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Help protect fish and waterways from agricultural pollution!

Help protect fish and waterways from agricultural pollution!

by Dan Bacher

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger squandered two big opportunities to improve water quality in California during his term in office.

First, his Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, in violation of the letter and intent of the original law, took water quality, oil spills and drilling, corporate aquaculture, military testing, wave energy projects, habitat destruction and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table in its bizarre concept of "protection." This resulted in the effective evisceration of the Marine Life Protection Act, a landmark law designed to provide comprehensive protection through the creation of a network of "marine protected areas" on the coast.

Second, as his privately funded MLPA Initiative moved forward, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board under the Schwarzenegger regime in 2006 ceded administration of the state's water quality law to industry advocacy groups that will continue to shield agricultural dischargers.

Unfortunately, the Board is proposing to continue its present policy of granting waivers to agricultural polluters, giving them virtual "permits to pollute. This approach has grievously failed in the past and will continue to fail in the future. It is time that the Board, under the Jerry Brown administration, break with the failed policies of the Schwarzenegger administration and clean up Central Valley waterways.

The policy of shielding polluters from compliance with the law has been disastrous for California fisheries and drinking water supplies throughout rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley. Toxic discharges, along with water exports and invasive species, are key factors in the unprecedented decline of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, young striped bass and other species in recent years.

In July 2007, the Board released a landmark draft report presenting the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003 ( "This report puts to rest the repeated claims by farmers that agricultural pollution is not a problem in the Central Valley," said Bill Jennings, executive director/chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

Data collected from some 313 sites throughout the Central Valley revealed that: 1) toxicity to aquatic life was present at 63% of the monitored sites (50% were toxic to more than one species); 2) pesticide water quality standards were exceeded at 54% of sites (many for multiple pesticides); 3) one or more metals violated criteria at 66% of the sites; 4) human health standards for bacteria were violated at 87% of monitored sites and 5) more than 80% of the locations reported exceedances of general parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, TSS).

While the adequacy of monitoring (i.e., frequency and comprehensiveness) of monitoring varied dramatically from site to site, the report presented a "dramatic panorama of the epidemic of pollution caused by the uncontrolled discharge of agricultural wastes," said Jennings.

The long-term program to regulate discharges from six million acres of irrigated agriculture will be considered by the Board on Thursday, April 7, 2011. We need people to show up at the regional board on April 7. If you wish to speak or sit in at the hearing, please arrive at 7:30 am to get a parking spot and seat! A press conference will be held in the parking lot at the noon lunch break and we need people there to hold signs! The address is:

11020 Sun Center Drive #200, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-6114 (916) 464-329

If you have questions regarding the rally or meeting contact: Roxanne Kessler (916) 662-0496, rrk3 [at] Roxanne will be on site at 7:30 am to pass out signs and help people organize on Thursday April 7th

Please come out for this VERY IMPORTANT meeting and encourage everybody you know who cares about clean water in the Central Valley to show up!