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Three of the West Coasts major river systems the Columbia, Klamath and Central Valley (Sacramento, San Joaquin) are under siege and fishermen need to act now to save these rivers and the fisheries they support. We have provided you the addresses of the Governors fishermen need to contact immediately to protect these critical waterways and the fishing industry jobs they generate.
Its not just salmon fishing thats threatened. As most crab fishermen know, the best Dungeness crab fishing tends to be around the mouths of major rivers, since juveniles use these estuaries as nursery grounds.
Its no coincidence, for example, that the record Dungeness crab landings in the Gulf of the Farallones, outside of the Golden Gate, occurred at a time of high salmon production. Both owed their abundance to good water conditions in the river (in other words, the inflows of fresh water to the estuary), as well as good oceanic conditions. The Sacramento, and what remains of the San Joaquin, are not simply a passageway for large runs of fall chinook salmon between Sierra streams and San Francisco Bay and the ocean, they supply the freshwater inflow to the whole delta and bay to create the most important estuary on the west coast of North and South America. This bay/estuary ecosystem supports the nations only remaining urban commercial fishery (for herring), and provides critical habitat for California halibut, English sole and other economically important fish stocks.
The Columbia, too, supports a $50 million/year Dungeness crab fishery outside its mouth and, besides being the largest salmon river on the continent, there is still a sturgeon fishery taking place in the river. The Klamath, whose fish kills in 2002 are the cause of the draconian salmon season cutbacks this year offshore Oregon and California, also supports a large Dungeness crab fishery off its mouth between Eureka and Crescent City. So what is the nature of these assaults? Why should you be mad as hell and decide to do something about it? Lets take a look as you sit down to call or write the Governors.
The San Francisco Bay-Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta that supplies most of the king salmon harvested in the ocean fisheries offshore California, Oregon and Washington is far short of its necessary freshwater inflow to maintain its estuarine function -- on average now short about 1.6 million acre-feet (MAF) of water annually. In fact, in some years as much as half of its inflow is diverted, mostly by the State and Federal pumps in the Delta, to San Joaquin Valley growers and municipal water users. This inflow shortfall has been known about (although the scientific report documenting it was later buried) since 1988 when the California State Water Resources Control Board prepared a draft order to increase inflow by that amount. That draft order, however, was quickly killed by the Legislature and Governor at that time once the states powerful water buffaloes got wind of it and began applying their political pressure.
In 1992, Congress recognized the shortage to the Bay and Delta and voted in the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) to provide the Federal share of that amount by allocating an additional 800,000 acre-feet of yield from the Central Valley Project for fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, charged with implementing the CVPIA, subscribes to a culture that worships dams and views water diversions as a holy sacrament. It was not about to let Congress undo what man had created. So, instead of allowing the allotted water to flow downstream through the Delta and to the Bay, it devised plans to use the fish and wildlife water upstream and then divert it, conveniently at times when irrigators wanted it most, when it hit the Delta pumps. In fact, since the passage 13 years ago of the CVPIA, which formally made the protection of fish and wildlife a Project purpose, pumping in the Delta has actually increased, further exacerbating the inflow shortfall of the Delta and Bay and creating a huge salt water backup. It was not surprising therefore when State and Federal biologists announced a month ago the collapse of the Delta ecosystem. In the past four years, four species of Delta fish have gone into severe decline, as have copepods, the important base of the Deltas complex food web.
Yet even in the face of the sudden collapse of the whole Delta ecosystem, the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) is proposing to increase pumping rates, reducing inflow even more and shipping even more water south. Its plans are to increase pumping maximums from 6680 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 8500cfs, an increase of 25 percent.
Fisheries biologists point to three suspected causes of the Delta collapse. Degraded water quality, exotic species and massive water diversions. The collapse of the Delta species over the last four years has in fact coincided with the highest annual rates of water diversions from the Bay-Delta. According to State and Federal fisheries documents, increasing diversions will make the ecosystem collapse even worse.
Even more disturbing is that this increased stress on the Delta is not even necessary. California is not in a water crisis. In fact, according to the States own California Water Plan Update Public Review Draft, California can meet water needs well into the future without taking more water out of the Bay-Delta Estuary. This Water Plan Update even shows that water demand in California may actually decrease over the next thirty years. In fact, the Planning and Conservation League has identified 4.2 million acre-feet of water that could be conserved using cheap and readily available conservation and reuse technologies, while this Delta Damaging Plan might provide only 1 million acre-feet of additional water, at the expense of a system that is already short more than 1.6 million acre-feet
Key elements of this massive water grab include actions by Federal and State water agencies that reduce protections and increase water volumes for pumping at the expense of Californias sustainable water future:
The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is critical for the health of the west coast ocean salmon fishery, along with major crab and herring fisheries. This important ecological resource should not be destroyed.
Taking Action: We need you to write a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger. Tell him these key fisheries depend on the health of the Bay and Delta ecosystem. It is your livelihood thats at stake.
Tell him it makes no sense to you that his Department of Water Resources is planning to increase pumping of water from the Delta when the Delta is already so stressed that many of its species are in serious decline.
Tell him we already have faster, better and cheaper ways to provide water for his States future. These are outlined clearly in the just released California Water Plan.
Tell him you want a sensible, defensible, sustainable water policy that conserves our public resources and maintains a strong fishing industry. Send your letters, e-mails, or make your phone calls to:
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of the State of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Office: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 445-4633
E-mail to the Governor: http://www.govmail.ca.gov
Unless someone has their head where the sun doesnt shine, its no secret the salmon fishery for Oregon and California this year is the most restricted its been in recent history, despite some record runs, all because of two fish kills in the Klamath River in 2002 and the impact that has had on stocks that would have been available for harvest this year and next.
Salmon fishermen are facing the worst season in decades in Oregon and California, in spite of record returns to the Sacramento River this year, because wherever those imperiled Klamath fish intermingle with abundant runs, weak stock management principles require fishermen to avoid all impacts everywhere. Fishing opportunities within the Klamath Management Zone (KMZ) are pretty much closed entirely this year, but closures and restrictions have affected ports as far south as Santa Cruz and north to the Columbia River nearly 600 miles of coastline.
Years of federal mismanagement in the Klamath shorted water to the river that fish needed to survive. In 2002, so much water was taken by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others from the river that fish died in massive numbers, first a juvenile fish kill of at least 200,000 that spring, affecting this years adult returns, and later that summer an estimated 80,000 adult spawners died before they could spawn. Rampant spread of several fatal fish diseases in the river, which are favored by slow moving warm water, has taken a huge toll of juvenile fish in every year since then.
The cause of the disaster is well known. This was not an act of God, nor any mystery; it was a deliberate result of current federal water policy. This years collapse traces straight back to the intentional (and politically motivated) spring 2002 decision by the Bush Administration, acting through the Bureau of Reclamation, to permanently reduce flows to the lower Klamath River to record lows. By keeping back far more water for federal irrigation than recommended by scientists and fishermen, the government left too little in the river for salmon to survive their journey to the spawning areas. The Administrations Klamath water policy, whether intended or not, was a wanton action to starve the river.
Reclamation controls all the flows that pass through Iron Gate Dam, the lowest in a series of small dams on the Klamath that block the mid-river. These flows can amount to half of the total volume at the estuary during critical summer months and in dry years. 2002 was a particularly dry year.
Starting in spring of 2002, Reclamation embarked on a 10-year water allocation plan. This plan was embodied in a Biological Opinion (BiOp) approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). That BiOp, however, was the result of NMFS caving in to political pressure from the Bureau and the Administration. NMFS non-scientist officials overrode the agencys own Science Assessment Team, who said the fish needed more water, and placed the fish clearly in jeopardy. In fact, the head of the NMFS Science Assessment Team, Dr. Michael Kelly, would later file a whistle-blower complaint about agency higher ups ordering the plan to be rewritten to Bureau of Reclamation specifications, in spite of a known high risk to fish.
That 10-year plan reduced spring and summer flows in the Klamath River to less than half that required to protect salmon in the river, and so turned the river into a warm-water trickle that bred parasites, produced algae blooms, crowded the fish and deprived them of important habitat. The federal agencies were repeatedly told by fishermen, the Tribes and their own scientists that this would lead to disaster, but all objections were ignored in the Bush Administrations haste to respond to heavy political pressure from irate Upper Basin irrigators and their Congressional representatives.
As a result of the spring 2002 juvenile fish kill, the 2005 season is less than half what it was just last year, and lost fishing opportunities may cost our industry up to $100 million this year alone. Next year we will pay the additional price for the fall 2002 adult spawner fish kill of up to an estimated 80,000, with an unknown additional price tag for those losses.
PCFFA has made formal requests to the Governors of both California and Oregon to declare a disaster, and to request the declaration of a fishery failure by the Secretary of Commerce. The Secretary of Commerce has the legal authority to declare a commercial fishery failure disaster declaration under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, Section 312(a) [16 U.S.C. §1861(a)]. Independent authority for such a disaster declaration also exists under the older Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act (IFA), at 308(b) [16 U.S.C. §4107(b)]. Similar disaster declarations occurred for the west coast salmon fishery following the seven-year drought in the late 1980s, and during the severe El Niño events of 1982-83 and 1995.
Thirty-seven members of Congress in Oregon and California have supported our request for disaster relief. A copy of that letter is on the PCFFA web site.
Ultimately, however, the problems in the Klamath can never be solved unless there is more water left in the river for the fish. The State of California plays a key role in advocating for additional flows to keep these fisheries alive and recovering. Another measure under consideration is the removal of Iron Gate Dam and other small, now obsolete, power dams that block the river and have cut off hundreds of miles of good spawning and rearing habitat above them. These dams not only block fish passage, but they seriously impair water quality.
The 50-year license for operating these dams expires in March of 2006, present a once in a lifetime chance to restore this key river system and bring the salmon home to the upper basin. So far the State of California has taken the position that several of these dams should come down. This would help restore salmon to the upper river where they were once abundant.
Taking Action: California Governor Schwarzenegger should stand firm in supporting fishermen and in demanding more water for the lower Klamath River to protect and restore fisheries. Drop him a letter or call his office asking him to continue to take a strong stand on putting more water in the Klamath River, removing dams in the Klamath that kill fish, and working toward full salmon recovery for the Klamath Basin. You can contact his office as follows:
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of the State of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Office: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 445-4633
E-mail to the Governor: http://www.govmail.ca.gov
For More Information on the Klamath See: Cant Fish Salmon? Federal Klamath Water Policies Are To Blame, from the April 2005 FN on the web at: www.pcffa.org/fn-apr05.htm. Likewise see: Why the Klamath Matters to West Coast Fishermen, from the August 2001 FN, on the web at: www.pcffa.org/fn-aug01.htm. Also check out the top of the PCFFA Home Page at: www.pcffa.org where you will find the latest letters from PCFFA requesting disaster assistance and letters from Members of Congress supporting those efforts.
The mighty Columbia was once the largest salmon-producing river in the world, with runs estimated at from 10 to 16 million adults. Today the number of wild salmon and steelhead is down to about 2-3 percent of those historic runs, and nearly every run is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Today the Columbia and its major tributary, the Snake River, are the most heavily dammed rivers in the nation.
Fishermen have been the lead is decades of struggle, first to secure fish passage through the Columbia at all (the original plan provided for no fish passage of any sort), and today the struggle is to reopen parts of the river once again to spawning and rearing, primarily with the removal of the lower four Snake River dams (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite).
As we have written before, these four dams have been a disaster for the Northwest economy, killing far more economic wealth in the form of devastated Snake River salmon runs (once 50 percent of the Columbias productivity) in return for very few public benefits.
Access to a huge amount of pristine spawning and rearing habitat is on the other side of the lower four Snake River dams. Blocking spawner access to that habitat, plus making it that much harder for outmigrating smolts by forcing them through four more banks of turbines just makes no sense.
The four lower Snake River dams were not built because of either good science or sound economics, but as a result of decades of persistent Congressional lobbying by Idaho development boosters and land speculators. Even the Army Corps of Engineers, in a comprehensive report in 1933, and then again in 1938, concluded that additional projects proposed for the Snake River would never even pay for themselves as projects, even ignoring major losses to fisheries damages.
The lower four Snake River dams generate relatively little power (less in fact than could be saved by reasonable conservation measures), provide little or no irrigation water (only one provides any at all, and then only for about 36,000 acres that could just as easily be supplied by wells), and no flood control whatsoever. The only major benefit any of these four dams ever provided is heavily subsidized river barge transportation, and then only between Pasco, WA (the original barge terminal before the dams were completed in 1974) and Lewiston, ID. Even these transportation benefits can be cost-effectively replaced by railroads which, were it not for the large federal barging subsidy, would actually be much cheaper.
In fact, fisheries managers from Washington and other states warned repeatedly that the planned construction of more dams would be a disaster for the Columbias salmon runs. This is a typical example, from the State of Washington Department of Fisheries Annual Report for 1949:
Another serious threat to the Columbia river fishery is the proposed construction by the U.S. Army Engineers of Ice Harbor and three other dams on the lower Snake river between Pasco., Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho, to provide slackwater navigation and a relatively minor block of power. The development would remove part of the cost of waterborne shipping from the shipper and place it on the taxpayer, jeopardizing more than one-half of the Columbia river salmon production in exchange for 148 miles of subsidized barge route.... This policy of water development, the department maintains, is not in the best interest of the over-all economy of the state. Salmon must be protected from the type of unilateral thinking that would harm one industry to benefit another.... Loss of the Snake River fish production would be so serious that the department has consistently opposed the four-phase lower dam program that would begin with Ice Harbor dam near Pasco.
Unfortunately, what fisheries managers had predicted in 1949 came true once abundant runs of salmon spawning in the Snake River were all but destroyed, leading to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars each year in economic benefits to the entire Northwest and well into Southeast Alaska, which is also heavily dependent on Columbia-origin stocks.
The four lower Snake River dams were constructed by Congressional fiat, over the intense objections of commercial fishermen, Tribes, state agency biologists, coastal communities and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Salmon can apparently survive the impact of the four lower Columbia main stem dams, but these four additional Snake River dams were truly a short-sighted boondoggle that can no longer be justified.
Why does the Columbia matter to fishermen all over the west coast? First, there are direct losses of harvest opportunities from massive fish losses from the Columbia itself. This collapse has impoverished the lower river gill-net fleet which once plied the lower Columbia from Astoria, but also dramatically affected fisheries in Southeast Alaska, which is more than half dependent upon Columbia stocks for its harvests.
Second, since Columbia basin salmon are so widely migratory, and thus a component in many mixed-stock ocean fisheries, Columbia and Snake River-driven weak stock management constraints on all west coast salmon fisheries are not uncommon. When this happens, harvest opportunities on many otherwise abundant stocks must be curtailed and ocean fisheries closed. This happened most dramatically in 1997 when large portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin chinook harvests were closed to protect weak Snake River fish, causing losses in the many tens of millions of dollars in California and Oregon. In earlier years, whole chunks of the Southeast Alaska salmon fishery were also closed, all to prevent impacts on these extremely weak Snake River stocks. Snake River-driven constraints stand right behind the Klamath as a likely cause of future closures.
Third, more depletion of the Columbia River north-migrating stocks could once again destabilize the hard fought Pacific Salmon Treaty, intended to put an end to past fish wars between the U.S. and Canada over salmon that migrate back and forth between the two countries. That Treaty rests on the assumption that for every salmon originating in a British Columbia stream that is later caught by Alaska fishermen, at least one U.S. fish originating in the Columbia River, most of which are north-migrating, can be caught in British Columbia. This one-for-one equation, however, quickly breaks down when stocks from the Columbia are in deep decline, as has happened in recent years. Just a few years ago, the Treaty broke down completely over these issues, resulting in a renewed fish war with Canada and the imposition of transit fees for fishing vessels routinely moving (as many do) between summer waters of Alaska and over-wintering in Seattle or Bellingham, Washington.
Fourth, your taxpayer dollars are going toward an increasingly preposterous $500 million/year menu of salmon recovery measures that are not actually intended to truly recover the fish, not going to do anything about impacts of the four lower Snake River dams, and not going to, in the end, solve any of the problems of the river. The latest such 2004 Biological Opinion recovery plan, for instance, courtesy of the Bush Administration, actually abandons salmon recovery as a conservation standard in favor of merely maintaining museum runs of fish, and likewise totally ignores Columbia River dams by attempting to reclassify them as part of the environmental baseline, as though they had been dropped there by Ice Age glaciers and not the Army Corps of Engineers.
That latest 2004 Salmon Plan has once again been challenged in U.S. District Court by PCFFA and many other fishing groups and fish advocates, and is likely to be entirely invalidated as seriously flawed. Under the current plan, 2005 spring chinook returns have deteriorated to less than 15 percent their abundance even in 2004, and all lower Columbia commercial and sport fishing has been closed on an emergency basis. Members of Congress are calling for a declaration by the Secretary of Commerce of a fisheries failure parallel to that asked for the Klamath, and fishery closures are now migrating up the Washington coast and far inland to Idaho.
Taking Action: Write to your Northwest Governors and tell them to make every effort to recover salmon in the Columbia to full harvestable levels, including rethinking the need for the lower four Snake River dams which have been a disaster for once-abundant Columbia River salmon fisheries and Northwest fisheries economies everywhere:
The Honorable Ted Kulongoski
Governor of the State of Oregon
160 State Capitol Building
Salem, OR 97310-4047
The Honorable Christine O. Gregoire
Governor of the State of Washington
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Governor of the State of Idaho
700 West Jefferson Street, 2nd Floor
Boise, ID 83720-0034
For More Information on the Columbia See: Why the Columbia Matters to West Coast Fishermen, from the July, 2004 FN. A copy of that article is on the Web at: www.pcffa.org/fn-jul04.htm. Also see the Proposed Columbia Salmon Plan Protects Dams, Imperils Salmon, from the October 2004 FN, on the Web at: www.pcffa.org/fn-oct04.htm; and Ending the Era of Big Dams: Why Some Dams Must Go, from the August 1999 FN at: www.pcffa.org/fn-aug99.htm.
What needs to be done to protect these rivers is pretty clear. Its also clear that a lot of different fisheries depend on the health of these rivers.
So dont just sit there in your wheelhouse fuming over the radio or cell phone with your code group about there being no fish, or about regulations stopping you from fishing. Dont just sit there in front of your PC kibitzing with your blog group. Get off your ass and make a phone call or write a letter to the Governors and tell them your livelihood and your fishery is at stake and youre mad as hell and you want the problems fixed now! Youll feel better for it and it will do some real good.
Glen Spain is the Northwest Regional Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA) and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR); Allison Gordon is a salmon watershed volunteer on staff with IFRs office in San Francisco; and Zeke Grader is the Executive Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA). PCFFA can be reached by email to: email@example.com. Check out the PCFFA web site at: www.pcffa.org.
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