In a recent blog post, NRDC’s Tina Swanson reports that the San Francisco Bay is in a “persistent, manmade drought” characterized by inadequate flows of fresh water. She notes that estuaries need fresh water, just as people do. And the Bay-Delta Estuary hasn’t been getting enough fresh water for decades.
Says Swanson, “For the first 20 years after the state and federal water projects that divert water from the Bay’s tributary rivers and its Delta became fully operational (1970-1989), freshwater inflows to the estuary were reduced by an average of 39%. By the 2000s (2000-2009), inflows were reduced by 48%, on average, and, for the most recent five-year period (2007-2011), the average reduction was a whopping 56%.”
She continues, “Can the Bay’s ecosystem—its salmon, Dungeness crab and host of other fish and wildlife species—go on like this? Probably not. Decades of monitoring and scientific research have shown that reduced freshwater inflows are a major cause of habitat degradation and declining fish populations in the estuary: since the 1970s, populations of many of the most common species have plunged by 66-98% . . . .”
Meanwhile, Central Valley farmers, including California Water Commission member Joe Del Bosque, are pushing to have orca whales delisted as an endangered species, arguing that salmon are in decline because orcas eat them. Never mind that if we had more freshwater flows, we would have more salmon, which would be good for orcas as well as the rest of us.