Delta advocates say Salazar is ‘badly mistaken’ about estuary situation
by Dan Bacher
On September 19, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar claimed that Delta advocates’ fears of a “water grab” by corporate interests were “unfounded” during his remarks before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
Salazar used the opportunity to campaign for support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to divert more Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California. “The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is the most important – and most complex – long-term water and habitat management plan ever undertaken,” Salazar said.
Calling the Delta the “granddaddy” of California water puzzles, Salazar also claimed the BDCP would not harm the Delta region and its imperiled fish populations, but would in fact “help” the ecosystem.
“The BDCP provides a comprehensive approach that includes new habitat for endangered fish species, coordinated measures to attack toxics that are fouling delta waters, and improvements to the state‟s water infrastructure,” stated Salazar. “Rather than simply pumping water from north to south through the Delta – which places immense strain on the system and is unreliable – a new conveyance system would reduce direct conflicts between water supply and fisheries, as the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and many independent scientists have recommended.”
Delta advocates and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe were quick to criticize Salazar’s remarks promoting the construction of the peripheral canal. The Obama administration is the first federal administration in U.S. history to endorse the canal.
“Interior Secretary Ken Salazar used remarks delivered at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on September 19th to link building ill-conceived conveyance in the Delta to the American Jobs Act the administration has put before Congress,” according to a news release from Restore the Delta.
“It doesn’t make sense to put people to work building infrastructure that will destroy jobs,” said Jane Wagner-Tyack, policy analyst for Restore the Delta. “Close to 23,000 jobs in the Delta region are linked to Delta agriculture that is threatened by plans to move Sacramento River water under the Delta.”
Salazar praised as “open, collaborative, and transparent” the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process driven by water contractors who are fighting to ensure continued high levels of exports from the Delta. In fact, Delta residents, family farmers, California Indian Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmental justice communities and grassroots environmentalists have been completely excluded from the BDCP Management Committee that oversees the “open, collaborative, and transparent” process.
“Exports from the Delta are the primary cause of the destruction of habitat in this estuary,” said Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and a Restore the Delta board member. “The process the exporters are using to plan for the Delta’s future has been anything but collaborative.”
Restore the Delta Executive Director Barrigan-Parrilla noted that the state and federal water contractors have held required meetings soliciting public input, but have continued for three years to move forward with the plan they have always intended to build, ignoring input from Delta locals.
Barrigan-Parrilla said Salazar “threw the weight of the federal government firmly behind moving quickly on the BDCP,” which aims for a draft environmental analysis by June 2012 and a final plan by early 2013.
“They’re pushing this habitat conservation plan through in one-third of the time that similar plans have required for much less complex natural systems elsewhere,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “If Interior is serious about respecting Delta science, they should be putting the brakes on the process instead of urging haste.”
Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe, also took Salazar to task for his remarks promoting the peripheral canal’s construction.
“So Salazar thinks this is the ‘Granddaddy’ of California water puzzle?” said Sisk-Franco. “This is just another example of big corporations’ little thinkers influencing the top, who influence the law makers to do the wrong thing for most of the people and environment. We can’t afford those kind of hair brained idiot mistakes now!”
As Salazar spoke, one of the biggest fish kills in California history continued. The state and federal government agencies “salvaged” a total of 11,158,021 fish in the Delta water pumping facilities between January 1 and September 7, 2011, the result of record water exports. A horrific 8,985,009 Sacramento splittail, the largest number ever recorded, were salvaged during this period, according to Department of Fish and Game data
For the complete transcript of Salazar’s remarks, go to: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security%2Fgetfile&pageid=259148.
In other Delta news, the Sacramento region’s most popular alternative-rock band, the legendary Cake, recently announced its official endorsement of Restore the Delta’s campaign to protect the estuary from state and federal plans to divert more water