BDCP analysis includes plan to remove stripers and black bass
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is not just a corporate agribusiness-backed plan to build the peripheral canal, a project that will likely hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter run chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species.
The “Effects Analysis,” part of the BDCP draft planning documents released by the Department of Water Resources on February 29, also include plans to remove striped bass, along with largemouth and smallmouth bass and other alleged “predators.”
This “predator control” plan will remove these species allegedly to protect salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other native fish – the same fish that the construction of the peripheral canal/tunnel will kill!
“They are coming down hard,” said Bobby Barrack of Back to Class Guide Service, referring to the plans by the water contractors to build the peripheral canal and eradicate striped bass. “Please take a peek at the Effects Analysis - It is time to speak out!”
I took a “peek” at the “Appendix F Ecological Effects” section of the Effects Analysis – and it looks just like more propaganda designed by the water diverters to blame striped bass, black bass and other “predators” for the decline of Central Valley salmon and Delta smelt in order to divert attention from massive water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California.
“Predator control methods” cited under “Invasive Predator Removal” (F.1.1.2, page F-4) will include: “(1) the targeted removal of predatory fish species (i.e., striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass) and (2) the elimination of certain structural components within river channels and sloughs known to attract or concentrate predators…”
Ironically, while the BDCP is calling for the “elimination of certain structural components within river channels and sloughs known to attract or concentrate predators,” the plan is focused on building two massive tunnels, 37 miles long, that will create new “structural components” – intakes – to divert water from the Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness to southern California and corporate agribusiness.
The document (F.3.1, page F-22) admits that "Operation of any new diversion, including new diversions, may increase predation. Because of hydraulics around diversion structures, prey fish become disoriented (turbidity, light) and predators tend to aggregate at diversion locations."
The construction of the canal will only spread the carnage of fish that takes place daily at the Delta pumps from the South Delta to the Sacramento River, the main migratory path for chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, American shad and other fish.
How can we expect the state water contractors, who have failed to fund the installation of state-of-the art fish screens on the current Delta pumps as required under the CalFed decision, to fund state-of-the-art fish screens for the new intakes for the canal/tunnel to reduce fish mortality?
Appendix 5.F Ecological Stressors on Covered Fish, F.2.5, page F-09, states, “A variety of methods will be used to control predator populations in hot spots, including removal of predator hiding spots; modification of channel geometry; and targeted removal of predators through beach seining, gill netting, angling, and electrofishing when the capture of targeted predators can be maximized and the potential capture of covered fish species can be avoided or minimized.
The analysis also includes a proposal to remove striped bass from the Sacramento during their key spring spawning period.
“Other focused methods may be dictated by site-specific conditions and the intended outcome or goal. For some predators, such as striped bass, capturing fish during key life stages may maximize capture of the target predator while avoiding or minimizing capture of covered fish species. For example, it may be most efficient to capture striped bass during their spawning period (typically April through 8 June), when fish are relatively concentrated along 70 kilometers (43 miles) of the Sacramento River,” the document states.
The document continues, “Spawning surveys that identify areas with high densities of striped bass may help target specific methods of removal, such as electrofishing or beach seining. Priority will be given to predator hot spots in areas with high numbers of covered fish, such as major migratory routes or spawning and rearing habitats, and to methods that maximize the capture of predators and minimize the capture of covered fish species. This may require some experimentation with field methods, such as the mesh size of nets; time of day, month, or year; and control sites.”
While the BDCP document proposes different “predator removal” methods, there is no scientific evidence to prove that striped bass, black bass or other “predatory” species have led to the decline of endangered salmon and smelt. The striped bass, like salmon and Delta smelt, are victims of decades of water exports, declining water quality and state and federal government mismanagement.
The striped bass fishery has declined from an estimated 3 to 4 million fish in the 1960s to approximately 650,000 today. The population, due to a hatchery program and a pen-rearing program for wild stripers, recovered to 1.4 million fish in 2002, but has plummeted ever since.
The biggest cause of the striper decline, like that of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other species, is water diversions from the Delta including record water exports from 2003 to 2006 and in 2011.
In fact, renowned scientists Dr. Peter B. Moyle and William A. Bennett of the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences point out that decreasing the population of striped bass could possibly have a negative impact upon salmon and smelt by changing “basic ecosystem processes.”
“Reducing the striped bass population may or may not have a desirable effect,” according to Moyle and Bennett in their letter to the Fish and Game Commission.
“In our opinion, it is most likely to have a negative effect. While the ultimate cause of death of most fish may be predation, the contribution of striped bass to fish declines is not certain. By messing with a dominant predator (if indeed it is), the agencies are inadvertently playing roulette with basic ecosystem processes that can change in unexpected ways in response to reducing striped bass numbers,” they stated.
“We stress that attempting to reduce striped bass and other predator populations is unlikely to make a difference is saving endangered fishes, and will serve only to distract attention from some of the real problems,” Moyle and Bennett concluded.
You can see the scientists’ full letter to the Commission at” http://water4fish.org/res/pdf/StriperScience.pdf
The Bay Institute recently released a ground breaking report revealing the enormous numbers of striped bass and other fish that are “salvaged” by the state and federal pumps on the South Delta every year.
The annual “salvage” numbers for striped bass from 1993 to 2011 averaged a horrendous 1,773,079 fish. The maximum amount of fish 13,451,203 stripers salvaged one year surpassed all other species.
The Sacramento annual splittail “salvage” number is also alarming. In 2011, a record water export year, state and federal agency staff “salvaged” 8,989,639 splittail, a new record for the species. The average “salvage” number is 1,201,585 fish.
The average salvage total for all species is 9,237,444 fish, including these two species as well as threadfin shad and endangered Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon, and longfin smelt.
“Salvage numbers drastically underestimate the actual impact,” according to the report. “Although the exact numbers are uncertain, it is clear that tens of millions of fish are killed each year, and only a small fraction of this is reflected in the salvage numbers that are reported.”
A conservative estimate (Kimmerer, 2008) is that, for juvenile salmon that have been pulled towards the pumps, only 1 in 5 will survive long enough to be counted in salvage (the rest are lost to predators or other factors), resulting in an overall loss of up to 10% of the migrating fish (Castillo, 2010). Another study of “pre-screen loss” estimated that as many as 19 of every 20 fish perished before being counted (Castillo, 2010).
“The fact is, the salvage numbers look really bad but the real impact of export-related mortality is probably far worse,” the report added.
You can download the Bay Institute’s report, Collateral Damage, by going to: http://bay.org/publications/collateral-damage).
To read the Appendix F Ecological Effects, go to:
To read Appendix 5.F Ecological Stressors on Covered Fish, go to: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Libraries/Dynamic_Document_Library/BDCP_Effects_Analysis_-_Appendix_5_F_Biological_Stressors_on_Covered_Fish_3-2-12.sflb.ashx)
For the complete set of BDCP documents, go to: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Library/DocumentsLandingPage/BDCPPlanDocuments.aspx