DAN BACHER – INDYBAY
As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was shamelessly greenwashing his way across Europe and the Middle East to meet with political leaders about “fighting climate change” and “creating green jobs,” a coalition of environmental groups sent a notice of intent to sue over the Schwarzenegger’s administration’s failure to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead in two North Coast rivers.
Two press releases issued by the Governor’s Office today were typical of those continually spit out by his P.R. machine. The first stated, “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today joined Roberto Formigoni, the president of Lombardy Region, Italy, to urge regional and local leaders to take action to fight climate change and help create green jobs while highlighting the World Regions Forum to be held in Milan, Italy from November 19 through November 21.”
In the second, Schwarzenegger issued a self-congratulatory statement applauding the California Energy Commission’s unanimous vote to adopt “first-in-the-nation” energy efficiency standards for televisions:
“It is the real, achievable policies like the first-in-the-nation standards adopted by the Energy Commission today that have made California a world leader in the fight against climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he gloated. “Not only has our commitment to energy efficiency standards like these created billions in savings for consumers, it has allowed California’s per capita electricity consumption to remain flat over the last 30 years while national energy consumption has steadily increased. I applaud the commission for its hard work to enact these and other cost-effective energy efficiency standards that are not only great for the environment, but also good for consumers.”
As Schwarzenegger was promoting his “green energy” scams and playing the role of the “Green Governor,” a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, Northern California River Watch, and Coast Action Group addressed the reality, rather than the fantasy of the “Green Governor,” who is worshipped by the corporate media and some corporate “environmental” groups. The three organizations announced their intent to sue California’s State Water Resources Control Board for authorizing water diversions that harm federally protected salmon and steelhead trout in the Russian River and Gualala River watersheds.
“The water board is violating the Endangered Species Act by permitting water diversions in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, primarily for vineyards, that adversely affect salmon,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Miller said diversions and pumping from streams for grape growing dewater rivers and creeks where listed fish species spawn, harming imperiled coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. Dewatering of streams occurs not only during spring and summer vineyard irrigation, but also due to winter “frost protection” pumping to protect budding grapes from frost. When freezing temperatures hit the North Coast, vineyards pumping water for frost protection can dry up the Russian River and its tributaries, stranding and killing young salmon.
“Twelve years after the state water board determined that pumping for frost protection is harmful to salmon and concluded it to be a waste and unreasonable use of water, the board has still failed to take appropriate action on frost irrigation,” said Miller. “Further fish kills are unacceptable — coho salmon are near extinction in the Russian River, and chinook salmon and steelhead are not far behind.”
In the spring of both 2008 and 2009, Miller said there were fish kills due to excessive water diversions in the main stem of the Russian River at Hopland and in Felta Creek, a tributary of the Russian River. There are at least 60,000 acres of vineyards in the Russian River watershed, 70 percent of which are within 300 feet of salmon streams. The Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River is also experiencing dramatic changes from overpumping, and fish habitat and survival are being significantly harmed.
“River Watch is hopeful that this notice will protect the last of the species and ultimately allow the restoration of fish runs,” said River Watch member Larry Hanson.
The State Water Resources Control Board permits and authorizes harmful water pumping, diversions, and water storage and continues to issue water appropriation permits in the over-allocated Russian River and Gualala River watersheds, in conflict with public trust values and beneficial uses, according to Miller.
In 1997, the water board released a report identifying vineyard practices, particularly frost protection activities, that adversely impact federally listed species of fish struggling to survive in the Russian River basin and its tributaries. The National Marine Fisheries Service requested in the spring of 2009 that the water board pass regulations to protect listed fish species, but the board has continued to allow frost-protection withdrawals and unreasonable and excessive water use to continue in these watersheds.
“The water board is violating the Endangered Species Act by consenting to improper use and by failing to enforce existing regulations,” emphasized Miller. “The region’s significant fisheries are near extinction: coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) on the central California coast are listed as endangered by both the state and federal governments; chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) along the California coast are federally listed as threatened; and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) on the central California coast and northern California are federally listed as threatened.”
“Central California coast coho salmon are now at only 1 to 2 percent of their historical abundance. Coho have been eliminated from more than half of their historical streams in California, and in recent years, only 500 to 1,000 wild coho have returned to the entire central coast region to spawn. California coast chinook salmon have declined 97 to 99 percent from historical runs. Northern California coast steelhead have declined by 90 percent and central California coast steelhead have declined by 80 to 90 percent in the past 50 years,” Miller added.
Miller noted that salmon and steelhead spawn in freshwater streams and young fish require habitat with sufficient flows; deep pools; adequate food and shelter; and clean, cold water in order to survive long enough to migrate to the sea. The huge amounts of water withdrawn for grape growing dries up spawning beds and kills fish or leaves young salmon and steelhead stranded in hot and crowded shallow pools, where they are exposed to overcrowding and predators.
While Schwarzenegger flies around the globe to portray his false image as the “Green Governor” and issues a constant barrage of “green energy” press releases, he has not only presided over the decline of Russian River and Navarro River salmon and steelhead runs, but has relentlessly attacked the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. He recently pressured the federal government to do an “independent” review of a court-ordered federal biological opinion protecting Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales.
He has helped to engineer the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales by presiding over the largest increases in water exports from the California Delta history. And he has done nothing to prevent pollution of our bay, Delta, river, lake and ocean waters by unregulated discharges of agricultural waste water.
His two “solutions” to California’s fishery declines, rather than addressing the roots of the problem by curbing water exports, reducing water pollution and stopping the rampant destruction of fishery habitat, are to build a peripheral canal and to kick sustainable seaweed harvesters, fishermen and Indian Tribes off the water by promoting the corrupt, fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process overseen by oil industry, real estate and marina development interests.
There is absolutely nothing “green” or “environmental” about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the “Fish Terminator,” as he pursues his relentless war on California’s fish populations. The former “Austrian Oak” makes former Governor Gray Davis look like John Muir and Pete Wilson look like Julia Butterfly in comparison.