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.

“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.