PPJ Contributer: Dan Bacher

The Delta Mendota Canal, shown here, and the California Aqueduct deliver water to corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley and southern California. Water exporters are pushing for the construction of a peripheral canal to facilitate the export of Delta water to drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water agencies. Photo courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation.

On July 5, Restore the Delta and sixteen other Delta community and political leaders sent a letter to Congressman Tom McClintock, Chair of the House Sub Committee on Water and Power, to express widespread and growing opposition to HR 1837, sponsored by Representative Devin Nunes (D-CA).
The Delta leaders describe H.R. 1837 as “an attempt to prioritize junior water contracts held by a limited number of San Joaquin Valley growers over the senior and superior water rights of Delta farmers, and other farmers whose land falls within the Delta watershed.” They also criticize the bill’s “threat to increase Delta pumping without proper fish screening.”
In addition, they take aim at the bill’s attempt to repeal the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, a ambitious plan to restore water and salmon to the river below Friant Dam.
“Attempts to reverse this promise for San Joaquin River restoration sends a bad message to Delta communities,” the letter states. “Since the inception of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Water Project, promises made regarding the export of surplus flows and proper fish screening at export water facilities have been broken repeatedly. If Congress were to break yet another promise regarding restoration through legislative action, it would signal to Delta communities the Federal Governments sacrifice of the Delta for the benefit of another region in California.”
“It is this preference for San Joaquin Valley agriculture over Delta agriculture, fisheries and in-Delta urban uses that is the most disturbing aspect of HR 1837,” the letter continues. “HR 1837 is not a job creation bill for the San Joaquin Valley, but it very well could become a job killer bill for the Delta, and for California.”
Signees to the letter include Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, Ann Johnston, Mayor of Stockton, Larry Huhstaller, chairman of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, Assembly Members Joan Buchanan, Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, Bill Jennings, chairman/executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and Roger Mammon of the California Striped Bass Association West Delta Chapter.
In a press release issued after the letter was released, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said recent massive fish kills of Sacramento splittail and Central Valley spring-run chinook salmon at the state and federal water project pumps in the south Delta “highlight the folly” of H.R. 1837, Nunes’ resolution to guarantee water supplies to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Barrigan-Parrilla said the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act would undo years of efforts to balance Delta restoration with water supply reliability and to restore the San Joaquin River.
“H.R. 1837 is an end run around California’s water rights laws,” she stated. “It puts junior rights holders ahead of Delta agriculture, Delta municipal water users, and fisheries. Forget public trust protections.”
She said recovery of the West Coast’s recreational and commercial fishing industries is threatened by operation of federal and state water projects, which create “conditions hostile to fish.”
An alarming 8,538,859 Sacramento splittail and 35,202 Central Valley chinook salmon were “salvaged” in the Delta pumping facilities from January 1, 2011 to June 26, 2011. The number of splittail, a native minnow, salvaged to date is greater than in any previous years since the federal and state governments started keeping records on splittail in 1993.
Yet, water export contractors have refused to pay for fish screens at the pumps.
Nunes, the darling of San Joaquin corporate agribusiness interests, argues that federal endangered species protections orchestrated by “radical environmentalists” have cost tens of thousands of jobs in impoverished San Joaquin Valley communities.
However, research conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Michael of the University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center has shown conclusively that San Joaquin Valley job losses are lower than claimed and have been driven by the housing construction collapse. While decreases in water exports have actually had little effect on San Joaquin Valley job losses over the last few years, Delta agriculture does support over 36,000 jobs in California, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.
“Even with pumping restrictions to protect salmon and other species, average exports from the Delta are now similar to what they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Several years of dramatic increases in pumping during the past decade have driven some species of fish to the brink of extinction,” she said.
Millions of tax dollars have been spent on scientific reviews confirming the adverse effects of project over-pumping.
Restore the Delta is a broad-based coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, business leaders, and concerned citizens. Restore the Delta advocates for a more comprehensive and thoughtful approach to address the state’s water needs, including projects that safeguard the Bay, the Delta, the environment, and the people of California.
For more information, contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Phone: 209-479-2053, Barbara [at] RestoretheDelta.org. The press release and copy of the letter are available at: http://www.restorethedelta.org.