnage occurs as part of a larger ecosystem collapse, the result of a long history of water exports and poor water management by the state and federal water agencies. Since the State Water Project began exporting water in 1967, water exports have increased by more than 60% while outflow to the Bay has declined by more than 40%.
Since 1967, populations of Delta smelt are down 98.9%, striped bass 99.6%, longfin smelt 99.7%, American shad 89.1%, threadfin shad 98.1% and splittail down 99.4%, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA.) Steelhead and winter-run salmon are down 91.7% and 95.5%, respectively.
This ecosystem collapse couldn’t have taken place without the active cooperation and collaboration of the California Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). For their role in continuing this ecosystem collapse, Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and CDFW Director Chuck Bonham win the “Extinct Delta Smelt" award.
Senator Fran Pavley gets the "Fracking Champion" prize for sponsoring the only fracking bill to emerge from the Legislature, an already weak bill that was further gutted by the oil industry at the last minute.
Senate Bill 4, the green light for fracking bill, will result in the expansion of the heavily polluting oil extraction process in California’s ocean waters and land where Monterey Shale is located. The toxic discharges resulting from fracking will pollute groundwater and streams and threaten already struggling anadromous and ocean fish populations.
On September 20, Governor Jerry Brown signed Pavley’s “greenlight to fracking” bill with poison pill amendments that make CEQA review of fracking permits optional and prevent imposing a moratorium on fracking for 15 months. He signed the oil industry-friendly bill after receiving at least $2.49 million over several years from oil and natural gas interests.
Besides the expansion of fracking, Brown’s horrible environmental policies include:
• Fast-tracking the $54.1 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan to divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies.
• Pursuing water policies that resulted in the second lowest population levels of Delta smelt and American shad on record in the DFW’s fall midwater trawl survey, as well as the third lowest striped bass, the eighth lowest longfin smelt, and the fifth lowest threadfin shad indices.
• Trying to weaken or even eliminate CEQA, one of California's greatest environmental laws, to fast-track big developments for giant corporations.
• Continuing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a privately funded process characterized by its numerous conflicts of interests, terminally flawed science, violation of the Yurok Tribe's traditional fishing and gathering rights, and failure to actually protect the ocean.
For his many crimes against fish and the environment, Governor Jerry Brown receives the "Cold, Dead Fish" award for the second year in a row. Congratulations, Governor Brown, for going out of your way to pollute and destroy California’s river, lake and ocean waters!
For more information about Brown's terrible environmental policies, go to: http://www.fishsniffer.com/blogs/details/governor-jerry-browns-10-worst-environmental-policies/
Nunes, McCarthy And Valadao are in the running for 2014 Cold, Dead Fish award!
While Brown easily cinched the "coveted" Cold, Dead Fish" award for 2013, he already faces stiff competition for the 2014 awards from Congressmen Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, and David Valadao.
On January 24, the three Central Valley Republicans, with the support of House Speaker John Boehner, convened in Bakersfield to announce the introduction of legislation to suspend the Endangered Species Act, allow the fish-killing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to operate “as long as water is available” and to halt the San Joaquin River restoration plan.
"This is nothing more than a blatant, short-sighted water grab, fueled by years of political contributions from huge growers in the Westlands Water District and the Kern County Water Agency to these Central Valley Congressional Representatives," summed up Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.
Then on January 27, the House Republican Leadership tried to insert a provision into the Farm Bill to divert Northern California water toward San Joaquin Valley farms.
Congressman John Garamendi (Fairfield, CA), a Member of the Agriculture Committee, said, “After two years of negotiations over a Farm Bill, trying to sneak a water grab into the bill at the last minute was grossly irresponsible. It could have scuttled the legislation.”
“Specifically, the proposal would have turned on Delta pumps this year and next year, setting the stage to suck the Delta dry. This provision arrived at the 11th hour of negotiations over the Farm Bill, which is expected for a vote this week. Luckily for Northern California farmers, fishers, and small businesses, this last minute attempt was unsuccessfull,” according to Garamendi’s office.
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