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Department of Water Resources blames endangered fish for dire forecast  

As rain began to fall on Northern California, state officials issued a dire water supply forecast for State Water Project contractors, citing "operational constraints" to protect endangered Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and longfin smelt as one of "several factors" resulting in the gloomy estimate.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) on November 19 sent a memo to the State Water Contractors stating that their initial allocation is going to be just 5% of their requests for water, just 208,628 acre-feet of the 4,172,536 acre-feet of "Table A" water that they requested.

"This allocation is made consistent with the long-term water supply contracts and public policy," said Carl A. Torgerson of the Department of Water Resources. "DWR considered several factors, including existing storage in SWP (State Water Project) conservation reservoirs, SWP operational constraints such as the conditions of the recent Biological Opinions for Delta smelt and salmonids and the longfin smelt incidental take permit, and 2014 contractor demands."

"DWR may revise allocations if warranted by the year's developing hydrologic and water supply conditions," said Torgerson.

To read the memo, go to:

With the release of the initial allocation, you can expect the Brown administration to intensify its campaign to build the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), even though the plan would not create one drop of new water and would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon.

You can also expect corporate agribusiness interests and their political allies to launch new legislative, administrative and legal attacks on the recent Biological Opinions protecting Delta smelt and salmonids and other species.

The DWR memo failed to mention that the state and federal governments, in their zeal to pump Delta water for use by agribusiness interests, developers and oil companies, pumped massive quantities of water down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers this summer, resulting in dramatically low water conditions in Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and other reservoirs.

The export of water down the Sacramento this summer also resulted in the moving of the compliance point for water temperature control standards to protect endangered winter run Chinook salmon - and in the State Water Resources Control Board's decision to "relax" (break) Delta water quality standards.

"To expedite water exports this summer, the Central Valley and State Water Projects violated water quality standards in the South Delta in June and July through August 15 and in the Western Delta at Emmaton in April, May and June and at Jersey Point in June," according to Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "Additionally, the temperature compliance point on the Sacramento River was moved upstream from Red Bluff to Anderson, eliminating almost two-thirds of the river miles of spawning habitat for endangered winter-run chinook salmon."

Jennings slammed DWR for blaming the low water conditions on "operational constraints" allegedly used to "protect" Delta smelt, longfin smelt and salmonids when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's 2013 Fall Mid Water Trawl (FMWT) abundance indices reveal that populations of Delta fish are only a small fraction of their historical abundance before Delta water exports began.

The indices for Delta smelt (7), striped bass (23), threadfin shad (70), and American shad (135) were the second, second, third and second lowest, respectively, in the 46 years of the survey. The index for longfin smelt (36) was comparable to the very low indices of recent years.

"In other words, Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, American shad and threadfin shad populations in 2013 have plummeted 98.9, 99.6, 99.7, 89.1, 98.1 percent, respectively, from the average of the initial six years of the survey (1967-1972)," said Jennings. "The splittail index was not released, but the 2012 September-October index was zero."

Jennings emphasized, "There is no limit to the gall of these folks. They killed 98.9 percent of the Delta smelt population and now they are blaming the 1.1 percent that are left for causing operational constraints on pumping? Then they wiped out 99.7 percent of the longfin smelt - and now they are blaming the remaining three-tenths of 1 percent for operational constraints on public trust water as they continue to embezzle from the public trust?"

It is no surprise to Jennings and other public trust advocates that the State Water Project initial allocation is only 5 percent - after Lake Oroville on the Feather River was emptied of much of its carryover storage this summer to export water south. The reservoir went down from 87.6 percent of maximum storage earlier this year to only 41 percent of capacity, 1,422,816 acre feet, now.

San Luis Reservoir, the joint state-federal facility that stores water for both the Central Valley and State Water Projects, is holding only 503,483 acre feet of water, 25 percent of capacity.

Ironically, Southern California SWP reservoirs that store exported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are in very good shape. Pyramid Lake is 97 percent of capacity, while Castaic is 85 percent of capacity.

An August 2013 CSPA report, titled "Summer of 2013: the demise of Delta smelt under D-1641 Delta Water Quality Standards," revealed how the state and federal projects "massacred" Delta smelt by increasing exports five-fold in late June and dramatically reducing Delta outflow in early July. This caused the low salinity zone and Delta smelt to be drawn into the western Delta where they encountered lethal temperatures caused by a upstream reservoir releases coupled with high ambient temperatures.

Another CSPA report, titled "The Consequences of the End of VAMP's Export Restrictions," detailed how the 2013 Vernalis pulse flow on the San Joaquin River was exported via "an unauthorized water transfer that avoided environmental review and killed salmon and Delta smelt."

"The historical pattern and practice of violating regulatory requirements established to protect fisheries is outrageous, but the consistent failure by regulators and trustee agencies to enforce the law is simply incomprehensible and indicates a collaborative culture of noncompliance," stated Jennings.

"The FBI would be investigating and the Justice Department prosecuting if a financial trust had ignored regulations over three decades and reduced trust assets by 99%. I can understand water agencies attempting to take water that doesn't belong to them, but I can't understand the cops giving them the green light," Jennings concluded.

For more information and to read the reports, go to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance website at:

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