Family farmers and fishermen, along with California Indian tribes and grassroots environmentalists, are working closely together to preserve the imperiled Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and the fish and communities that depend on a healthy Delta for their livelihoods.
To protect Delta agriculture from the threat of increased water exports and rebuild the West’s iconic salmon runs and other fisheries, U.S. Representatives John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, Jackie Speier and Jerry McNerney and a member of Congressman George Miller’s staff convened with farmers, recreational and commercial salmon fishermen, conservation groups and community members at the historic “Farms & Salmon Summit” on April 27 at the Antioch Community Center in Antioch.
Before a standing-room-only crowd, farmers and fishermen urged political leaders to stop construction on the peripheral canal and take action to restore imperiled salmon, striped bass and other runs and thwart threats to Delta and Sacramento Valley agriculture. Likewise, the representatives highlighted the importance of keeping farms and fisheries both healthy and relying on good science in California water plans.
Dante Nomellini, a Delta water rights lawyer who moderated the event, said that the current threats to the Delta were made possible because the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources (DWR) broke its promise that only “surplus water” would be exported from the Delta.
“When the federal and state water projects were initiated, the agencies said that they would only take surplus water, would provide salinity control, and that if additional water was needed, they could recapture it from the projects,” said Nomellini.
DWR based its project on the development of five-million-acre feet of water from North Coast rivers that was never developed because of massive opposition from North Coast residents. Nomellini said northern California water is being “stolen” from northern California residents by water exporters.
The four Representatives and a staff member from Congressman George Miller’s office spoke next.
“I have lived in the Delta since 1977 and this is one of the first times that we have pulled together the farming community and fishing interests,” said Representative John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove). “There is a symbiotic relationship between the agricultural community and aquatic interests. We have to work together to protect the Delta – the solution is not to export more water out of the Delta.”
Listen to the intro of the proceedings below.