ICYMI 12/3/23: White Sturgeon, Newsom Disappoints, Mokelumne v Sacramento River Chinook

Alliance of Sportfishing and Environmental Groups Petition California and Feds to Protect SF Bay White Sturgeon – San Francisco Baykeeper 11/29/30

Today, San Francisco Baykeeper, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the Bay Institute, and Restore the Delta petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the California white sturgeon as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. Separately, these groups petitioned Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and NOAA Fisheries to list the San Francisco Bay population of white sturgeon as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

San Francisco Bay and its watershed are home to the only known reproductive population of white sturgeon in California. Excessive freshwater diversions, regular overfishing, and recent algal outbreaks in the Bay have decimated the population. Immediate action is necessary to protect this fish, already categorized as a species of special concern in California, as well as its habitat.

“White sturgeon have been around for about 46 million years,” said Baykeeper science director Jon Rosenfield, PhD. “They are the ultimate survivors, but the Bay’s population might not survive into the next generation because of neglect from government agencies that are supposed to protect our Bay and its fishes. We divert too much water from Central Valley rivers, dump too much pollution into the Bay, and we overfish this white sturgeon population. The science is clear, but our agencies are ignoring it—and Governor Newsom’s administration is speeding the white sturgeon down the road to extinction. Protection under the state and federal endangered species acts is now required to keep this ancient fish from disappearing.

”…Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said: “The need for listing white sturgeon is another sign of how fisheries are crashing in the Delta. While white sturgeon should not be consumed, 90% of people who reside in Delta environmental justice communities depend on fish caught in the Delta to supplement their diets. Collapsing fisheries are an environmental justice issue, and environmental justice issues are civil rights issues for California tribes and communities of color.”

‘Deep disappointment’: Global climate envoy Newsom is alienating environmentalists at home – The Sacramento Bee 11/29/23

Gov. Gavin Newsom has been positioning himself as a global climate leader this year, evangelizing California environmentalism in China and at the United Nations. But at home, he is increasingly at loggerheads with leading environmentalists. 

Environmental groups and tribes say the governor’s plan to protect water supply from climate change will exacerbate existing ecological devastation and irreversibly damage the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the central hub of the state’s water system…

Back in 2020, executive director of Restore the Delta Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said she had plans to meet with Secretary Crowfoot but soon stopped hearing from the Newsom administration on issues impacting Delta farmers, residents and tribal communities.

“I have the deepest disappointment on water issues in Governor Newsom, probably more than with any other governor,” she said. “Governor Newsom and his team came in and promised one thing and have delivered something completely different. They have cut out the Delta community in every way, shape and form.”

She warned that moving ahead with the voluntary agreements, building Sites, and building the tunnel would mean loss of the Delta — the largest estuary on the North American west coast, one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the U.S. and a culturally significant place for indigenous Californians for thousands of years.

“I sit here and wonder, ‘Does he really think he has to deliver this bad plan so that he looks like he’s building infrastructure or problem solving for a presidential run?’” Barrigan-Parrilla said. “I find that deeply troublesome because I don’t know how much of it is really a commitment to the idea that this is the best path forward for water management.”

Record salmon run returns to Mokelumne River, main stem Sacramento run is dismal – The Stockton Record 11/29/23

A record high number of over 23,000 fall-run Chinook salmon have returned to the Mokelumne River, a tributary of the San Joaquin River, while the second lowest number of Sacramento River fall Chinook have come back to Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek this year….On Battle Creek, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery has seen only 5,200 adult kings and 245 jacks to date.

Restore the Delta note: This is another reason why the Sacramento River needs more unimpaired freshwater flows; the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers are operated for exports, not for fisheries or communities.

Take Action! 
Bay-Delta Plan Hearings (Registration Deadline Extended!)

Restore the Delta and partners have been advocating through petitions filed with the State Water Resources Control Board, and with US EPA, for movement by the State Water Board to finish the Bay-Delta Plan. While we wait for implementation of Phase I (San Joaquin River flows) which was approved December 2018 and delayed due to the “voluntary agreements” process, the Delta has suffered for decades without updated water quality and flow standards that protect communities, culture, fisheries, recreation, and agriculture.

Please join us in helping advocate for an improved Bay-Delta estuary! 

WHO: State Water Resources Control Board Public Hearings 

WHAT: Public Hearings (Panels and Individual Comments) for Phase II of the Bay-Delta Plan. Staff Report, which focuses on Sacramento River flows. Here is a link to the 5000-plus page report

WHEN: November 17th, 9:30 am; December 1st, 9:30 am; and December 11th, 12:00 pm. Time has been changed from 4:00 pm to 12:00 pm for the December 11th hearing.

WHERE: Cal EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento or attend on Zoom. 

HOW: You can organize a panel to make comments or speak individually. Panels are 20 minutes in length; individual comments are 3 minutes (about 250 to 300 words when drafting). The State Water Board, however, is only allowing individuals to speak once, either on a panel or individually over the course of the 3 days. The State Water Board changed individual comment speaking times from 5 to 3 minutes in part with the December 11th hearing date being longer. 

IMPORTANT! Registration to comment has been extended, you may register up until the hearing day you wish to participate in.Note, the State Water Board said that panel presentations (not individual comments) should be identified by November 3 if possible, or soon thereafter, to ensure adequate time is allotted for those presentations over the 3 hearing days. Here is the link to register.  

WHY: The Staff Report for the Bay-Delta Plan contains the “voluntary agreements” – a private, incomplete, and discriminatory process – in which most Californians were left out of having a say in water allocations and river and Bay-Delta protections – not to mention the disparate impacts these agreements will cause for tribal and environmental justice communities. 

Additionally, the Staff Report doesn’t contain a proposed project, but rather, a recommended alternative with options, through which the Board can put together a Bay-Delta Plan that serves political interests, rather than science-based objectives to restore our fisheries and environmental health. 


1. As currently drafted, the Plan is incomplete and inadequate for fisheries and the overall health of the Bay-Delta estuary. 
2. A proposed alternative of 55% unimpaired flows for the Sacramento River with a range of 45-65%, will not save native fisheries, and fisheries will continue to slide into extinction. While there isn’t a stable proposed project because Board members are being offered alternatives with additional a la carte management options, 65% minimum unimpaired flows gets us closer to fish recovery. There is no plan of implementation for the proposed alternative which should have been finished over the last five years. 
3. There is no harmful algal bloom standard to protect people who come in contact with waterways. There isn’t a real strategy for how harmful algal blooms will be tracked, identified, and mitigated. 
4. The voluntary agreements, which are offered as an option, do not set water quality objectives — so the voluntary agreements cannot meet the objectives of the Bay-Delta Plan. 
5. The voluntary agreements, as included in this draft, do not include an implementation plan, meaning that the public will have to comment on implementation later. This keeps us in a perpetual cycle of reacting to a Bay-Delta that is never finished. 
6. Beneficial uses are identified in this plan, i.e., agriculture, fisheries, recreation, drinking water, but the Plan does not define Tribal Beneficial Uses, which is a continuation of discriminatory practices. 
7. The Staff Report only looked at groundwater and drinking water, not cultural or recreational uses. The Environmental Justice analysis for the Delta is inadequate seeing it doesn’t cover 72 small drinking water systems. 
8. The voluntary agreements do not address cold water pools upstream needed for fisheries and do not contain storage thresholds. 
9. The Staff Report does identify the beneficial uses of a healthy river and estuary, and healthy fisheries within the cost-benefit analysis. Cost benefits are mostly related to water exports.

Support our work in 2024!

Our next generation staff is expanding on the sturdy foundation that we have built together — to lead and respond to a future that we cannot fully imagine. Much in the same way my parents set the stage for me with their example of community engagement, we are doing the same with our staff, interns, and next generation leaders in partnering organizations, teaching by example. 
With your continued support, we can empower our next generation leaders to protect and improve the Delta for the future, to deal with environmental complexity, to resist bad plans for water and resource management, and to build healthy communities and genuine sustainable economic opportunity. They are learning when and how to resist the idea of water and resource extraction for special interests at the expense of the region. 

Your tax-deductible year-end gift to Restore the Delta will enable us to expand and solidify the work we started together in 2006 at a kitchen table, with sixty supporters, a laptop, and a cell phone. It will enable us to keep building a top-notch nonprofit organization to advocate for the environmental health and wealth of the region. You can donate here, or mail a check along with this form to 2616 Pacific Ave #4296, Stockton, CA 95204.

Delta Co-Op – Space Available

Restore the Delta has workshare space available for environmental and social justice organizations and positive environmental/sustainable businesses! Located in Stockton, near the Port of Stockton and I-5, our facility includes a conference room with hybrid meeting capability, ample parking, multiple kitchens, bathrooms, and great partner organizations to collaborate with on a regular basis. We also offer a large community meeting room. 

The Delta Co-Op has 4 workstations available presently with access to all facilities and storage (designated closet/cabinet areas) for $300 per month. Our community meeting room is also available to rent for specific events and includes a kitchenette. The community meeting room can be rented for $300 for 8 hours or $150 for 4 hours.

Contact Mariah Looney today to learn more about the Delta Co-Op and to schedule a tour. Mariah can be reached at Mariah@restorethedelta.org, or 209-479-2559. 

Restore the Delta has new merch!

Restore the Delta is excited to announce that new merch is available! Shop for the holiday season for family, friends, and loved ones who share a fondness of the Delta!  

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