Drought Barrier Construction Threatens Giant Garter Snake: Points to Habitat Destruction During Future Construction of Tunnels Project

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 15, 2015
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara@restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta; Karen-Cunningham 925/354-2599

Stockton, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build water export Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to California Fish and Wildlife’s celebration of the 10th National Endangered Species Day by pointing out the department’s failure to protect the giant garter snake in the Delta.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) states that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction,’” said executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “However, they are failing to successfully execute that mission with the present construction by the Department of Water Resources of the False River Barrier in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In addition, Fish and Wildlife’s proposed California Eco Restore plan for the Delta will put 35 additional species in danger of extinction and will fail to restore Bay-Delta fisheries in the future.”

Photos attached (see below) to this release show that the Department of Water Resources constructed a 150 foot barrier about two weeks ago to “prevent” the giant garter snake from entering the construction staging area. However, Bradford Island landowner Karen Cunningham documented that the snake would simply go around the entirely too-short snake barrier entering the constructing area as the perimeter of Bradford Island is seven miles.

Karen Cunningham now reports that she found what appears to be a giant garter snake on the road within twenty feet of the barrier worksite. She attempted to locate a project biologist on site, but one was not present. Restore the Delta has reported this incident to California Fish and Wildlife’s Contra Costa County biologist.

“According to the Center for Biological Diversity website, more than 90 percent of the suitable habitat for giant garter snakes has been eliminated in California’s Central Valley, and only 13 isolated populations remain. The cavalier attitude by the Department of Water Resources during the present construction of the drought barrier project for the Delta indicates what would happen to threatened species like the giant garter snake and endangered terrestrial and aquatic species during construction of Governor Brown’s massive twin tunnels project,” added Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “With the Brown Administration’s newly minted California Water Fix, the project would now only require a Section 7 Permit which will do away with protections for 35 species including: fall-run Chinook salmon, sandhill cranes, longfin smelt, white sturgeon, swainsons hawk, tri-colored blackbird, western burrowing owls, Pacific and river lamprey, Sacramento splittail, and Western pond turtles. Yet, California Fish and Wildlife is celebrating National Endangered Species Day.”

Governor Brown and Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham continue to tell the public that the new pumps that would be part of the tunnels project would fix reverse river flows in the Delta, thereby saving Delta fisheries. Modeling results, however, found within their own planning documents show that there would be reverse flows in nearby sloughs and river branches just downstream from the tunnels, and that winter-run and spring-run juvenile Chinook salmon survival rates would be reduced sharply beyond their already dismal survival rate through the Delta.

“Clearly, the California Water Fix is no fix for endangered and threatened species as state agencies cannot properly protect species in the present during periods of construction in critical Delta habitats. California water and fishery agencies have failed to enforce laws to protect fisheries at the pumps over the last 30 years. Yet, the Brown administration continues to deliver false assurances regarding species protections with his tunnels project. It is time for Governor Brown to stop selling a project to Californians that will sacrifice Delta species and communities for the big agribusiness growers he favors on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” concluded Barrigan-Parrilla.


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