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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Legislature Considers a Bad "Fix" For the California Drought

--Bill Would allow water exports from the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta for Developers as long as rare fish hatched in captivity are released


Contact: Barb Byrne, Planning and Conservation League,, office: 916-313-4524 or cell: 530-304-5389

PCL is working with others ( in OPPOSITION to SB 994 (Florez, Ashburn, Steinberg) - a very troubling piece of legislation that will be detrimental to restoration efforts for Delta Smelt and also to the collaborative planning efforts that are working to find equitable solutions to restore the Delta. This bill failed passage in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on June 4th, but will be heard again TOMORROW MORNING (the morning of June 24th). While the bill (supported by powerful water interests) purports to restore Delta Smelt and restore Delta water deliveries, the "fix" it offers is a false one. In fact, it is quite likely that this bill would do much more harm than good to Delta Smelt.


1. SB 994 allocates scarce resources to a hatchery program that doesn't address the root problems in the Delta SB 994 would require the Department of Fish and Game to develop a "production-scale" Delta Smelt hatchery program. While the use of a fish culture program to maintain a refuge population of Delta Smelt (already in progress - no legislation is needed to authorize this valid effort) is supported by science, the idea of rearing large numbers of Delta Smelt for release into an ailing Delta is not supported as a sound approach to species restoration at this time. Dr. Peter Moyle, an expert on Delta Smelt from UC-Davis, notes that: "Trying to keep Delta smelt going by raising them in hatcheries and releasing them is like trying to raise sheep in a drought-seared pasture surrounded by a forest full of hungry wolves."

2. SB 994 requires the Department of Fish & Game to issue "take permits" in exchange for hatchery funding - despite the fact that a Delta Smelt hatchery is unlikely, under current conditions, to provide effective mitigation. Water diverters who would fund the ongoing expenses of the unproven hatchery would get automatic Delta Smelt take authorization, despite the poor record of hatcheries for other species that have been around for decades.

3. SB 994 forces ongoing planning processes to divert significant resources towards an unproven conservation measure. This bill would prejudge the outcome of the Delta Vision process and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan by dictating that a Delta Smelt hatchery, run as a mitigation bank, be a component of any final plan coming out of those collaborative processes.

Other groups in opposition: Planning and Conservation League • Sierra Club California • Defenders of Wildlife • NRDC • EDF • The Bay Institute • Natural Heritage Institute • American Rivers • The Nature Conservancy • California Sportfishing Protection Alliance • Butte Environmental Council • Friends of the Trinity River • Desal Response Group • Southern California Watershed Alliance • California Trout • Friends of the River • Friends of the Trinity River • California Striped Bass Association • Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations • Environmental Water Caucus • Dan Bacher • Winnemem Wintu • Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers • Earthjustice

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