Today, a coalition of environmental organizations, Northern California Indian tribal members, and commercial and sportfishing organizations held a press conference at the State Capitol to advocate for strong salinity standards and unimpaired San Joaquin River flows as part of the State Water Resources Control Board’s Water Quality Control Plan updates for the Bay-Delta (Phase I).
Representatives from Sierra Club California, San Francisco Baykeeper, the Planning and Conservation League, Restore the Delta, the Tuolumne River Trust, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, and the Pit River Tribe shared their perspectives as to why it is imperative that the State Board increase flows for the San Joaquin River and its three lower tributaries that is designated as outflow through the San Francisco Bay.
“The Board should set strong requirements on flow levels and temperature based on the best available science,” said Ben Eichenberg, Staff Attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper, “And the science definitively shows that the proposed 40% flow levels are not enough to protect fish and wildlife in San Francisco Bay.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by other representatives from environmental and public trust organizations:
Policy Advocate for Sierra Club California Kyle Jones said,
“Increased flows through tributaries to the Delta are critical for restoring California’s historic salmon runs and a healthy San Francisco Bay Delta. The Water Quality Control Plan Update should reflect these needs to guarantee a healthy environment for all Californians.”
Policy Director for the Tuolomne River Trust, Peter Drekmeier said,
“Currently, four out of every five gallons of water flowing down the Tuolumne River are diverted for human use. This is clearly unsustainable, and has caused a crash in the salmon-based ecosystem. The Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan is our last best chance to balance the needs of humans with those of every other creature that depends on the Tuolumne River. Through more efficient use of water and by developing alternative supplies, such as recycled water, we can meet the challenge.”
Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, Noah Oppenheim commented on how the State Board’s decision would impact dozens of local economies related to healthy waterways, stating that,
“California’s salmon industry has lost over 90 percent of its commercial fishing jobs over the past 40 years. The state’s position has been made clear: municipal and agricultural water users can no longer ignore their impacts to fishing jobs and the environment. Our rivers have been sucked dry for too long, and today fishermen are fighting back.”
Though the State Board will be taking in-person public comments on the Bay-Delta Plan updates at their meetings on August 21 and 22, the Board announced on Wednesday, August 15, that they had delayed their vote on the adoption of those updates to a later, undisclosed date. Originally, the board was scheduled to vote on these proposed amendments after all public comments were received on August 22. Environmental and public trust organizations were disappointed by this news.
Jonas Minton, Senior Water Policy Advisory for the Planning and Conservation League said,
“In the 23 years since the Plan was last updated the fisheries of the Sacramento – San Joaquin watershed have been decimated, some to the very edge of extinction. Californians cannot afford further delays in the adoption of strong standards that protect our rivers for current and future generations.”
Tribal Organizer for Save California Salmon and Pit River tribal member Morning Star Gali agreed with Minton and explained,
“We must restore our rivers if we are going to have clean water and fish into the future. Large fires and lack of water supply are caused by climate change and wasteful water use practices, not environmental laws. Appropriate flows are needed for the health of our sacred rivers, to restore the health of our communities, and to protect the quality of California’s water supply.”
Members of the press that were unable to attend the press conference can watch the recorded video on the Restore the Delta Facebook page: https://bit.ly/2nKwhgX
Noah Oppenheim, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 415-723-1801, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Drekmeier, Tuolumne River Trust, 650-248-8025, Peter@tuolumne.org
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053, Barbara@restorethedelta.org
Nora Kovaleski, 408-806-6470, email@example.com