The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has released the results of the 2013 Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT), which reconfirms the continuing biological collapse that is occurring in the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta Estuary. The FMWT conducts monthly surveys from September through December at 100 index stations in the Delta. The results reveal that populations of Delta smelt, striped bass and American shad declined from the disastrous levels of last year while longfin smelt and threadfin shad showed little improvement from last year’s lows.
The surveys, which were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta, show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad have declined 95.6%, 99.6%, 99.8%, 97.8%, 90.9%, respectively, between 1967 and 2013. Inexplicably, the 2013 indices for splittail were not released but results from 2012 reveal that splittail indices have dropped 98.5% from 1967 levels.
“Excessive water diversions from the Delta by the State and Federal Projects and the failure of state agencies to enforce water quality standards have created an extended fish drought that can only be characterized as a biological holocaust,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings. “And the same agencies that orchestrated and chaperoned this biological meltdown are not only proposing a scheme to divert massive quantities of fresh water flows via tunnels under the Delta, under the guise of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), but they ask us to trust them to build the tunnels now and figure out how to operate them later,” he said.
BDCP proponents suggest that the two 35-mile tunnels under the Delta will not lead to an increase in total Delta exports. However, actual operations will be determined after completion of the project through a decision-tree adaptive management process by the same agencies that have historically failed to protect the estuary. Examination of the four alternative decision tree operational scenarios in the BDCP EIR/EIS reveals that all of them decrease Delta outflow and three of them substantially increase exports. BDCP modeling conducted for the State Water Resources Control Board demonstrates that BDCP could only export about 3.1 MAF of water if reasonable fishery protection measures are included (increased outflow, bypass flow, coldwater pool management, etc.).
“BDCP proponents are not going to spend some $67 billion to receive the same or less water and reduced outflow for an estuary already hemorrhaging from a lack of water is a death sentence,” Jennings said adding, “given the agencies abysmal track record, there can be no trust and no tunnels until Jerry Brown takes affirmative steps to end his fish drought.”