Westlands versus the Orcas

That sounds like an odd title – right? What is the connection between California’s Central Valley Agribusiness and Puget Sound Orcas?

We know Westlands Water District is working hard on the Peripheral Tunnel plan which will wipe out Delta farmers and communities from north to south, I didn’t know they were after Orcas, too.

Orca J Pod sighted by Mike, Jan and friends while in Canada

Researching, I found that the Westlands Water District (our “favorite” player in the Peripheral Tunnel scam) had been suing the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) to take Puget Sound’s critically endangered orcas off the endangered species list. Fortunately, on August 3, the NMFS denied their requests. It seemed very odd to me that Westlands Water District would be going after the Northwest Orcas.

However, they have been trying to rid the Delta of striped bass, saying the bass were the reason for the salmon’s demise (even though both species have lived together harmoniously for over 100 years). Could it have just been a coincidence that the Westlands drive to eliminate bass started right after very loud and numerous bass fishing organizations began speaking out against the BDCP plan? The bass were safe, we thought, when in February 2012 the California Fish and Game Commission rejected the request to make fishing law changes that would result in the end of the striped bass in the Delta and instead named them as a native species. Last week, however, we heard Westlands at the Fresno Delta Water Meeting continue to voice the need to get rid of bass. They never give up.

Obviously they believe they can affect the web of life not only in the Sacramento Delta but in the entire Pacific and eliminate anything that eats salmon rather than accept the fact that exporting too much fresh water from the Delta has been what is ruining the salmon runs (at least according to the NMFS report, the US Army Corp of Engineers report and independent salmon experts).

What’s next? Will Westlands call for the extinction of seals and bears?

For more details on the orcas, I found this article from August 2009 Groups Defend Salmon and Whales from Agribusiness Attack.

Here’s a summary about what happened and why (with my editorial comments included):

  • The National Marine Fisheries Service on June 4, 2009 released an 800-page biological opinion, a plan to prevent Sacramento River salmon runs from plunging over the abyss of extinction. This plan replaced one issued in 2004 by the Bush administration, in a classic case of political manipulation over the objections of federal fisheries scientists, that sent salmon runs into steep decline. Conservation groups, fishing groups and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe filed the lawsuit that resulted in the court order that mandated the federal fishery agency to rewrite the biological opinion.

  • Westlands and 29 other water agencies then filed a lawsuit against the biological opinion on June 15 [interjection – that’s really fast to file a lawsuit against an 800-page document – these guys must have tons of lawyers], claiming that the National Marine Fisheries Service should have prepared an environmental impact statement before adopting a salmon recovery plan that “will divert hundreds of thousands of acre feet of California’s freshwater supplies into the ocean.” The water district tried to portray a scenario of “imminent doom” if the court-ordered plan was allowed to proceed.

    “Denying this much water to California is going to do obvious, serious and enduring damage to habitat, to wetlands, and to other endangered species,” said Tom Birmingham, the general manager of Westlands. [Huh? How is fresh water flowing through the Delta going to damage habitat, wetlands, and fish?]

    “And it will put tens of thousands of people out of work, which affects public health and safety in myriad ways.” [This again illustrates how the exporters who have the rights only to “excess” water have negotiated contracts for much more than there is. Although they will never obtain the full amount of their contracts unless the Delta is run dry, their continual chant is that their water allotment is being “cut” even though the contract’s specific wording is they only have rights to water if there is “excess”. Instead of planning based on how much water is likely, they continue to plan for more water than exists and thus claim it is putting people “out of work”.]

  • Fishing groups, Indian Tribes and environmental organizations intervened in the lawsuit to defend the biological opinion, arguing that to keep exporting massive amounts of water to corporate agribusiness and southern California will destroy the salmon and the people that depend upon them.

I particularly like these quotes in the article:

    “What is it with these people?” asked Gary Mulcahy of the Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe, referring to Westlands and other opponents of the federal plan. “Can they not see that what they have done in the past is killing – the Delta, the salmon, cultures, the environment, and with it – people. All for what? Greed.”

    “You cannot continue to destroy the things around you under the guise of economic growth, and expect the people to continue to believe in that lie forever. It is time to stop this madness. It is time to defeat these greedy and untruthful interests,” said Mulcahy.

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