The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, December 16, 2019. It was nice to see everyone after skipping a month. There have been developments in SVWA. But before we go there I want to make note Chairman Joe Ferrara called the meeting to order at about 9:00 am. Executive Director Dan Vink said there are new agreements for the association because Lower Tule River ID and Tea Pot Dome ID have resigned from SVWA and rejoined the Friant Water Authority. Friant contractors have a long tradition of changing organizational lanes. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test but twenty years ago it was all the Friant Water Users Authority. That split into two with the FWUA and the FWA. The FWA had further spin off into the North Friant Water Alliance and the SVWA. The Northern Alliance has since been reabsorbed into the FWA. Anyway, Vink said things with the remaining seven SVWA are secure. The Real Jim Costa was the chair but he represents LTRID so. . .
Next Vink said he’s been on the California Farm Water Coalition’s board for a long time and it is time for someone else to step up. The CFWC is a fine organization and I sincerely hope whoever replaces Vink will be smart and a doer.
The title transfer issue is in a unique window. The US Bureau of Reclamation built not only the dam and the canal for the Friant system but also much of the support infrastructure such as turnouts and connecting conveyance canals. The feds have retained title despite all of these facilities being paid off. To transfer title of the infrastructure to the districts in the past would literally require an act of congress. Now this transfer can be accomplished without congressional approval but negotiations with the Bureau. So not all title transfers have to do with the Friant Kern Canal.
Eric Limas reported several meetings of the Temperance Flat committee have been cancelled with repeated delays of the modeling study findings. Limas said the study is being rewritten to be understandable for not computer modelers.
The Move Water Now Act is a bill by Congressman TJ Cox that might have some money for the Friant Kern Canal repairs. But you won’t see anything about that in the bill’s text as to mention the canal would be an earmark.
Attorney Alex Peltzer gave an update of the Voluntary Agreements on the Delta outflows from the tributary rivers of the San Joaquin. It’s been a heavy lift. The State Water Resource Control Board wanted 40 percent unimpaired flows and caused a stir. The tributary agencies were willing to enter into Voluntary Agreements to prevent this. The State Board became intractable to the point when Governor Gavin Newsom assumed office he fired and replaced the Chair. Then the legislature put forth SB1 which would have shot the VAs out of the water. Newsom had to veto SB1 to keep that from happening. Now Newsom has announced he will sue the federal government over the new biological opinions for Delta operations. He hasn’t pulled the trigger yet but it put the kibosh on the VAs.
Next Andrea Fuller and Shaara Ainsley from Fish Bio gave the board a presentation the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement. Fuller explained the criteria of restored salmon goals is the fish can reproduce outside the hatchery in sustainable numbers. I always heard 500 salmon returning to the base of Friant Dam was a good number. Dr. Peter Moyle says nay nay; he wants 30,000 fish. Hatchery fish aren’t considered worthwhile because they lack diversity. Which makes me think; diversity has been such a buzzword when often unity is required to accomplish anything. I digress. So far $246 million has been spent so far. To make it to 2024 there needs to be another $643 million. The estimated economic value from commercial harvest of San Joaquin River salmon is $30,255. Vink proposed there could be half a billion more bucks to get this program up and running. I asked why this must be so expensive. The proposed fish bypass at the Mendota pool will is estimated to cost more than $300 million. Vink opined a portion of these high costs are due to the Exchange Contractors wanting a Cadillac when a Chevy would do just as good. He said Ex Con is used to asking for things and getting them without paying a red cent. He said that’s a habit that needs to be broken.So, how’s it going? Twenty-three salmon have returned if you consider they trapped downstream and trucked up to Friant Dam. Nineteen survived. But compared to what to the non-native predators in the Delta are eating that’s pretty good. More than 94 percent of the out migrating juvenile salmon are eaten before they leave the Delta. The survival rate for juvenile salmon on the Columbia River is 26 percent. FishBio has been denied permission to receive a permit to study how much predation is taking place. California Fish & Wildlife has been unwilling to budge on this. A recent Fish & Wildlife Commission was going to consider increasing the limit on striped bass to increase salmon survival. The sports angler community bused folks in to shut that down. The Commission kicked that item down the road to another meeting. A six percent survival rate through the Delta won’t be enough population to return and develop a sustaining, natural fishery at Friant or even downstream from there. While I write this relatives have told me the State of Louisiana is suing the State of California for banning alligator products. Alligators are not endangered and the revenue from alligator products in fact funds the habitat restoration for wild alligators. Louisiana’s coast is eroding and exposing the alligators home wetlands. So, the good intentions of California’s all knowing legislature to save the alligators from those nasty Cajuns who don’t have the same caring for nature is actually harming the alligators. Again, I digress.
According to Fuller and Ainsley if the non-native stripped bass were to eat all the out migrating salmon it would only be one percent of its diet. Predation is made worse by the hyacinth choking the southern portion of the Delta and causing less turbidity and providing more coverage for predators.
The Delta is also no longer a large floodplain. There is a place east of Newman, California; China Island along the San Joaquin River in the Grasslands, being explored as a home for juveniles to grow before entering the Delta. This is also a source of food production. Fuller said the above referenced F&W Commission has a goal of increasing the striped bass population. On the federal said Fish & Wildlife is much more willing to take a look at the relation between striped bass and salmon populations. There is the possibility of a hearing in Washington DC that could provide an opportunity to testify about predation in the Delta and get it on the official record. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright
South Valley Water Association – Dan Vink, General Manager. Alex Peltzer, Attorney. Eric Limas & Jarno Mayes Financial Guru. Member agencies: Pixley ID, Delano Earlimart ID, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, Shafter Wasco ID, South San Joaquin Municipal UD and Stone Corral ID.