Delta Plan adopted today
May 16, 2013
• Will pave the way for governor’s twin tunnel plan
• But will it save the salmon?
• UPDATED with 7-0 vote to adopt
With the Delta Stewardship Council adopting by a 7-0 vote Thursday afternoon the final “Delta Plan," the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Golden Gate Salmon Association say a new analysis shows that the prized Central Valley salmon fishery is “limping along” at only 20 percent of the population goal required by state and federal law.
The Delta Plan recommends improved efficiency, more storage, the development of other local water supplies, protection of Delta farmlands and communities, and the improvement of Delta levees. It will also incorporate as state law the yet to be completed Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
That plan, urged on by Gov. Jerry Brown, is expected to call for construction of massive 35 mile long twin tunnels buried 150 feet beneath the heart of the Delta to siphon water out of the Sacramento River before it can flow naturally into the Delta. At peak flow, the tunnels could ship enough water to the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim every 20 minutes.
Critics question whether that would help restore the Delta as a fishery.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 1992, set a goal of rebuilding salmon runs to almost a million adult fish by 2002, the NRDC notes in its report.
“More than a decade past the law’s deadline, the salmon fishery continues to struggle due, in large part, to excessive pumping of fresh water from the Bay-Delta that deprives salmon of the cold, flowing rivers and healthy habitat they need to thrive,” the report says.
The population of Central Valley Chinook salmon declined from 2003 through 2010, reaching a record low of 7 percent of the required population level, the NRDC says.
It says that the decline in the fishery corresponded with a 20 percent increase in water diversions from salmon habitat over levels from the preceding quarter century. Forecasts suggest 2013’s salmon returns will again fall far below what the law requires, the report says.
The report makes several recommendations:
• The Department of the Interior should better manage water and restoration funds dedicated to salmon recovery, incorporate the latest scientific information and appoint a manager to be accountable for the progress of the restoration program.
• The State Water Resources Control Board should set stronger standards to protect salmon in the San Joaquin River and the Bay-Delta ecosystem, in proceedings to revise these standards that are currently underway.
• The California Department of Water Resources should incorporate salmon doubling into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process.
• The California Department of Fish and Wildlife should launch an ambitious state salmon restoration effort.
• The U.S. Department of the Interior should aggressively implement NRDC’s agreement to restore the salmon run on the San Joaquin River.