What do fish eat? Fish.

UPDATED 5-29-15

Assembly Member Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) has introduced AB 1201, a legislative bill that would require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop and initiate a science-based approach that helps address predation by non-native species on Delta species. According to analysis prepared by Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee staff, the bill would accomplish two primary goals:

1) Makes findings related to the decline of native fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and the potential for predation by nonnative species on those at-risk fish species.
2) Requires DFW, by June 30, 2016 to initiate a science-based approach that helps address predation by non-native species upon species in the Delta listed as threatened and endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

A list of supports and opponents as of 5-29-15  is available here.

Fish eat fish.

(Originally published January 20, 2015)

In the Seinfeld episode, “The Watch,” Jerry Seinfeld says to a woman in a restaurant, “You know why fish are so thin? They eat fish.”

Despite their diets all fish aren’t thin. Take bass, for instance. They eat fish. They eat a lot of fish. Bass in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta eat a lot of baby salmon and dining season is coming up fast. You see bass, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, will begin to increase their fish consumption in the next few months.

Bass eat endangered salmon

fish eating salmon
Non-native stripers and largemouth bass consume large numbers of threatened and endangered fish each year in the Delta.

According to “Striped Bass Fishing Tips” on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website, spring is when bass – an invasive species introduced to provide recreational fishing in the Delta — start their annual feeding frenzy on native salmon.

During the winter, striped bass are spread from San Francisco Bay throughout the Delta and fishing is generally poor because stripers do not feed actively when the water is cold. Fishing success improves as the water warms up in March. Stripers that winter in the bays start moving upstream to fresh water for spawning. During the spring, the bulk of the legal population is spread throughout the Delta and as far north as Colusa and Princeton on the Sacramento River.”  http://goo.gl/fzr9ex

Federal government cuts water supply to farms

On January 1 the federal National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) instituted a management action that reduced water deliveries to 25 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland in the name of protecting salmon. In its December 30, 2014 announcement, NMFS justified its decision by saying the bulk of the migrating salmon move into the Delta by the end of December. Reducing export pumping at that time, according to NMFS, “…would protect a sizeable proportion of the winter-run (salmon) population that has already entered the Delta region.”

Then the very next sentence in the announcement says, “These fish will distribute themselves within the Delta and are expected to rear for up to 3-4 months before continuing their emigration to the marine environment.”

That is if they survive the journey.

During these months, bass increase their fish consumption at the same time baby salmon are rearing in the Delta, growing in size in preparation for the remainder of their migration to the ocean. Good luck, baby salmon! You’re likely to become a meal.

Salmon slaughter

The March 2009 issue of Western Outdoors Magazine article titled “Save a Salmon, Catch a Striper” says it all:

“You see, the peak of the baby salmon’s downstream journey corresponds with the spring spawning run of striped bass. Somewhere along the line, the two migrations crash headlong into one another. It’s a one-sided blood bath, and when the spray and foam settles, the stripers emerge fat and happy while the Chinook suffer heavy loses.” https://farmwater.org/salmonslaughter.pdf

A 2010 article by Alistair Bland in the East Bay Express titled, “The baby salmon feeding frenzy in San Pablo Bay” pointed out that bass fishing party boats target areas where hatchery salmon smolts are released into the bay because the fishing is so good.

Bass fishermen can get their limits in “just minutes” and when the bass are cleaned and filleted their stomachs often contain from one to six salmon smolts.  http://goo.gl/vWnAn1

What, if anything, is NMFS doing to protect salmon from predatory bass at the same time that it ratchets down export pumping? Twenty years of data show that pumping has had no long-term impact on salmon populations. However, a federal study released in 2013 demonstrated that 93 percent of juvenile salmon on the Tuolumne River are consumed by predators while attempting to migrate to the ocean. http://goo.gl/p0zeA

What is the logic in not addressing that? Where is the outrage from the commercial salmon industry?

The real problem gets ignored

Why are other stakeholders and regulators willing to accept the status quo and reject real reform that will restore the Delta to its former productive salmon fishery? At the same time a handful of bait shops profit from the salmon-gobbling bass industry. ESPN and others broadcast high-dollar bass tournaments. And bass fishing advocates continually say that it’s the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley that are destroying the Delta.


SWRCB staff rejects urgent request for water

SWRCB staff rejects urgent request for water

Despite concurrence among five State and federal agencies, a single State employee reversed a plan that would have delivered desperately needed water to most of drought-parched California. The decision is currently costing California water users about 2,000 acre-feet of water per day.

SWRCB Executive Director Tom Howard has placed himself above the experts at five State and federal water and fishery agencies.

A decision yesterday afternoon by State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director Tom Howard is already causing a loss of precious water supplies to two-thirds of California’s population and seven of the top 10 agricultural producing counties. Howard rejected a plan by the State Department of Water Resources and United States Bureau of Reclamation that would have allowed limited increases in export pumping under certain flow conditions in the Delta. The State Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service all agreed that the additional pumping did not pose an unreasonable risk to threatened or endangered salmon and Delta smelt.

Increased water called “tradeoffs”

In his rejection Howard said, “…there is not currently adequate information to indicate that this export level is reasonable given the current status of species and their distribution in the Delta…” He further stated that, “…water supply tradeoffs are not clear given the unknown water contract allocations that will occur this year.”

Translated: Not interested in helping Californians south of Delta, whether they be farmers or urban water users because State and federal agencies have not made their full allocation announcements yet. Or, since the projects might get more water allocated in the future, I can prevent them from getting any more now and it will all work out.

More accurately, Mr. Howard is playing chicken with water supplies for a south of Delta agricultural sector that verges on being a grotesque play on the cartoon character Wimpy: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for the water I take from you today.”

Alas, under the current weather pattern California is suffering under, Tuesday may never come.

State and federal fishery agencies approved of increased pumping

DWR and USBR agreed on a water supply plan for the conditions that exist right now. The water supply for the remainder of the year is contingent on weather, which is uncertain at the very least. Ultimately pumping reductions under this order will affect south of Delta wildlife refuges, urban users, including many disadvantaged communities, and farmers and could be about 2,000 acre-feet of lost water per day.

It is outrageous that one person with no special expertise in science or project operations can ignore the collective decision of FIVE State and federal agencies that have responsibilities for managing ecosystem resources.

Potential loss of $38 million in water supply

Howard said the issue would be open for discussion at the SWRCB’s workshop on February 18, which is 14 days from now. Depending on the weather, about 38,000 acre-feet, or $38 million worth of water could be lost forever.

What will 38,000 acre-feet of water grow? Any of the following: (click to enlarge)



On the Abandonment of Federal Drought Legislation

Drought Impacts

On the Abandonment of Federal Drought Legislation

“California’s Central Valley has shouldered more Federal Drought Legislationthan its share of the pain brought on by reduced water deliveries and the drought. For more than 20 years, misguided environmental policies have drained California of over 20 million acre-feet of water – water that was originally intended to grow food. These regulations have flushed enough water out of the system to fill Lake Shasta five times.

That might make sense if dumping massive amounts of water was actually helping the ecosystem but it’s not. Threatened and endangered fish continue to languish. The supporters of those failed policies continue to press our elected leaders to do nothing rather than find a balanced solution that serves people at the same level that we serve the environment.

It’s these regulations that Senator Feinstein was attempting to modify; To deliver more water to our communities without harming the protections in the Endangered Species Act. But that didn’t happen.

When we look around the Valley we see unemployment, long lines at food banks, failed businesses, portable showers for people without water and almost half a million acres of fallowed farmland. It’s reliable water that enables that land to produce the food that fills grocery shelves across the state and around the world. We are eroding our ability to feed ourselves and employ our people.

Without needed reform there are two certainties we can count on: The situation for Valley residents isn’t going to improve and neither will the situation for the environment.”


Mike Wade
Executive Director
California Farm Water Coalition

News Line – November 24, 2014

News Line – November 24, 2014

Read the latest news about issues affecting agriculture and farm water in California.

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Water Bond

From: J. Coleman & K. Tiegs, Sacramento Bee

For California water managers, 2014 has been one for the record books. Reservoirs have dropped to near-record lows, surface water deliveries have been slashed and some communities are rationing water to keep supplies in reserve for next year.But amid these challenging conditions, California voters opened the door for long-term solutions when they passed Proposition 1 on Nov. 4. The $7.5 billion bond measure provides a much-needed infusion of funding for water projects and programs at a pivotal time in California.

From: Barton Thompson, San Francisco Chronicle

On Nov. 4, Californians overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, California’s $7.5 billion water bond. Its passage was never really in doubt: Enduring a third year of drought, Californians found solace in Prop. 1’s promise of new storage facilities, conservation, recycled water, desalination and general drought preparedness. Whether Prop. 1 delivers on its promise, however, depends on what happens next.One danger is that Prop. 1 will lull Californians into believing that we have solved our water troubles. We haven’t. Nothing that Prop. 1 can do will redress the current drought. Even in the longer run, Prop. 1 is only a part of the solution to California’s water challenges.

Water Supply

From: Carolyn Lochead, San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s abrupt decision to yank a water bill she had spent more than four months negotiating came just as the California Democrat and Central Valley Republicans appeared on the brink of a deal.The surprise climax shocked Republicans, avoided a potentially embarrassing split between Feinstein and her fellow California Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, and proved a rare retreat by a veteran lawmaker famous for her deal making and persistence.

From: Al Smith, Fresno Bee

The news that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has withdrawn from discussions regarding drought-fighting legislation is a bitter pill for our community to swallow. Despite good intentions, her departure leaves dozens of California communities without a solution to the crippling drought that has devastated our region.Although policymakers say they will take up the issue next year, that simply starts another clock ticking, and is not a guarantee that anything will be accomplished. Our communities have already gone too long without solutions. We call on our elected officials to come together and craft a legislative solution to the water predicament, before Congress adjourns in December.

From: Staff, Fresno Business Hub

Senator Feinstein’s recent decision to delay the drought legislation until 2015 is devastating news to local communities and businesses in light of the economic hardship that is occurring due to the zero water allocation. This press conference will be held to provide an opportunity for those most impacted by this situation to speak to the harm that is occurring.

Salton Sea

From: Staff, Imperial Valley Press

This iteration of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors hasn’t been without its share of criticism, from us and others. At times, its actions can come off as aggressive, even confrontational and a little lone-wolfish.


But make no mistake, the board also operates from a position of cohesion, strong-willed and assertive when it feels it is right. The board members are very united, and they believe the Valley comes first above all else, and they are not afraid to show it.

From: Staff, Associated PressThe Imperial Irrigation District has asked the state water board to intervene to help prevent further deterioration of the Salton Sea.The Los Angeles Times reported in Saturday’s edition that district officials want the state to meet its obligation to provide water for the shrinking lake. They sent a plea to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board this week to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis.”

From: Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

Food News

From: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times

The gnarled zinfandel grapevines on Rich Czapleski’s land have borne fruit for more than 100 years, producing dark, intense wines that exemplify the special growing conditions in this coveted winemaking region..Over that time, the vines have weathered some of California’s worst droughts – including the last three years with little difficulty.

News Line – November 21, 2014

News Line – November 21, 2014

Read the latest news about issues affecting agriculture and farm water in California.

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Water Supply

From: Michael Doyle, McClatchy DC

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California on Thursday pulled the plug on secret, high-stakes negotiations over a water bill for her drought-plagued state, saying she and fellow lawmakers will try again next year.

Feinstein’s unexpected move ends, for now, what had become an increasingly contentious fight over ambitious drought-fighting legislation whose details few people have seen.

From: Kevin Freking, Associated Press

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday that congressional efforts to provide drought relief to Central Valley farmers and communities are dead for the year. She vowed to try again in 2015, but the outcome could be even less certain because Republicans will control both houses of Congress after they retook the Senate in this month’s midterm elections.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year,” Feinstein said in a statement.

From: Kitty Felde, KPCC

After months of secret negotiations and without a single public hearing, a bill that would have built dams and reservoirs in California – and rolled back environmental laws – has been shelved. At least for now.

California’s record drought prompted both the House and Senate to pass their own version of water bills. The House version – cosponsored by the entire CA GOP delegation – would roll back environmental protections and rewrite water contracts.

From: Allison Floyd, Growing Georgia

A drought in California could lead farmers in the Southeast to consider new crops, a Georgia horticulturalist says.”Some of the larger vegetable growers in Georgia, particularly eastern Georgia, are being asked by their buyers to diversify,” said Tim Coolong, a vegetable specialist with the Extension Service. “The primary driver is concerns over water in California.”


From: Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

All California farmers and water districts want for Christmas this year is a slow, rainy winter – with perhaps a timely rain tucked in the stocking hanging from the fireplace.While the winter rain scenario will be determined in the weeks and months ahead, three California agricultural water leaders have plenty to say about the California drought, and how the lack of moisture from the sky and regulator intervention on the environment have placed farmers in financially perilous situations.


News Line – November 20, 2014

News Line – November 20, 2014

Read the latest news about issues affecting agriculture and farm water in California.

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Water Supply

From: Staff, Los Angeles Times

California made extraordinary progress on water policy in this severe drought year, largely under the guiding hand of Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor’s master stroke was to initiate the conversation and then back away, allowing various interests – agribusiness, urban areas, environmentalists, people who favored building tunnels to move water from north to south, people who vigorously opposed them – to fight it out.

From: Staff, Sacramento BeeSen. Dianne Feinstein and House Republicans have been secretly negotiating drought relief legislation that could severely alter California water policy. She should know better.Any legislation on the topic of water would have far-reaching implications, and ought to receive a full public airing before a congressional vote.

From: Tom Philpott, MotherJones.comSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is negotiating a behind-closed-doors deal with Republican lawmakers to pass a bill that would ostensibly address California’s drought-an effort that has uncorked a flood of criticism from environmental circles.Feinstein’s quiet push for a compromise drought bill that’s palatable to Big Ag-aligned House Republicans has been in the works for six months, Kate Poole, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. And it has accelerated recently, as the Senator hopes to pass it by year end, during the “lame duck” period of the outgoing Democratic-controlled Senate.

Water Storage

From: J. Lund, A. Taghavi, M. Hall, A. Saracino, & L. Winternitz, UC Davis Watershed Sciences & Bechtel FoundationCalifornia’s approval of a $7.5 billion water bond has bolstered prospects for expanding reservoirs and groundwater storage, but the drought-prone state can effectively use no more than a 15 percent increase in surface water storage capacity because of lack of water to fill it, according to a new analysis released Nov. 20.The report by water engineers and scientists with the University of California, Davis, The Nature Conservancy and three prominent water consultants, said California could potentially use up to 6 million acre-feet in combined additional surface and groundwater storage – about a third more capacity than Shasta Reservoir. Exceeding this expansion runs into limits of available precipitation and the ability to transport water.

Water Transfers

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

A briefing of the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee on the state’s proposals to reduce river diversions for agriculture quickly turned into a pointed discussion about Oakdale Irrigation District’s determination to pump groundwater for its farmers while selling surface water to agencies outside the region.

Food News

From: H. Miller & R. Cornett, Forbes“Sustainable” has become a buzzword that is applicable not only to agriculture and energy production but to sectors as far afield as the building and textile industries. Some universities offer courses or even degrees in “sustainability.” Many large companies tout the concept and boast a sustainability department, and the United Nations has hundreds of projects concerned with sustainability throughout its many agencies and programs.But as with many vague, feel-good concepts-“natural” and “locavorism” come to mind-it contains more than a little sophistry. For example, sustainability in agriculture is often linked to organic food production, whose advocates tout it as a “sustainable” way to feed the planet’s expanding population.

News Line – November 19, 2014

No Coalition Responses Today

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Water Supply

From: M. Doyle & M. Grossi, Fresno Bee

California’s water future is boiling below the surface this week.Only the chosen few have a clue about details. Bill documents, currently about 50 pages, are stamped “confidential draft language, do not distribute.” Capitol Hill doors are shut, congressional timetables are opaque and negotiators are strictly mum.

From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star

In September, when the Sun-Star’s editorial board asked Jeff Denham about the secret drought-relief negotiations going on in Congress, he objected, saying they weren’t secret at all. Not secret? Then they must be “top secret.”The only people who know the details around negotiations going on this week are those in the room – including people no one has elected. Westlands Water District general manager Tom Birmingham is said to be at the table, as are representatives of the vast Metropolitan Water District.

Water Transfers

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee 

The Oakdale Irrigation District plans to sell $3.9 million worth of water to out-of-area buyers in 2015, has begun negotiating potential sales, and is considering offering local farmers financial incentives to fallow their land so additional irrigation water can be marketed to others.


“These water transfers are necessary to the district meetings its goals,” OID General Manager Steve Knell told his district’s board of directors Tuesday. “Funding for our capital (infrastructure) projects comes from water transfers.”

Salton Sea

From: Chris Nichols, San Diego Union-TribuneImperial Valley water officials on Tuesday urged the state to help “avert an emerging environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea,” or otherwise consider restricting a massive water transfer deal that benefits San Diego.

In a formal petition to the California Water Resources Control Board, the Imperial Irrigation District said the state has not lived up to its obligations to restore the inland lake, which straddles Imperial and Riverside counties.

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

The Imperial Irrigation District is calling on the state of California to live up to its commitment to restore the ailing Salton Sea as, IID officials say, a public health threat looms on the horizon.

“Today, the Imperial Irrigation District submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board to enforce the Quantification Settlement Agreement in its entirety by holding the state to what the IID board believes is its statutory obligation to select, fund and implement a restoration plan for the Salton Sea,” said IID Board President Jim Hanks, addressing the public at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Clean Water Act

From: Chris Adams, McClatchy DC 

The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken aback by parts of the response to a proposed clean-water rule that has riled agriculture interests nationwide.In a wide-ranging Monday morning roundtable discussion sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she expected some of the push-back on what is known as the “Waters of the United States” proposal. But not all of it.

From: Staff, EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with Edward Lynn Brown, a canned food and nut wholesaler in Modesto, Calif. for destroying nearly 33 acres of wetlands, known as vernal pools, north of Merced, Calif. The settlement requires Brown to pay a $160,000 penalty and purchase and endow a conservation easement valued at $1 million.”California’s vernal pools are key to the survival of native plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “In a time of drought and climate change, it is more important than ever to protect these endangered habitats from irreversible destruction.”


From: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail

When California Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide emergency in January, there was hope water conservation and increased pumping from aquifers could blunt the impact of a withering drought.Now, as the driest year in the state’s history is coming to a close, the aquifers are so overdrawn there are concerns about long-term damage – and the National Weather Service is predicting a fourth year of drought.