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Salmon survived before without federal water
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I would like to respond to the letter to the editor written by Wayne Flora on June 22.  Wayne takes the Save the Stan campaign to task on the survival of salmon in our local Stanislaus River.  I don’t disagree with you that Dennis Wyatt may sometimes be a Kool-Aid-drinking supporter of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District. But regardless of the editor’s bias, the Save the Stan effort is important.  

The biological opinion used by the government to release more water down the Stanislaus River is just an expensive science fair project being conducted by government bureaucrats.  There is no evidence that this will work, but that won’t stop them from trying.  Unfortunately they are conducting this science fair project with water flowing through SSJID and OID facilities and with water that could be used by farmers and cities in the Central Valley.

The predation of salmon by striped bass is a big problem. The varying estimates of between 5% and 50% of the young salmon being eaten before they reach the Bay are not just guesses but are data produced from ongoing studies from private fish biologists hired to study the fish populations on the Stanislaus River.  The fishing community doesn’t want to eliminate this fish and the bureaucrats in charge seemingly ignore this problem.  Maybe they don’t want to fight with the sportsmen associations.

SSJID and OID are both legitimate stewards of the Stanislaus River system.  Not only are farmers and ranchers huge environmentalists out of necessity, state and federal regulations require it.  Mr. Flora laments the fact that Woodward Reservoir “shuts off miles of gravel spawning beds” for salmon.  This is not true.  Woodward Reservoir is an off stream storage lake.  The Stanislaus River doesn’t run through this reservoir so its existence doesn’t jeopardize any salmon spawning habitat.

The destruction of Goodwin Dam and other dams on the Stanislaus was also proposed by Mr. Flora because he claims they are no longer needed.  The flood protection, water storage and electrical generation benefits have obviously been overlooked.  Likewise the proposal to install fish ladders on these dams is short sighted.  It doesn’t help a salmon to climb over a dam to spawn at a higher altitude if the young salmon have to swim back to the ocean through a lake full of hungry trout and bass.

The salmon problem is a complex one, but one hardly solved by flushing water down the river.  People seem to forget that before all the dams existed, many years the Stanislaus River would dry up completely.  Water would not flow again until after the winter rains started (after the September- October. salmon runs).  Somehow the fish still survived without our government sending them water.  Many biologists believe the conditions in the ocean have a much greater influence on the salmon population than any factor in the river (where salmon spend a small fraction of their lifespan).

Despite my disagreements with Mr. Flora about the Stanislaus River, I wholeheartedly concur with one of his solutions to our problems with the Stan.  I will be the first in line to support your rally for more nuclear power.  Maybe SSJID can build one of those reactors in Ripon when they get permission to sell electricity in their district.
 John Michael Smith
June 22, 2010