So how can restoring the commercial Chinook salmon fishing threaten the future of South County almond farmers?
Because if the Chinook salmon population continues to decline and it becomes a federally endangered species the federal government would force water districts in the San Joaquin River Group Authority which includes the South San Joaquin irrigation District to release more water.
So who authorized the commercial season after it was suspended in 2008 and 2009 and drastically shortened in 2010? The federal government, who else?
It is just another example of the federal government dictates are further devastating the San Joaquin Valley that has been termed the New Appalachia by the Congressional Research Service in 2005 in a 353-page report that examined chronic employment and poverty issues.
It is in line with other federal government dictates that also conflict severely such as the demand that we clean up our air by 2014 to a certain level or lose federal highway funds. Yet the same federal government approves the North America Free Trade Agreement that allows Mexico’s diesel trucks that burn significantly dirtier fuel to operate in California. They just happen to be able to reach the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley - the worst spot for pollution - and return to Mexico all while using dirtier Mexican diesel they fill their tanks with before entering the United States.
Meanwhile we get dirtier air, lose federal highway funds, and throw valley truck drivers out of work.
The commercial Chinook Salmon season is more of the same.
The National Marine Fisheries Service gave in to pressure applied by influential California congressional politicians representing coastal interests to restore the commercial season.
So a relatively few commercial fishing jobs can be saved and a favorite entrée in San Francisco can keep flowing to restaurants, the future of family farms are put in peril while tens of thousands of primary farm jobs are threatened in the San Joaquin Valley with many more ranging from food processing to trucking to retail and service employment are at risk of going to the wayside as well.
That is why the river authority have filed a lawsuit against the federal fisheries managers.
Valley irrigation districts such as SSJID, Oakdale, Turlock, Modesto, and Merced are vulnerable because they have managed their water resources well while the federal government hasn’t due to political considerations. The Bureau of Reclamation has been overcommitted on every major reservoir they have built as part of the Central Valley Project even before they were finished. As a result virtually any additional significant water releases needed to help a struggling fish population is foisted on local irrigation districts.
If the federal government is going to take water to protect a relative small part of the California economy in the form of commercial fishermen, then they should take water from everyone including Silicon Valley that need vast amounts of water to make computer chips as well as from the urbanized Los Angeles Basin.
The simple truth is the federal government doesn’t act in unison on anything when it comes to the environment. They treat water and air as if they have no interconnection with the economy and jobs just as the same Congress can craft NAFTA regulations that make it impossible for the San Joaquin Valley to meet another set of regulations that the same Congress adopted for air quality.
It leaves the irrigation districts with little choice but to sue to try and stop the federal government from pursuing a policy that can send the Chinook salmon to an endangered species listing.