Restore the Delta Blasts Pumping Bill

Recent massive fish kills at the water project pumps in the south Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta highlight the folly of H.R. 1837, Congressman Devin Nunes’s resolution to guarantee water supplies to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Nunes’s San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act would undo years of efforts to balance Delta restoration with water supply reliability and to restore the San Joaquin River.

Said Delta farmer Brett Baker, “H.R. 1837 is an end run around California’s water rights laws. It puts junior rights holders ahead of Delta agriculture, Indian tribes, and fish. Forget public trust protections.”

Recovery of the West Coast’s recreational and commercial fishing industries is threatened by operation of federal and state water projects, which create conditions hostile to fish. Since last week, close to three million Sacramento splittails as well as hundreds of endangered spring-run chinook salmon have died as export pumping continued, despite the fact that reservoirs are full.

Export contractors have refused to pay for fish screens at the pumps.

Nunes argues that federal endangered species protections have cost tens of thousands of jobs in impoverished San Joaquin Valley communities. But research by Dr. Jeffrey Michael of the University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center has shown conclusively that San Joaquin Valley job losses are lower than claimed and have been driven by the housing construction collapse.

Unemployment in San Joaquin Valley communities like Mendota and Firebaugh has risen dramatically since water project deliveries for desert agriculture began in the 1960s. “These communities have been impoverished for decades regardless of how much water has been available,” said Restore the Delta’s Jane Wagner-Tyack. “Now their suffering is being used to justify actions that will destroy jobs in other parts of the state.”

Even with pumping restrictions to protect salmon and other species, average exports from the Delta are now similar to what they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Several years of dramatic increases in pumping during the past decade have driven some species of fish to the brink of extinction.

Millions of tax dollars have been spent on scientific reviews confirming the adverse effects of project over-pumping.

Restore the Delta is a broad-based coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, business leaders, and concerned citizens. Restore the Delta advocates for a more comprehensive and thoughtful approach to address the state’s water needs, including projects that safeguard the Bay, the Delta, the environment, and the people of California.

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