Salmon Aid Festival: A Fight to Save the Endangered Fish

Last weekend, the Delta water story took me to Oakland to attend the 2009 Salmon Aid Festival. The main event happened on Saturday, June 20 to Sunday, June 21, with a special Native American ceremonial salmon bake on Friday, June 19. More than two dozen organizations “including commercial, recreational and tribal fishermen, conservation organizations, chefs, restaurants, scientists, and many others” worked together to create Salmon Aid to “raise awareness of the plight of west coast salmon populations, the rivers and streams they spawn in, and the many coastal and inland communities that rely on salmon for their livelihoods and survival.” Salmon advocates came from California, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Nevada and other faraway places to support the event. The festival had education booths, activities, food, environmental film screenings and music to showcase the human connection to the fish as well as educate the public.

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I had the opportunity to interview Jessie Reader, a Salmon Aid event organizer. She is also an organizer for the Tuloumne River Trust, a Native American organization concerned about the salmon declines. Below is the Q & A interview.

What did you think of the event?

Bigger and better than last year, SalmonAid 2009 featured 10 great musical acts, including Bay Area favorite Afro-Dance Band Albino!. We had sustainable seafood from some of the West Coasts finest restaurants, film screenings from the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival, kids activities, and information from over two dozen organizations who work for sustainable salmon fishing and protection of our rivers and streams. Two sunny days brought out a great crowd from around Oakland and the Bay Area.

Was it a success? And why?

SalmonAid 2009 was a great success on a number of fronts. Working closely together to put on this event has significantly strengthened our unlikely but growing coalition of commercial fishing groups, recreational fishing groups, environmental organizations, and tribes. We built a platform for over 2 dozen organizations that would not have had the means to make such an outreach event happen on their own. Politically, we see that we are making an impact. Congressional Representative Barbara Lee sent a commendation, and Representative George Miller sent one of his senior staffers to read a statement of support. The festival mobilized over 1300 letters to President Obama and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco (the Federal Agency charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act when it comes to Salmon) As we move forward, President Obama’s Administration and Congress will continue to hear from our many diverse groups speaking with one voice.

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CA Water Hearing Has Environmentalists Questioning Governor’s Commitment to Delta Water Quality

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Environmentalists concerned about the water quality of the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta are accusing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State Water Resources Control Board as “discarding long-existing regulations protecting water quality (and fisheries) in order to protect the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from their continuing violations of the Public Trust and Bay-Delta water quality standards.”

On Thursday, June 25, the California State Water Resources Control Board will hold a public hearing to determine whether to modify Order WR 2006-0006 that, in part, adopted a Cease and Desist Order (C&D) against the DWR and the Bureau. The Order basically enforces a water quality standard in the Delta. Like most of the debate surrounding the Delta, the standards go back a long way.

In order to measure and control the salinity levels in the Delta waters, the State Board adopted standards in 1978 and reaffirmed them in 1995 and 2006.  These Board standards required the DWR and the Bureau to implement the 0.7 mmhos/cm electrical conductivity (EC) water quality objective for agricultural beneficial uses applicable from April through August of each year at the interior southern Delta compliance locations (i.e., San Joaquin River at Brandt Bridge, Old River near Middle River, and Old River at Tracy Road Bridge).  These measures became known as the interior southern Delta salinity objectives (Order WR 2006-0006) and were adopted on February 16, 2006.

After its passage, the Board ordered DWR and the Bureau “to take corrective actions under a time schedule to obviate the threat of noncompliance with thier permit and license conditions.” This plan included implementing permanent barriers to control the salinity in the Delta. To comply, the DWR and Bureau submitted a plan and schedule to create permanent operable gate structures in the southern Delta through the South Delta Improvement Program (SDIP) by July 1, 2009. According to the State Board, this gate project was contingent upon environmental documentation, regulatory requirements and compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Since completion of the plan and schedule, the DWR and Bureau have failed to meet the salinity standards and install the permanent barriers. The organizations submitted various biological opinions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service to the State Board, which stated the barriers could not be constructed for several more years—- thus, not meeting the July 1, 2009 deadline for compliance.

Environmentalists from organizations like the California Sport Fishing Alliance and Restore the Delta contend that the salinity standards were protective of the Delta agriculture and the aquatic ecosystem and must be enforced.

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Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta Challenges Starting to Boil

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The age-old battle over “blue gold,” commonly known as water, is boiling over in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta – America’s Most Endangered River. Most analysts are calling it the fight between the people versus the fish. However, there is more to this battle than meets the eyes.

On the surface, the farmers, fishermen, urban users and environmentalists are all fighting over the dwindling water supply in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Overextended water rights, climate change, population growth, less snow pack runoff and drought conditions for the past three years has resulted in a decreased water supply. The dwindling river and continued water exports have put salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon fish populations on the endangered lists as well as the Northwest Pacific killer whales that rely on this food supply. For the past two years, salmon seasons have closed early because of the declining fish populations. As a result, federal judge Wanger had issued an executive order decreasing the amount of water exports for agricultural and urban uses to protect the fish populations.

Although the fishing industry is pleased with any decision to protect the fish, ecosystems and consequently their livelihoods, agribusiness users who rely on the exports are screaming bloody murder as their water exports are decreased, their crops threatened and their livelihoods hanging in the midst. And major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, which receives about 30 percent of its water from the Delta, stand to lose a portion of their dwindling water supply.

This past week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a biological opinion that the Delta’s fish populations face “dire environmental conditions unless irrigation from the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Project – already at historic lows – are curtailed even further.”

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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