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Delta pumps kill 4.4 million splittail, 3600 salmon in 8 days

State and feds do nothing to stop massive fish kill

By Dan Bacher

In spite of outrage by fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists, state and federal officials continue to do nothing to stop the unprecedented massacre of Sacramento splittail and threatened Chinooks in the California Delta pumps.

The state and federal water project pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta continue to kill 400,000 to 600,000 imperiled Sacramento splittail and up to 700 threatened spring-run Chinook salmon each day. These fish are being destroyed to divert Delta water to subsidized corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.

During the 8-day period from May 16 though May 23, the federal pumps killed 4,241,089 Sacramento splittail and the state facilities took 157,349 fish. That’s a total of 4,400,073 splittail.

A native minnow species found only in the Delta and Central Valley, the Bush administration stripped “threatened” status from the fish under the Endangered Species Act in 2003 under pressure from a political appointee. In October 2010, the Obama administration denied a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to again protect the fish, in spite of the species declining to barely detectable levels during the Department of Fish and Game's fall surveys in recent years.

During the same 8-day period, the federal pumps killed 1935 threatened spring run Chinooks and the state facilities took 1,660 salmon. That’s a total of 3,595 spring Chinooks prevented from ever getting to the ocean.

The pumps have killed over 13,500 chinooks since the beginning of the year, with the take of both splittail and Chinooks accelerating over the past week.

The Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon population, after years of rising abundance due to the removal of dams and other habitat improvements on Butte Creek and other Sacramento River tributaries, has declined over the past few years also, due to the operation of the Delta export pumps and declining water quality. A total of 4,612 adult fish, including 1,661 hatchery fish and 2,951 natural spawners, returned to the system in 2010. In contrast, an estimated 21,319 natural spawners and 4,052 adult hatchery fish came back in 2005.

A friend of mine was recently cited by a game warden for the “offense” of allegedly throwing a cigarette butt into the water – a butt that he never tossed into the water. At the same time, DFG personnel, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, DFG Director John McCamman and the Obama administration are presiding over the slaughter of millions of imperiled splittail and tens of thousands of spring run Chinook salmon with impunity!

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives claim that the killing of the big numbers of splittail in the pumps demonstrates that there were good spawning conditions for the species this year, due to high water conditions in the Sacramento River and Yolo Bypass.

However, Bill Jennings, executive director/chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, responded by saying, “The butchery continues – this is a massacre and they will take creme of the crop of this year’s spawn."

“The DFG reported zero splittail in its fall 2010 midwater trawl survey. The state and federal governments are now sabotaging the rebound of the species this year,” Jennings stated.

At the same time, the state and federal contractors that are demanding ever-more water have refused to install state-of-the art fish screens in the state and federal pumps, as mandated under the CalFed Record of Decision to protect fish, Jennings emphasized.

The Brown and Obama administrations are engaging in the wholesale slaughter of millions of Sacramento splittail and tens of thousands of Sacramento River spring-run chinook salmon. Are they trying to exterminate these species so the path will be cleared to divert all of the water south to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies?

Urgent Action Alert!

What can you do to stop the massive fish kill in the state and federal pumps?

First, please contact John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary, and demand that he take immediate action to stop the killing of millions of Sacramento splittail and thousands of threatened spring run Chinook salmon by the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources!

His contact information is:
California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-5656
(916) 653-8102 fax
Email: secretary [at]

Second, mark Sunday, June 5 on your calendar to support the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s dance for the salmon at Sogorea Te, Glen Cove, in Vallejo, where Native Americans are holding a spiritual encampment to stop the desecration of a native burial site by the Greater Valley Recreation District (GVRD). The Tribe has launched a campaign to restore endangered winter run Chinook Salmon to the McCloud River above Shasta.

“Salmon need the splittail to survive in the Estuary,” said Caleen Sisk-Franco, chief and spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “The Estuary is necessary for the survival of Chinook. The Chinook are necessary for the water to be drinkable, and for the People. Climate change will come in to balance once we follow the salmon runs. This is why the Winnemem will dance for the salmon and the Estuary on June 5th at Glen Clove in Vallejo!”

Third, please write a letter to stop Legislation by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) aimed at gutting protections in the Bay-Delta Estuary and blocking the restoration of the San Joaquin River. Send your letter by going to the Center for Biological Diversity website,