EDF Urges Academy to Build on Existing Bay Delta Decisions

The National Academy of Sciences should build on, rather than repeat, the work of two biological opinions on the effects of state and federal water projects on fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Two EDF experts testified at a NAS public hearing recently at the University of California at Davis as part of the NAS’ 15-member review of the biological opinions by two federal agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service.

“The reasonable and prudent alternatives in the peer-reviewed biological opinions are essential to preserving threatened and endangered species like salmon and to sustaining thousands of jobs in the commercial fishing industry,” testified EDF Senior Water Resource Analyst Ann Hayden, who also is a member of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) steering committee. “The biological opinions were not intended to evaluate the actions that don't involve project operations, such as ammonia discharge from sewage treatment plants.”

“That's the role of the more comprehensive Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” Hayden added.

“Instead, the Academy’s panel should be focusing its limited amount of time on:

  • building off the good work of the biological opinion;
  • evaluating the science of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan; and
  • evaluating the environmental needs of the Bay Delta, including the impacts of climate change and the need for adaptive management.”

“The Academy’s challenge essentially is a question of weighing water supplies vs. fishery needs,” testified EDF Economic Analyst Spreck Rosekrans. “The farms most affected by the biological opinions are those that have the least secure water rights; tend to be among the most productive in the state; and have invested the most in irrigation efficiency, with enough drip strips literally to reach the moon. However, in some cases, they have been forced to pay $600 per acre foot to keep orchards alive, while many farmers pay less than $10.”

“The farmers most in need would love to invest in increased efficiency Valley wide, if they could have access to some of the saved water,” added Rosekrans. “Unfortunately, regulations, paperwork, local resistance to water transfers, and other obstacles collectively preclude such investments, severely limiting incentives for farms throughout the Valley to be as productive with a limited supply of water.”

“We should capitalize on this opportunity to provide incentives for farms throughout the Valley by expanding the marketing of that water, which is extracted from the environment,” concluded Rosekrans

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