San Joaquin River DOTMDL -- Technical Working Group

Delta plan has anglers furious ; Project would ship more water south

Stockton Record - January 27, 2005
By Warren Lutz

Delta plan has anglers furious ; Project would ship more water south
Stockton Record 1/27/06
By Warren Lutz, staff writer

STOCKTON - Delta fishermen lashed out at state water officials at a public hearing Thursday night, saying their plans to pump more water south would deal a fatal blow to Delta fish.

"Even the project's name - the South Delta Improvements Program - failed to escape the anglers' ire.

"Any plan that requires more pumping from the Delta cannot have the name 'improvements' on it," said Stockton bass fisherman Dave Hurley.

About two-thirds of Californians drink water from the Delta, much of which is sent south through pumps near Tracy for drinking and irrigating farmland. The project involves permanent water barriers in Delta canals, which officials say will allow the state to protect fish, deliver water to local farmers and send more water to the southern part of the state.

The state uses temporary stone walls to steer fish away from those pumps.

State water department official Kathy Kelly told the crowd of about 120 people the project doesn't necessarily mean more water sent south. Water quality needs alone mean the project must be built, she said.

"We need those gates right now," she said.

While the hearing in downtown Stockton was supposed to be about the project's environmental report, most speakers focused their complaint on the project itself.

Most saw the plan as being driven by politics and profits at the cost of Delta fish and local water needs.

Others referred to recent studies that suggested water exports probably contributed to the recent population decline of Delta smelt.

Biologists watch the tiny fish closely because it is considered a barometer for the Delta's overall health.

At one point during the hearing, dozens of outdoorsmen showed off their numbers by dumping 4,000 postcards from project critics into a black plastic basket as water officials looked on.

Supporters of the plan - mostly water agencies, farm groups and cities south of the Delta - say the plan would only allow 5 percent more water to be sent south through large pumps near Tracy.

Early on, a Santa Clara Water Agency official spoke in the project's favor, followed by many more against it.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance Chairman Bill Jennings, who said he waded through the environmental report, doubted the project would meet any of its goals except increased exports.

"It is simply a stalking horse for accelerated exports," he said.

Jennings said he and other opponents probably wouldn't be able to stop the project, predicting the matter would end up in court.

Regarding state water officials, "they're on a freight train," he said.

This was the last of three public hearings on the project. Public comments will be accepted until Feb. 7.

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