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DFF's Focus on Conservation with Ron Forbes

A plea to help preserve the striper fishery, huge gains for Mokelumne salmon, the invasive weed spongeplant and Diane Feinstein's sweet deal.

"We have not inherited the earth from our Fathers; we are borrowing it from our children."---------Native American saying

December's Newsletter Conservation page discussed the outcome of the lawsuit between the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta (CSD) and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). DFG decided not to pursue an active defense but rather settle out of court. Basically they have given CSD what they want. CSD wants to rid the Delta of all stripers so they can more actively continue pursuing their water grab in the Delta. As reported last month, the interveners refused to sign the agreement. At the first public hearing over 350 people were in attendance and adamantly voiced their disagreement with DFG's action. The next meeting was to be held in San Diego, but because of the outrage expressed by those present, the next meeting will be held in Sacramento on Feb. 3rd. More on this later.

The interveners have asked those of us affected by DFG's action to write letters to DFG's Commissioners expressing our disagreement with the terms of DFG's settlement terms. This group includes area business people, farmers, fisherman and those in the fishing industry.

During December's Delta Fly Fishers Board of Directors Meeting, Herman Spalinger, acting president, read a draft of the letter he had composed to be sent to the DFG commissioners on behalf of the Delta Fly Fishers. The letter was discussed, and after some slight changes were made, it was voted on and passed unanimously. Enclosed is the letter that is being sent to the Fish & Game Commission on behalf of our club:

The Department of Fish and Game's ill thought recommendation for a change in regulations for striped Bass

On January, more material will be available so our club can become involved in this issue.

On a more positive note: Since the Mokelumne River closed to fishing on the 31st of October for the salmon run, I have spoken to Eric at the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery several times to see how the run was going. As of the 20th of this month, Eric said the run is pretty much complete. It has been a good year with the following results:

• Salmon count 15,849 fish

• Steelhead 248 fish

• Salmon eggs harvested 7.76 million eggs harvested

• Steelhead eggs harvested over 330,000 eggs harvested

In 2009, just 69 fish returned. Last year, over 5,700 fish were harvested. This year’s run of 15,849 fish has the people at Mokelumne River Hatchery pleased. East Bay MUD started restoring the gravel spawning beds and maintaining good river flows during the salmon rums several years ago. The results are evident. A number of years ago Woodbridge Irrigation District decided to repair the dam that fills Lodi Lake during the salmon run. This forced the fish to spawn on the mud river bed below the dam and the whole run was lost. Given good habitat and adequate water flow the results are evident.

In thinking of this year’s salmon run, another thought came to mind. Given CSD's alleged salmon losses due to striped bass predation, how do they justify this year’s salmon numbers? If the stripers are wiping out the salmon, how is it that this year there are 15,780 more salmon in the Mokelumne River than there were in 2009? According to CSD's case there should be less. The point being that if there is adequate water and proper water management, the fish will survive and thrive.

Another Delta issue: Thanks to Bob Fujimura for his note in Facebook bringing a new problem in the Delta to our attention. An article in the Contra Costa Times reports that the Delta is faced with a new invasive species that has the potential of causing a major problem. The problem is a plant called the South American Spongeplant. This plant has the potential of being more dangerous to the Delta than the water hyacinth. According to the article, the Spongeplant floats on the surface and forms a mass of weeds that can't be penetrated. The plant is smaller than the water hyacinth and spreads by seeds and because of its small size; it can be sucked deep into pumps making them inoperable. And it can make the waterways impassable. It was first found in Redding in 2003 and was found in the west Delta in 2009.

The plants have been used as an ornamental plant in backyards and have now found their way into the Delta. A legal problem is preventing their quick eradication. By state law, only certain weeds can be eradicated by state agencies. Spongeplant is not on that list. Assemblywoman Buckman (D-San Ramon) is going to introduce legislation next year to eradicate the Spongeplant which has the potential to cause a "catastrophic infestation" of the Delta.

Again Diane Feinstein helps her friends: President Obama recently signed a $915 billion spending bill that contains controversial sections on water sales from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP). Sen. Diane Feinstein slipped in two sentences. One sentence will allow Westland Water District, Kern Water Bank, and other irrigation districts to buy more federal water irrigation districts served by the CVP. In a

McClatchy Newspaper article, Feinstein was quoted as saying it was "sensible way to move water around the state". And Tom Birmingham, Westland's General Manager, said "The water transfer language inserted by Sen. Feinstein will add to the flexibility that we have sought, and it will certainly help us meet our need". The bill was 1,221 pages long. The second sentence inserted by Feinstein orders a study to streamline water sales, including sales from the north Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south of the Delta.

It appears Feinstein snuck her addition into the "late night" bill. Pacific Advocates, the environmental group, says that Feinstein's addition is worth millions to the water merchants. Another part of the bill found objectionable is that it lifts environmental restrictions placed by the 1992 environmental laws on water transfer from the CVP. In the law, districts could only sell water that would have been "consumptively used or irretrievably lost." In 2009 both Boxer and Feinstein authored legislation waiving both of these rules. When Feinstein says her legislation would allow "water to move around California" the translation is that Westlands, Kern Water Bank, and other water districts will make millions more. The McClatchy article points out that critics of Feinstein's legislation say a group like Kern Water Bank can now buy federal water from the CVP and then sell its state water to groups like urban users and developers in the south state.

Ron Forbes

Conservation Chair


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