The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185
Peter Galvin, (707)

Delta Legislation Enabling Construction of Peripheral Canal Disaster for Region's Already Struggling Fisheries

Conservation and Fishing Groups Oppose Bill


A coalition of
conservation and commercial fishing organizations sent a letter today to the
state legislature opposing the badly flawed Delta bill package that is being
rushed through the legislature and opposing the approval of an expensive and
environmentally destructive "peripheral canal." The legislature is currently considering legislation that
serves as a road map to constructing the controversial peripheral canal and
includes funding for new dams that
would devastate the Bay-Delta ecosystem and its
native fisheries.

"Given crashing
fish populations and water shortages, any discussions, planning, or spending on
new infrastructure to divert Sacramento River and Delta water simply don't make
sense," said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological
Diversity. "Why should we entrust the agencies and the governor with additional
governance authority for a new canal to divert even more water when they have
presided over record water diversions, the collapse of native fish populations,
and the destruction of our salmon fishery?"

The Center for
Biological Diversity is the first national conservation group to take a position
against the peripheral canal. Other signatories to the letter sent today to the
president pro tem are commercial- and sport-fishing associations and watershed
restoration groups.

A package of five bills regarding
the Bay-Delta is currently being considered by the state legislature. A politically stacked conference committee is scheduled to
consider the bills this week and send the package to the floor for vote next
week before the legislative recess.enable
construction of the peripheral canal and restructure California's water laws
and governance. They
would establish a political committee
(four of the seven members would be
appointed by the governor) that could
authorize the canal without voter approval, would weaken existing environmental laws, and provide no enforceable standards for fishery
restoration. The bills would

A draft economic
report released to the legislature last week reveals that the proposed canal
could cost a staggering $54 billion. This
dangerous legislation would indebt Californians for decades to
come and exacerbate the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon and
steelhead, delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail, and
other Delta fish populations. The impacts could reverberate beyond the Bay-Delta
ecosystem and affect other species that depend on these fish, such as southern
orcas and seabirds.

aspect of this budget-busting project makes sense at a time when native fish
populations have collapsed due to unsustainable water diversions and state parks
are being closed by budget problems," said Miller. "After three
decades of failing to solve the fisheries and water quality issues in the Delta,
lawmakers are now rushing to approve a patchwork package of misguided bills in
the last weeks of this legislative session."

Though the
sponsors of the legislation claim they are not authorizing a peripheral canal,
the legislation would give a governor who has declared his intent to build it
the majority of votes on a council that would have the authority to fund and
construct it. The bills will weaken existing
environmental laws and
guarantee water for west San Joaquin Valley agriculture while ignoring the
toxic drainage problems from these lands that degrade Delta fisheries, ecology,
and water quality. Aside from
the fact that there is no "surplus" water to fill a peripheral canal even if it
is built, the current legislation fails to solve the key conflict of providing
reliable water supply while protecting fish populations.

The signatory groups to the letter
are the Center for
Biological Diversity, California
Sportfishing Protection Alliance,
Small Boat Commercial
Salmon Fishermen's Association,
Crab Boat Owners
Association of San Francisco,
Water for Fish,
Alameda Creek
Alliance, Friends of
the Creeks, Friends of
the Arroyos, Nature in the
City, and Lake
Merritt Institute.

The Center for
Biological Diversity has been working to secure federal Endangered Species Act
protections for imperiled Bay-Delta and Sacramento River native fish species
such as steelhead trout, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252