Delta Blues Trailer

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the Jet Propulsion Lab

NASA Data Reveal Major Groundwater Loss in California

December 14, 2009

PASADENA, Calif. – "New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California's primary agricultural region -- the Central Valley -- and its major mountain water source -- the Sierra Nevadas -- have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America's largest reservoir."


More evidence that the amount of water used for agriculture in California - from groundwater pumping in the Central Valley to diversions from the Delta - is unsustainable for the long term.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where the $ for the water bill are going

The $11 billion water bill is a lot of money, but to understand how much it really is and where the money is slotted to go, read this article in the Bee. Stunning amounts and something for virtually every player in the California water power game.

And here's a cool Google map from KQEDhealth.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Major Water Bill Passes, Huge Fight Ahead

An $11 billion bond initiative will go to the voters next November. Expect an epic California political battle: north vs. south, coastal vs. inland, enviros vs. farmers, water districts vs. water districts. The total package may top $40 billion.

Schwarzenegger wants this as his legacy project and will fight very hard for it as he goes out the door next year. He's also pledged to build the peripheral canal, a huge battle within the battle. And this water package is sure to be a big issue in both the Governor and Senate races.

I'll post some of the analysis as it becomes available. Here's coverage from the NYT and LA Times on passage of the package.

Delta Blues will cover many of these issues. Look for it in early 2010.

Here's Schwarzenegger's Announcement of the Water Package

Warning: It's long

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Op-Ed in Sacramento BEE

My View: Farm, fishing industries can't remain foes in water debate

The author, Larry Collins, is in Delta Blues. Here's an excerpt:

"...California farmers and fishermen are in the same boat, but the two groups are being pitted against each other in rhetoric used by politicians, activists and the media."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sen. Feinstein Urges Outside Review of Calif. Water Restrictions

A puzzler, although Feinstein has always looked after Central Valley interests and enjoys strong support from the typically Republican farming community.

Note the fourth paragraph about the letter from billionaire Stewart Resnick. So now the Obama Administration has to deal with California's Governor, senior Senator and big Ag interests all pressuring it to reopen the two biological opinions.

Here's the article.

UPDATE: Why Feinstein seeks review of delta findings

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar Responds... the Wall Street Journal's editorial on the Delta's problems. Their take: It's all about the smelt.

Here's the original WSJ editorial.
Here's Salazar's response.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fixing the Delta: How Will We Pay for It?

A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California:

"This report examines the question of how to pay for urgently needed investments in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta."

As the debate gets more contentious, and all the competing interests involved with the Delta become increasingly dug into their positions and slogans like "fish vs. farmers" become the main debating points, the PPIC provides a much-needed analytical perspective on the Delta's problems.

Get the report here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Cause of Delta Woes - Groundwater Pumping

This opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee points to excessive groundwater pumping in Sacramento County as another cause of the environmental decline in the Delta.

The Bee has also started an online page on all things Delta:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ocean Conditions?

One of the reasons given over the last few years for the decline of salmon runs on the west coast is "ocean conditions," which is a euphemism for the lack of food for salmon to fatten up on before they return to the rivers to spawn. The cause can be just about anything: warmer water, tricky currents, not enough upwelling, etc., but it also seems to be one of those excuses that can explain a difficult problem while offering no realistic solution. Some fisheries experts believe this is just another excuse to not focus on the real problem: fixing the Delta.

Here is an interesting eyewitness account of current "ocean conditions"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Give the Delta a Voice! Rally

A rally on the Capitol steps in Sacramento on July 7th.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Delta gates proposal builds support, but environmental impact remains murky

From Matt Weiser at the Bee:

"A plan to build gates across two Delta channels has strong support from state and federal leaders, though little is known about how the project would affect the environment.

The so-called "two gates" project would build moveable gates across Old River and Connection Slough in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta."

Big backer is the Metro Water District of Southern California. More...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Despair flows as fields go dry and unemployment rises

Article in the Los Angeles Times about tough times in the Central Valley for farmers and workers.

Here are the numbers:

"Water scarcity looms as a major challenge to California's $37-billion agricultural industry, which has long relied on imported water to bloom. The consequences of closing the spigot are already evident here in rural Fresno County, about 230 miles north of Los Angeles. Lost farm revenue will top $900 million in the San Joaquin Valley this year, said UC Davis economist Richard Howitt, who estimates that water woes will cost the recession-battered region an additional 30,000 jobs in 2009."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar visits Central Valley

He offers up cash and a plan to expedite water transfers.

From the AP:

"At a spirited town hall meeting in California's agricultural heartland, Salazar told a packed auditorium that Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes will "bring all of the key federal agencies to the table" to coordinate efforts.

Salazar said he wanted to direct $160 million in Recovery Act funds to the federal Central Valley Project, which manages the dams and canals that move water around the state, and will expedite water transfers from other areas."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NOAA Biological Opinion Released

Here's the NOAA press release. The full report is linked to at the bottom of the release. An excerpt:

"NOAA released its final biological opinion today that finds the water pumping operations in California’s Central Valley by the federal Bureau of Reclamation jeopardize the continued existence of several threatened and endangered species under the jurisdiction of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

The bureau has provisionally accepted NOAA’s recommended changes to its water pumping operations, and said it will begin to implement its near-term elements as it carefully evaluates the overall opinion.

Federal biologists and hydrologists concluded that current water pumping operations in the Federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project should be changed to ensure survival of winter and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, the southern population of North American green sturgeon and Southern Resident killer whales, which rely on Chinook salmon runs for food."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New way to save salmon in the delta

Here's an article in the SF Chronicle about a high-tech solution to help salmon in the Delta. Interesting, but it doesn't solve the main problem: high quality water flow.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Low snow, reservoir levels force rationing

Snowpack is 66% of normal in the Sierra. Last year it was 72%. Bad news for everyone (and the fish).

Read the article in the Chronicle here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hundreds Protest Cuts in Water in California

Lots of coverage of the march protesting the lack of water for the Central Valley. More than ever, it seems this story is about fish vs. farmers.

I planned on covering it for the documentary but was out of town all week and was unable to get there. If you know anybody who shot video of the protest, please let me know at info (at)

New York Times Story

Fresno ABC station story with video

San Jose Mercury News story

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Delta rivers top U.S. most-troubled list

From the Sacramento Bee:

"The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers will be named today as the nation's most endangered waterways by the environmental group American Rivers.

It will be a news flash mainly for the other 49 states.

Many Californians are already well aware of the myriad problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its two main rivers. They've lived for several years with water shortages caused by the Delta's environmental problems, and with the threat of its declining fish populations, aging levees and problem plumbing."


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Congressmen want more water for California farmers

Citing massive unemployment and economic collapse in their districts, some California Congressmen are seeking an exception to the Endangered Species Act to allow more water to flow into the Central Valley.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

"Speaking before the House Natural Resources Committee, several of the state's lawmakers discounted the drought as the reason for the San Joaquin Valley's lack of water.

Rather, they said it was a matter of priorities, with the government valuing fish over families."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Report: Salmon booms and busts tough to change

Here's the AP article on the NOAA Fisheries Service report about the 2008 Sacramento River salmon collapse.

For a PDF copy of the report, go here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

As salmon go, so go the killer whales

Fascinating article in the Sacramento Bee about how the decline of Sacramento River salmon is impacting Orcas along the Pacific coast. Fewer salmon, fewer Orcas it seems.

Also, Tom Stienstra, the San Francisco Chronicle's outdoors writer, has this tidbit in his February 22nd column:

"Now get this, from the fine print inside a report by the National Marine Fisheries Service: Of the salmon that spawn or are released from hatcheries in the Sacramento River downstream of Redding, only 20 percent make it to the Delta because of water projects. Of that 20 percent that make it to the Delta, 60 percent die because of more water projects. So for the juvenile salmon that start their journey in Northern California, only 8 percent make it to the Bay to head out to the ocean."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Delta water managers choosing salmon over smelt

It's no longer just farmers vs. fish, or Northern California vs. Southern California in the battle over water in the Delta. It is now a choice between species - a chilling thought to choose one fish for possible extinction over another - according to this piece in the Sacramento Bee.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Nature Conservancy Endorses Peripheral Canal

The endorsement shows the complexity of the arguments for and against the canal and is another indication that the upcoming political fight over water in California will include some untraditional alliances.

Here's the key quote from the Nature Conservancy: “If we don’t take steps to repair some of the Delta’s natural ecological functions, we have no hope of saving the species that depend on this delicate ecosystem,” said Mike Sweeney, executive director for The Nature Conservancy's California Program. “The Nature Conservancy’s analysis led us to the conclusion that, short of ending water exports from the Delta, a peripheral canal is an essential component to restoring the conditions that Delta species need to survive.”

Also, here's the argument against shutting down the pumps to protect the endangered Delta Smelt.