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DFF's Focus on Conservation with Ron Forbes

March 2012

“The fun comes, I think, as it does with just about any other act of skill, when you are properly challenged, when you are fascinated by what's difficult. I guess I fish not because it's easy, but because it's not.” ----- Nick Lyons

A Major Victory for the Stripers, Nunes is at it Again and Revised Regs for Suction Dredging

On February 2nd Jerry Neuburger and I went to Sacramento to attend the California Fish and Game Commissioner's meeting regarding the Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) proposed regulation changes that would have eradicated the striped bass population in the Delta. We were representing the Delta Fly Fishers. As you will remember, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta had sued DFG to increase the number of Stripers that could be caught and eliminate the existing size limit.

The suit was settled out of court with the Commissioners of DFG’s decision to be accepted by both sides as the final judgment, and there is to be no appeal of the Commission's decision. The hearing could have two possible outcomes: The Commissioners could decide that they needed more information and hold three more meetings for input from all sources, or they could make a final decision that day.

The Commission’s meeting followed the same format used by the State Legislature. The issue is presented, one side speaks, then the opposing side makes its presentation, which is followed by comments from the Commissioners if they have opinions or questions. Next there is time allotted for public input. Just as in the first DFG's public meeting in Rio Vista, there was a standing room only crowd present. First, the Coalition's attorneys and their "expert witness " presented their case. They were to be followed by DFG, but their presenter was late. As it turned out, he was over an hour late but still allowed to speak by the Commissioners. Then the US Fish and Wildlife made its presentation. Our side was represented by John Beuttler and Mike McKenzie of the California Sportfishing Alliance (CSPA), and Dave Hurley representing the Allied Fishing Groups which is made up of over forty organizations that were in total opposition to the DFG's proposed regulation changes. Next, those wanting to express their opinions were to speak. Thirty-nine made short presentations. Given the number wanting to address the Commission, they were allowed only three minutes each. Only 3 or 4 spoke in favor of DFG's proposal, the rest were in adamant disapproval of DFG's proposed regulation changes.

Mark Rockwell, Vice President of the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, Lowell Ashbaugh of the Davis Fly Fishers, and I, representing Delta Fly Fishers, were only three speaking on behalf of the fly fishing clubs. The California Striped Bass Association was very outspoken in their objections to the regulation changes and made excellence points for our position.

After the public input, several Commissioners spoke of their concerns, and I felt they were going to ask for more meetings. However, a motion was made and seconded not to approve DFG's regulation changes and was passed Four-Zero. The audience stood and gave the Commission a standing ovation. After the vote, Jim Kellogg, President of the Commission, noted that Stripers and salmon have co-existed for 130 years in the Delta and what this issue was about is really more about water pumping and salt intrusion than Striper predation. He then said that since Stripers have lived here so long that they are now a native fish. He was also given a standing ovation.

There are several things we can take away for this situation. A major point is that those of us who live near the Delta but have different interests can successfully work together for a positive outcome. The Fisherman’s Friend (the sport fishing store in Lodi) gathered over 200 signatures to support our position. They also have posted our Delta Challenge poster and NCCFFF's Festival poster and have actively supported the fly fishing community "since we are all fisherman." They have a very positive attitude in supporting our fisheries.

The downside: To the best of my knowledge only NCCFFF, CSPA, and four fly fishing clubs showed at the meeting. The fly fishing clubs need to actively support one another for the betterment of our fisheries and the sport. What helps one club will help all clubs. Also, this will not be the last we will hear from the Coalition. The Coalition was started by 3 executive officers of Stewart Resnick's Paramount Farms. Since Resnick is a billionaire, he, via the Coalition, will continue his efforts toward the Delta. Another bright spot is that this action has cost our side about $79,000. The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta spent over $5 million in their loss.

He's At It Again.

Devin Nunes (R) Tulare
House Representative Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, never ceases to amaze those of us interested in the Delta with his continued water-grabbing efforts. This time he has authored a bill called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act (HR1837). This bill has been also co-sponsored by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R) from Bakersfield and Rep. Jeff Denham (R) from Modesto. To quote Mr. Nunes: " This legislation is a comprehensive regional solution to water shortages caused by failed government policies, not actual shortages of water. We have crafted a good bill that not only restores the flow of water but will ultimately make unnecessary the construction of a $12 billion canal to bypass the Bay-Delta.” He also says his bill will end 20 years of failed government water policies, "restore water rights, cut cost, and pave the way for measurable environmental improvements."

However, what Nunes claims for HR1837 and what the truth is are two different things. First, HR1837 is a direct violation of the public trust in our states constitution and California Water Law. What Nunes’ bill will actually do is provide water for his south Delta agribusiness concerns such as Westlands Water District and Paramount Farms at the expense of the Delta farmers. The south Delta corporations do not have primary water rights, but this bill would effectively make that occur.

Stewart Resnick, multi-
billionaire and "farmer"
This bill is typical of what is going on in California water issues. It is not a bipartisan agreement but one put together by special interests, behind closed doors, at the expense of all others. Initially water laws had to be in agreement with the state’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA). In the last several years, however, there has been a strong push from the south Delta corporations and the Department of Water Resources and others, to make water use and the EPA co-equal in importance. However, this push is always at the expense of the Delta's environment. Nunes’ HR1837 is just another step in this direction.

Rep. Jerry McNerney ( D) Pleasanton has said that, "This bill is deeply flawed and will rob the Delta of clean water and reduce the quality of water that remains. To steal water from one community and give it to benefit another is unconscionable and would have disastrous consequences for the Delta Communities." This fact has never concerned Mr. Nunes nor will it in the future. One of Nunes’ comments in trying to justify HR1837 is that it will "pave the way for measurable environmental improvements." His statement is ludicrous. He has yet to explain how this is to occur.

The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) has asked Delta Fly Fishers and other NGO's to send letters of opposition and attach their logos. Their comment that "six pages of logos attached to our letter would be an attention getter" is certainly true. They hope to have over 200 groups in support of their position. Delta Fly Fishers will be sending a letter of opposition to HR1837 with our logo included. Late last night I received a call from Restore the Delta asking for basically the same thing. As soon as I get their information, I will forward it our Board.

Proposed Suction Dredging Revised

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has open its proposed regulation changes on suction dredging for public comment and will be accepting comment till March 5th 2012. Last year fishermen and ecologists were successful in having suction dredging halted because the damage it causes to the aquatic environment and to the fisheries. However, now DFG has come up with new regulations which aren't any better and propose that dredging start after the new regulations are adopted. The new rule changes can be view at www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge.

A suction dredge on the Klamath River
In the first part of this draft there is an interesting statement. The one-sentence statement is that DFG has not found suction dredging to be harmful to fish. There is no reference as to how DFG has come to that conclusion. Reading drafts of proposed rule changes is not the most interesting reading but can be reveling as to how it will effect our fisheries. For example, on nozzle restrictions the new regulations say, " No suction dredge intake nozzle larger than 4 may be used unless DFG has an onsite inspection and approves a larger nozzle with an inside diameter of 6'' to 8'' where allowable.”

Suction dredges of up to 8 inches may be permitted at DFG's discretion on the following rivers:
1) The American River
2) The Consumnes River
3) The Klamath River
4) The Feather River
5) The Merced River
6) The Mokelumne River
7) The Trinity River
8) The Yuba River

The idea of an 8-inch suction dredge sucking up the bottoms for these prime fishing rivers and not harming the aquatic environment and our fisheries seems less than logical on most of us. It will be interesting to see how DFG will justify the proposed rule changes in the Environmental Impact Report. More on this issue later as it unfolds.

Ron Forbes
Conservation Chair



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