Delta Blues Trailer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New rules will cut delta water pumping by up to 33 percent

This article describes the release of the long-awaited biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the future of the Delta Smelt.

Additional water cuts to the Central Valley and water rationing in parts of California now seem likely unless Northern California receives record snow and rainfall this winter.

Environmentalists called Monday's news overdue.

"The delta smelt is a bellwether for the health of the delta," said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. "What has happened to the smelt is indicative of what has happened to salmon and other species. We have increased pumping from the delta over the past decade and seen dramatic reductions in their numbers."

Others called the order a travesty.

"California's primary water supply has just taken another big hit," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors, an association of 27 farm and city water districts.

SF Chronicle coverage here

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Baby Fish in Polluted San Francisco Estuary Waters Are Stunted and Deformed

This study by UC Davis researchers is not only more bad news about the future of fish in the Delta, but includes larger ramifications:

"This is one of the first studies examining the effects of real-world contaminant mixtures on growth and development in wildlife," said study lead author David Ostrach, a research scientist at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. He said the findings have implications far beyond fish, because the estuary is the water source for two-thirds of the people and most of the farms in California.

"If the fish living in this water are not healthy and are passing on contaminants to their young, what is happening to the people who use the water, are exposed to the same chemicals or eat the fish?" Ostrach said.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Most state native game fish face extinction

A new report by noted fish biologist Peter Moyle (a character in the documentary) is a frightening look at the future of California's trout, steelhead and salmon populations. Twenty one of thirty species may face extinction by the end of the century. The main reasons: dams, global warming and the lack of cool, clear water that the fish require to thrive.

Here's an excellent article in the SF Chronicle by Jane Kay.

Here's the link to the California Trout page on the report. Scroll down to the bottom to see the exec summary and the full report.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Head of Delta Vision Task Force lays out some facts about CA water

Phil Isenberg writes about the Delta Vision Task Force recommendations in the Sacramento Bee. I suppose the headline is the backing of "dual conveyance" - meaning a peripheral canal.

Mike Taugher covers the draft plan here for the Mercury News.

Here's the Delta Vision website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Delta Blues is in Post-Production and Seeking Funds for Completion

We're editing the film and conducting final interviews. To make a tax deductible contribution or to learn more about the project contact us at info (at)

Monday, September 15, 2008

More with Less: California Agriculture Can Thrive While Conserving Water

Here's the report from the Pacific Institute calling for more conservation from California farmers. It's a strong argument, but having spent some time with Central Valley farmers over the last month filming for the documentary - they're not going to go for it. The Ag folks I've talked to say they've already spent lots of time and money making their irrigation systems as efficient as possible and they can't do much more.

As with all the arguments related to the Delta there is truth on all sides

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Study by NRDC and Fishing Groups on Salmon and the Delta

From the press release:

The report, “Fish Out of Water: How Water Management in the Bay-Delta Threatens the Future of California’s Salmon Fishery,” describes how the State Water Project and Central Valley Project contribute to declining salmon populations, by reducing the availability of water necessary for migration and spawning, killing tens of thousands of juvenile salmon by sucking them into giant pumps used to export water, and blocking salmon’s migration route with their dams. The report comes on the heels of a federal court ruling that water project operations in the Central Valley jeopardize the survival of several salmon runs, and a few months after state and federal agencies closed California’s commercial salmon fishery for the first time ever due to record low numbers of fish returning to spawn.

Get the full report here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Peripheral Canal Is Best Strategy To Save Delta Ecosystem, Ensure Reliable Water Supply - PPIC

The Public Policy Institute of California releases a new report suggesting a peripheral anal is the best solution to help save the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. The PPIC is perceived as one of the few actors in the Delta battle that is truly independent and their voice carries considerable weight.

Needless to say, this issue will loom large in the upcoming documentary.

Here's the press release. The report can also be downloaded there.

The San Francisco Chronicle coverage is here.

Here's Dan Walters take on the report.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mixed Ruling for Central Valley Salmon

From the LA Times: "A federal judge struck a largely symbolic blow for imperiled salmon and steelhead Friday, declaring that the state's vast water-export system is putting the fish at risk but rejecting environmentalists' key demands for change."


Friday, July 11, 2008

Huge bond plan to revamp state water system

This piece in the SF Chronicle rolls out the effort by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein for a bipartisan plan to solve the state's water woes. It seems to have a taste for everyone on all sides of the storage, irrigation and environmental issues, but at $9 billion is it realistic?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Farmers vs. Fish Amid the California Drought

Here's an article in Time Magazine about Farmers vs. Fish in the Delta and in California's central valley. There's good reporting in it, and it highlights the difficulties the agricultural interests are having this year, with the double whammy of reduced water allocations and the drought in California.

More on this in the documentary.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Trucking Salmon Around the Delta

California Fish and Game is trucking salmon smolt from Northern California fish hatcheries around the Delta - and the dams, predators, and massive pumps that impede their journey to the sea. The smolt are acclimated in net fish pens and then set free in San Francisco Bay.

Here's a short video of the process, with more in the upcoming documentary:

Friday, April 11, 2008

End of the Salmon Season

Zeke Grader, from the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, talks about the role of the Delta in the salmon fishing closure.

Salmon fishing off California, Oregon banned

A sad day for commercial salmon fishermen and all the coastal people and businesses that depend on them. While some blame "ocean conditions," the experts I've talked to say that is but one of many things gone wrong for the salmon population. Troubles in the Delta are also at the top of the list and we'll investigate them for the documentary.

Here's the article in the SF Chronicle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Scientists breed smelt in case species becomes extinct in Delta

Matt Weiser, the Sacramento Bee's excellent environmental reporter, writes about the effort by UC Davis scientists to breed endangered Delta smelt in case they go extinct in the near (or long-term) future due to the environmental mess in the Delta.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Scientists try to explain dismal salmon run

SF Chronicle article on the crashing salmon runs in the Delta. Is the cause river conditions or ocean conditions? Pumping the water south or toxic agricultural runoff? Climate change or a natural cyclical pattern? Or a combination of some or all?

We'll examine these questions (and many others) in the documentary.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

California begins study of canal's effect on delta

The study is designed to see whether a "peripheral canal," an engineered waterway that would go around the most environmentally sensitive area of the delta, is a viable solution to some of the delta's troubles.

Back in 1982, there was an epic political fight over the question of a similar canal that was eventually rejected by California voters. The study is supposed to take 30 months, which seems like a long time for a region in crisis.

More on the DWR website.

Friday, March 7, 2008

California's water war heating up

Excellent column in the Sacramento Bee by political reporter Dan Walters. Lays out the political template of the story with some amusing anecdotes from past water wars thrown in.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Radio Program on Salmon Collapse

KQED's Forum radio show had an excellent hour today on the role of the Delta in the collapse of the Central Valley salmon.

Go here to listen or download the program as a podcast.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Central Valley Salmon Population Declines

An article in the SF Chronicle with the chilling phrase "unprecedented collapse" concerning the low number of salmon returning to Central Valley rivers in 2007. This is bound to impact the water flows through the Delta in the coming years.