Jack Cox: The $2 Million Fish: The Result of Jerry Browns Water Policy

Why does California have a lack of water—it is government policy, not the drought—for jobs and families. Our VERY confused Guv Brown is spending $2 million per fish, for nine fish–$21 million of your tax money and water desperately needed.

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“In May for example 30,000 Acre Feet of water was drained from Melones which is enough water for 300,000 people for a year. The value of this water was $21,000,0000. The total number of fish flushed into lower waters down the Stanislaus River was nine fish — that is not a typo — nine fish. Based on this water value, the cost to flush each fish down stream was than $2 million.”

The Governor needs help. Obviously his decision making is impaired. In private business he would be fired and asked to repay what he wasted. This is on the people of California. We elected him four time as governor, each term worse then the previous one. Shame on us for spending $21 million for NINE fish.

This article was specially written for the California Political News and Views by my long time friend, Jack Cox. He is truly a Great American.

delta smelt

The $2 Million Fish: The Result of Jerry Browns Water Policy

by Jack Cox, President — The Communications Institute, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views, 10/20/15

Governor Jerry Brown of California issued an executive this spring to deal with the drought that devastated California. It included rationing of water by consumers, removal of lawns, plus much more. However, he missed a largest reason for wasted water in the state: failed environmental policies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other laws.

Throughout recent years thousands of acre feet of water have been release by the Brown appointed State Water Brown along with US National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. The releases are authorized under ESA around the state in order to grow the Salmon population in the lower rivers and the Bay Delta. The scheme is that by flushing cold water from the bottom of dams, fish will be flushed toward the delta and the lower rivers. the other goal is keep the water temperature lower in the rivers below the dams. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

In May for example 30,000 AF of water was drained from Melones which is enough water for 300,000 people for a year. The value of this water was $21,000,0000. The total number of fish flushed into lower waters down the Stanislaus River was nine fish — that is not a typo — nine fish. Based on this water value, the cost to flush each fish down stream was than $2 million.

Douglas Demko, President and CEO, Fishbio, an internationally recognized expert and an expert on the Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers, points out the failure of the policy:

  • Most fish affected by flows aren’t native but hatchery fish.
  • The environmental goal is expand the Salmon population won’t work. Their goal for Stanislaus River is 20,000 Salmon but the habitat can only support 5,000.
  • Flows don’t work on the rivers because the non-native habitat does not support fish laying more eggs.
  • Only about 3% of the Delta has any habitat anymore with the rest being rock levies.
  • Predator fish such as Bass, planted by state and federal agencies years ago, are responsible now for eating baby salmon before they ever grow to be adults.

Environmentalists have maintained their political clout with Brown and his political appointees and many Democrat state legislators. Unfortunately some irrigation districts are using this excuse to get more water to sell to users our of the area for big profits. This week 23,000 AF will be released by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation District to reap a windfall profit of nearly $12 million while the lakes are continued to be drawn down.

The “fish flows” continued throughout the year and now New Melones, one of the largest reservoirs in the state, with capacity of 2.5 million AF. Now less than 150,000 AFof water is in the reservoir. The capacity of Melones could meet the water needs of the cities of San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento combined for more than a year.

Not only do the fish flows not achieve their desired goal but they have a devastating impact on agriculture and tourism which a large part of Sierra Foothills and the Valley depend upon. For example, more than 10,000 people live on Lake Tulloch below the New Melons Reservoir about 30 minutes east of Modesto. The local irrigation districts informed residents that the lake may have to be drained to meet releases goal under the ESA despite the fact that the areas drinking water came from the lake. Through the work of Congressman Tom McClintock, state legislators from both parties and the public the lake was not drained.

Another aspect of failed environmental policy is the ability of activists to stop the construction or expansion of reservoirs in the state. In 1978 the population of California was 22.8 million people and now it is 39 million, a 42% increase. Since the construction of Melones in 1978, not one major new dam has been built.  California’s water storage capacity is 42 million acre feet. Therefore the state since 1978 has increased its storage by 3.8% while the population has grown by 42%.

It is true that no man is to blame for the drought but the failure to be adequately prepared for it is.

Environmentalists through PR campaigns and law suits have achieved their goals with zero consideration of their impact on people, the economy and even ecology of our communities. Some environmental groups like Earth First now want the releases to “save the fish” to be increased by 50% immediately! It is noteworthy that these same groups oppose the construction of new dams in the name of saving the environment. Their stated goal is for 100% of water to travel down stream for fish with nothing held behind reservoirs.

California needs to use the scarce amount of water left to care of people and grow food.  We do not have the luxury to undertake some new ecological scheme. We need to get back to basics by providing water to people and to finally have the political will to build the water storage for the future and reverse misguided environmental policy. This will require policy makers to confront the extreme elements of the environmental movement that are out of touch with reality.

The irony of the concept of draining Lake Tulloch is that it will actually destroy another habitat that is home to wonderful wildlife like Bald Eagles.

Finally, the problem with the much of the environmental movement of the past 45 years is that it failed to confront the economic/social impact of the policies they advocate. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Environmentalists want the farmers of the Central Valley and people in foothills communities to pay for their stupidity with the destruction of their ecology and economies. The unemployment rate in one valley town is 42%!

Congressmen Tom McClintock and Jeff Denham joined by a bipartisan group of legislators have been pointing out the folly of these policies. The El Nino may lessen the threat to our water brought by environmental extremists. However, the time is now to establish policies on all levels of government that stop the extreme environmentalists and their political patsies from opposing water policies that can solve our problems and end the waste causes by the Endangered Species Act.

Note: Jack Cox,  founder of The Lake Tulloch Alliance, lives in the Sierra Foothills and has led efforts in the region to support sensible water policy He is president of The Communications Institute which conducts studies and education programs on public policy issues nationally.  For more information www.laketulloch.org


About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. Augie Lascola says

    Well, it’s happening again. Massive Flooding happening in the Eastern USA.
    Moonbeam, forget the fish and the bullet train here is an idea that could solve our constant drought and our Country’s economy problems and could save Trillions of flood and drought damage dollars in the Eastern, Midwest and Western USA. As you will also realize, it would also put lots of people to work in designing and building the project and it isn’t even Rocket Science.
    As a retired Engineer I can tell you that this is simple not as difficult as putting someone on the moon. IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE folks, it’s a piece of cake to do!

  2. Burton Roseman MD says

    Please read Let There Be Water which tells the world how Israel has an excess of water and is more arid than California. 90% of water used is recycled and used for agriculture, parks, lake and river rehab. Only drip irrigation. Multiple desalinization plants. Remote computerized monitoring of water meters rapidly detect leaks. Water income is used only for water infrastucture and other water costs. Water employees who invent new technology own the patents and Israel gives them seed money to privatize their inventions. We are hostage to our Climate Change Believers and their lawyers.

  3. US "Citizen" says

    And now the water companies are going to raise our rates because they are not making enough money. The insanity in this state is astounding!!!!

  4. Jesse Owens says

    Surface water naturally flows to ecologically rich and diverse areas – in the case of California, it happens to be the Bay Delta. The amount of water diverted from the Delta is starting to have massive effects on not only marine biology, but also salt water intrusion. To say we need to uphold our “right” to continue using mis-managed water is to accept its ok to gorge yourself with your favorite food everyday just because you have the right – in the end, the fast track to poor health and quality of life catches up to you. In the case for the lack of water tied to the Central Valley farmers, they simply increased their groundwater pumping and are thriving in this time of severe drought. See ‘Impacts on California’s Ongoing Drought: Agriculture’ study here: http://pacinst.org/publication/impacts-of-californias-ongoing-drought-agriculture/

    Statewide agriculture-related jobs also reached a record-high of 417,000 people in 2014, highlighting the sector’s ability to withstand the reduction of available water.

    About the reservoir argument – saying we are inadequately prepared for the drought because we do not have more reservoirs is incorrect. Not one reservoir in our SWP or CVP systems have achieved 100% average capacity fills. Building more dams and reservoir storage is a wasteful tool in our water management tool box. No rain, no reservoir, less valleys, less wildlife. More taxpayer money for less returns. The state is technologically advanced, we have systems in place to detect leaks within a day (AMI), conservation efforts statewide has saved us over the state mandated goal, and we have recycling, ground water replenishment, and ocean desal systems on-line and serving its purpose to get us through this extreme drought.

    Water management is a very personal and highly-localized effort. Each region will have their approaches to efficient water use so to say we need to pull water from across the country is unfeasible – energy costs to pump over mountains, maintenance of pipeline when areas are struck by severe storms, water quality plants that need to be built, and maintained, digging, trenching, and burying pipe in order to avoid large quantities of evaporation loss. I’m not qualified to write a paper or peer-reviewed study on how best to manage water but I do know my stuff and I feel its important enough to know that when it comes to water management, there will never be a one-fix solution. Simplicity and simple-mindedness is no match for the California water situation.

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