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.

jreader
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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CB Green Report: Federal Bailout Won’t Make A Dent in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Problems

California Water Salazar

Last week Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the federal government would provide California with $260 million to help update its antiquated water system and finance projects to relieve the state’s water woes. And California stands to receive a substantial portion of the $135 million in grants allocated for state water recycling and reuse programs. In essence, California is getting a water bailout.

There’s no questioning the fact that California’s water system needs the money. And with the recent placement of the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta as the most endangered river system in the nation by American Rivers, it’s apparent that the state needs all the help it can get.

California’s massive system of reservoirs, pumps and canals, built a half century ago, was designed for a population half the size of the state’s 37.7 million, Salazar said after a helicopter tour of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Associated Press.

However, the question that begs asking is – will the federal stimulus funds fix the Delta problems?

Spreck Rosekrans, an Economic Analyst for the Environmental Defense Funds, thinks the spending should be scrutinized because many of the problems associated with the environment in general and water projects in California and in the West in particular are that they’ve been paid for with subsidized dollars. And he bets that these projects would not have been cost-effective if the people who benefited from them had to pay for them. In fact, the projects would not have been constructed at all – like some of the California dams.

“We’ve sort of been on this campaign to get good sound economics into the environmental equation, said Rosekrans about the mission of the nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund, which is known for using science to evaluate environmental problems as well as develop and advocate solutions in what many experts call a “nonpartisan, cost-efficient and fair” manner.

“Thinking that if we do so, we’ll make smarter choices. It’s not the only factor of course but it’s important.”

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CB’s Green Report: Southern California Water Supply Cut 10 Percent
watering lawns.jpg

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted Tuesday to reduce its water deliveries across the region by 10% this summer.

The water board has hinted for months that a major reduction was coming down the pipe due to drought conditions (for the past three years) and restrictions on water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Basically, there is more demand than available supply.

As the water district’s general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger summed it up nicely with – “We’re short.”

These are the agency’s first cuts to residential water users since the early 1990s drought. According to the North County Times, “the agency cut deliveries 17 percent in 1991 and 10 percent in 1977.” The cuts will begin on July 1 and last for a year.

And there is more bad news for Southern California residents. In addition to a smaller water allocations, the water rates will increase about 26 percent (on average) on Sept. 21.

“The era of big lawns is over,” said Bob Yamada, water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority.  “I think we’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes with regard to how we use water, and particularly how we use water outside.”

The Los Angeles Times explains the new reductions and its penalties:

“The Metropolitan Water District, which imports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and the Colorado River and sells it to local water districts, will achieve the reductions by imposing penalty rates. Local utilities that use more than their allocation will have to pay more.”

If Southern CA has been waiting for a signal to implment mandatory conservation…they certainly got it yesterday from the MWD,” twittered Ryan Alsop of the Long Beach Water Department.

Yet, the Los Angeles City Council just rejected the LA Department of Water and Power’s proposal to increase water rates and face penalties to encourage residents to decrease water consumption by 15 percent. The Council asked for more time to review and vet the proposal. Meanwhile, Long Beach has instituted a successful conservation program (pdf) over 21 months ago. Just last month, it “hit a 10-year low in consumption, or 14% drop in average water use.”
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CB’s Green Report: California’s Water System Gets Federal Bailout
Salazar & Schwarzenegger.jpg

Big news for California and its water supply — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged $260 million in federal stimulus money to help California modernize its outdated water system and ease its water problems.

Salazar and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger went on a helicopter tour of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Wednesday. The federal official saw first-hand California’s overtaxed water system of reservoirs, pumps and canals (designed to supply water to only half of the state’s 37.7 million population), which were built more than 50 years ago.
The federal funds will help California deal with the drought and institute an updated system.

“It is time to modernize, it is time to make hard choices and it’s time for the federal government to re-engage in full partnership with the 21st century water system for the state of California,” he said to the Associated Press.

Salazar plans to use money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create jobs in California and aid its water supply problems.

“From boosting water supplies and improving conservation to improving safety at our dams, these shovel-ready projects will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of farmers, businesses, Native American tribes and communities across California,” Salazar said to Reuters.

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CB’s Green Report: Restore The Delta Says Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Water Challenges Can Be Solved

sacramento-san-joaquin-delta

This week the American Rivers released its America’s Most Endangered Rivers reports and lists the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta in California, which nearly 25 million Californians depend on for drinking water, in the number one spot. Thousands of farmers as well as the commercial and recreational fishing industries also depend on California’s single most important natural resource, according to the report.

American Rivers claims that this Delta is in bad shape because of the “outdated water supply and flood management systems have put at risk the ecosystem and thousands of Californian families and businesses that depend upon it.” The report also cites years of mismanagement, neglect and conflict as part of the Delta’s problem.

To save the natural resource, the report said that the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water users must develop a workable, sustainable plan “to restore the ecosystem, secure water supplies and reduce the risk of floods.”

Many would call this water issue in the Central Valley of California a challenge. Others say there is an impossible fight being waged over the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the Campaign Director of Restore the Delta, sums up the entire situation by saying: “It’s the day of reckoning.”

At first glance, her statement may sound harsh. However, Barrigan-Parrilla explains that the major problem for the Delta is that the state water resources control board over the years has implemented water projects through the years, which move water in California from north to south, that granted water rights at about 8 1/2 times the total amount of water available – and that’s in a wet year.

“The way water rights have been distributed in California, and who has truthful access, is basically the equivalent of a ponzi scheme,” says Barrigan-Parrilla. “And that is the number one problem.”

With so little water available, there is no wonder people are fighting over it. And then, the situation gets even more complicated with increased pressures from population growth, water contamination due to farming practices, climate change and drought conditions (which are debatable according to Restore the Delta and Michael Fitzgerald of RecordNet.com.)

The fight for water comes from many concerned and effected parties in the Delta and beyond. And this is where Barrigan-Parrilla’s organization has gotten involved. According to Restore the Delta, their two and a half year old organization is attempting to work with all the groups – Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community group, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen and environmentalists – “to make the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable” for California. The group with more than 2,500 supporters also “seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary” and the Delta communities as well as “improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” Given the situation, their goals sound not only incompatible but also somewhat impossible.

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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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