Fisheries Plummet, Standards are Violated, Regulators Refuse to Enforce the Law

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has released the 2013 September-October Fall Mid Water Trawl (FMWT) abundance indices of Delta fish.  Fisheries continue to collapse.  Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, American shad and threadfin shad populations in 2013 have plummeted 98.9, 99.6, 99.7, 89.1 and 98.1 percent, respectively, from the average of the initial six years of the survey (1967-1972).  DFW also released the 2013 USFWS Delta Smelt Recovery Index which failed to meet recovery criteria and restarted the 5-year recovery period.  Several recently released CSPA reports document how manipulation of the system by the water projects has impacted fisheries this year.

The state and federal water export projects continue to ignore regulatory requirements.  To expedite water exports this summer, the Central Valley and State Water Projects violated water quality standards in the South Delta in June and July through 15 August and at Emmaton in April, May and June and at Jersey Point in June.  Emmaton and Jersey Point are in the Western Delta.  Additionally, the temperature compliance point on the Sacramento River was moved upstream from Red Bluff to Anderson, eliminating almost two-thirds of the river miles of spawning habitat for endangered winter-run chinook salmon.

The State Water Resources Control Board informed the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that it would not take any enforcement action for these violations.  The state and federal water projects rights to divert water from the Delta are conditioned on compliance with standards.  Shasta Reservoir storage was at 89% of the historic average in May, which should have been sufficient to comply with both upstream temperature requirements and Delta standards.  However, the projects exported 835,000 acre-feet more water from the Delta than their projections said could be delivered.  In other words, not only did the projects not reduce exports to meet Delta standards and temperature requirements, they actually increased exports.  And fisheries paid the price.

CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings said, “The historical pattern and practice of violating regulatory requirements established to protect fisheries is outrageous, but the consistent failure by regulators and trustee agencies to enforce the law is simply incomprehensible and indicates a collaborative culture of noncompliance.  The FBI would be investigating and the Justice Department prosecuting if a financial trust had ignored regulations over three decades and reduced trust assets by 99%.  I can understand water agencies attempting to take water that doesn’t belong to them but I can’t understand the cops giving them the green light.”  CSPA’s press release, reports, the FMWT report and selected documents are below.

CSPA Press Release  2013 FMWT  2013 DS Recovery Index  CSPA Delta Smelt Report  CSPA: End of VAMP Export Limits  CSPA: Fish Stranding  Bureau to SWRCB 24 May  SWRCB to DWR, 29May  CDWA to SWRCB, 13 August  CDWA to SWRCB, 9 Sept.  SWRCB to CDWA, 20 Sept.  CDWA to SWRCB, 24 Oct.  SDWA to SWRCB, 13 June  SDWA to SWRCB, 16 July  Bureau to SWRCB, 21Aug  87-91 WQ Violations  Pulse Flow Violation, 2012  Interior-B2-Report, 2012


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