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Questions validity of Save the Stan campaign
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

While I agree with the premise of the “biological opinion” for the Stanislaus River, that more water is better for anadromous fish survival, I also agree that lowering New Melones Reservoir to the level that would expose the old Melones Dam would be bad. More water does not help unless it is cold water.

However, this new media campaign by South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District to “Save the Stan” is disingenuous at best. I find it appalling, but not surprising, that water districts would stretch and bend the facts to promote their agenda. Their radio ads seem an awful lot like the PG&E ads for Proposition 16 that we loved to hate.

They claim that preditation by striped bass is the primary reason for the demise of salmon & steelhead in the Delta system and the Stanislaus River. The fact is nobody knows how many salmon/steelhead are eaten by stripers. Their own website quotes a Fish & Game biologist as estimating between 5% to 25%. But in their op-ed to this newspaper they claim 30% to 50%. But these are just guesses. I’m not saying that none are eaten, but for them to claim up to 1/2 of all salmon are eaten by stripers is ridiculous. For water districts to suddenly come out and act as stewards of fish and put the focus on one of many problems is not fair. There are no less than six dams on this river. SSJID and OID built Goodwin and Woodward Dams effectively shutting off miles and miles of gravel spawning beds for these fish to reproduce. Absolutely no mitigation for the loss of habitat was devised. No fish ladders, no hatchery, nothing. While these dams greatly benefited the economy and led to the beginning of this area’s farming industry, there has never been any concern whatsoever by these water districts to help fish. Most of the fish in this river are either landlocked salmon/steelhead or planted trout.

They claim the Stanislaus is “one of the best cold water steelhead and trout rivers in the state.” Huh? I’ve been fishing for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say, “hey, let’s go steelhead fishing on the Stanislaus.” What a joke! Their website says there are 13-76 juvenile steelhead counted each year in the river.

The website shows a nice farming family that is struggling. Where is the picture of the fisherman’s family with their mortgaged fishing boat sitting idle? Where is the picture of a fish ladder at Woodward Dam? Where is the picture of the removal of Goodwin Dam? It’s not needed anymore with New Melones Dam in place. That would solve the warm water problem. Striped bass have not been the cause of closure of recreational and commercial fishing for the last two years.       Striped bass have been in the Delta system since 1879. Only 10 years after the Delta was leveed and drained for farming. So why is it the salmon are disappearing now and not 50 or 100 years ago? Are there more stripers now than in 2002 when salmon counts were significantly higher than the last few years? It is a fact that when the export pumps ran at their highest output in 2005, it started a steep decline in the salmon population. It is also a fact that salmon/steelhead numbers have dropped considerably since the dam era in California ended in the ‘70s, eliminating most of their natural habitat. What about the Sacramento Pike Minnow (squawfish)? They are ferocious predators and they are a non native junk fish. Nobody targets them like stripers. They love to eat salmon eggs and fry and grow to about 36” long. And how ironic is it that the pike minnow’s main predator is the striped bass! If you eliminate the stripers the pike minnow will take over and eat everything. Why no mention of them? I’ll tell you why. SSJID and OID are part of a large billion dollar agri-business coalition with southern state water managers to divert attention away from huge fish-sucking pumps (22,000 horsepower pumps strong enough to reverse the flow of a river) and other water diversions. Yes, I know farmers need water. But the huge corporations don’t care about our fish. It’s all about profit. How about building Friant Dam and draining almost the entire San Joaquin River totally dry? What was done to mitigate the loss of an entire ecosystem? I realize that water diversions are good economically and needed for flood control. But these water districts are doing you a disservice by misleading you to believe striped bass is the cause of the fish problems. There are many causes that collectively amount to Armageddon for our fish. Urban sprawl, pollution, pesticides, sewage discharges, ocean conditions, water diversions, dams, predator fish, sea lions, drought, poaching. The list is long. I seriously think that by the end of this century, California salmon & steelhead will have gone the way of the buffalo.

Now, Dennis Wyatt has started drinking the Kool-Aid. He proposes the state is protecting bass fishing interests. Sorry, Dennis, the pro bass fishermen are after black bass, another non native species. In fact, drive out to the Delta communities sometime and stop in a few stores and ask them what the impact of removing striped and black bass from the Delta would be. You better run after asking because you’ll likely be shot at.

The problem here is farmers, fish, homes, and businesses all need water. You can’t grow water. We are already running out and the population is growing. Building a peripheral canal will not add water, and we already have seen the effects of building dams. My solution is simple. We need to move on nuclear power now. We could build de-salination plants on the coast powered by small nuclear power plants and pipe the water into the valley. Then we can build big nuclear power plants way out in the desert to provide power to the cities. Then we can start on a plan to get fish over or through existing dams and remove unnecessary dams not used for recreation. We can get started with the money allocated to the Peripheral Canal.

Get the facts before you form an opinion. There are two sides to every story.
Wayne Flora
June 21, 2010