Lawmakers respond to threat to salmon industry

Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) responded to a scientific review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which warned that H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, would damage salmon populations and undermine the recreational and commercial fishing industries that rely on them. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 29, and has now been placed on the U.S. Senate Legislative calendar for consideration. It was recently included in the West Act introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

"West Coast fisheries and coastal communities rely on a healthy level of salmon production from the Central Valley," the report stated. "It appears that H.R. 1837’s provisions would have an adverse effect on Central Valley salmon habitat, total salmon production, fishery participants, and fishery economic benefits."

"This scientific review shows that the House Majority’s water bill puts politics ahead of established science and would kill local jobs," said Thompson. "The bill is nothing more than a giveaway to well-funded south-of-Delta water contractors. Solutions to California’s water challenges should be based on sound science so that wildlife is protected, and our fishers, farmers, families and businesses that depend on the Delta for their livelihoods are not harmed."

"This bill is a water grab," Napolitano said. "It throws out years of negotiations between California’s water users in order to privilege some groups over others. This scientific review shows again how Californians will pay the economic price if this bill, or any part of it, becomes law."

H.R. 1837 rolls back environmental protections for salmon and other species and reroutes a greater share of California’s water to agricultural users in the San Joaquin Valley. This lack of protection could lead to salmon die-offs and lost fishing seasons in California and Oregon, similar what happened in 2008 and 2009, when fishermen were unable to fish due to dangerously low population levels, costing jobs and hurting the economy.