Comment on the article below:
This kind of approach ignites the 'cut off fishing' to save endangered species fight, a fight
had wanted to avoid because of the inhumane consequences on the fishermen and their
communities....but if they want to play the 'kill the farmers card'
Fishing groups ask Congress to shut off Central Valley irrigators
By John Driscoll
The federal government should stop delivering water to the Central Valley
irrigation giant Westlands Water District to save power the district gets on the
cheap, commercial and sportfishing organizations told a congressional subcommittee
on energy this week.
"We're using subsidized power to pump subsidized water so wealthy corporate
farms can grow uneconomical crops in the desert," said Friends of the
Trinity River chairman Byron Leydecker.
For three decades, almost 300 billion gallons of Trinity River water have
been diverted yearly to the Central Valley through the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation's Central Valley Project, then doled out to farmers via Westlands.
Since then, Northern California coastal communities have seen the near-total
collapse of the salmon fishing industry, as fish have struggled in the unnatural curtailment of the river.
California Trout, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
and the Friends told the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources
and Regulatory Affairs at a hearing in Sacramento last week that as much as
100 megawatts of power needed to run project pumps could be saved
by retiring Westlands' selenium-leaching lands. The power, like the water
from the project, is purchased at a fraction of the municipalities' costs.
Westlands is contracted with the Bureau to receive 1.15 million acre-feet of
water from the Central Valley Project. In a dry year, Westlands would get almost
500,000 acre-feet and use 57 megawatts to pump it. Electricity for the pumps
that provide Westlands' water is billed at a rate of less than one cent per
kilowatt-hour, the fishing groups said, while the state has been paying up to
75 cents per kilowatt-hour on the spot market this year.
The organizations also asked the Committee on Government Reform to cut out
two provisions of a draft electricity emergency act that could thwart former U.S.
Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's order to keep more water in the
Trinity River. That decision is also currently being challenged by Westlands
in U.S. District Court. Among other things, intervenors -- like the Sacramento
Municipal Utilities District -- claim a 20-year study that led to Babbit's decision did
not look closely enough at the reduction's influence on the project's energy
"There is simply no basis on which to associate the energy crisis with
protection of the Trinity River's environment," said
Duane Sherman, chairman of the Hoopa Tribe, which is intervening in the
In an ironic twist, project water drains salts from soils onto a packed clay
base that lies under the growing medium. But salts, including selenium, from
irrigation water and fertilizers continually build up in soil, and can seriously reduce soil
productivity. More water must be used to leach the salts from the soil, and
the cycle continues.
The State Water Resources Control Board has noted that the federal actions
in the Central Valley Project is the "principal cause of salinity concentration
exceeding water quality standards in the San Joaquin River."
U.S. District Court Judge Oliver W. Wanger in September ordered the Bureau
of Reclamation to figure out how to get rid of the district's contaminated water.
That plan could be an 87-mile, $810 billion drain -- first proposed decades ago
-- or a $1.5 billion set of evaporation ponds. Environmentalists are opposed
to draining the polluted water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or San Francisco Bay.
"There's a real question about whether any of those lands should be irrigated,"
said Zeke Grader, executive director of the fishermen's association.
Though the Central Valley would doubtless be economically affected by
halting the water deliveries, Grader questions whether it was wrong to go
"into a warehouse full of stolen televisions to seize them and return them to their rightful