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Peripheral Tunnels will not Eliminate Massive Fish Kills at Export Facilities

Peripheral Tunnels will not Eliminate Massive Fish Kills at Export Facilities
More than 130 million fish have been killed since 2000;
Fish losses could even increase with added North Delta diversion

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Sportfishing Alliance (CSPA) and Restore the Delta (RTD) today released a CSPA white paper concluding that millions of fish would continue to be killed were the Peripheral Tunnels to be built. CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings, who wrote the white paper, said, “Proponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and its peripheral tunnels suggest that only by diverting water from the Sacramento River can the Delta be restored because of immense fishery losses at the South Delta export pumps. This is simply incorrect! Fish losses could even increase with the addition of a North Delta diversion point.”

Water exports from the Delta are lethal to fish.
CSPA reported, “Between 2000 and 2011, more than 130 million fish have been salvaged at the State and Federal Project water export facilities in the South Delta. Actual losses are far higher. For example, recent estimates indicate that 5-10 times more fish are lost than are salvaged, largely due to the high predation losses in and around water project facilities.”

Diversion from the South Delta will remain essential.
Exports from the South Delta pumps will remain a significant percentage of total water exports. BDCP currently estimates that 50% of State and Federal Project exports would come from the existing South Delta diversion facilities in average water years and as much as 75-84% in dry and critical water years. In fact, BDCP modeling suggests that exports and fish entrainment from South Delta diversions could potentially increase in certain water year types and for critical life stages of certain species. The BDCP itself estimates the project could increase the killing of steelhead, Winter and Fall-run Chinook salmon, Longfin smelt and Sacramento splittail.

South Delta export fish screens are ineffective and obsolete.
The present South Delta fish screens are based upon 1950s technology, and massive fish losses have been documented for more than 30 years. Only about 11-18% of salmon or steelhead entrained in Clifton Court Forebay survive.

Proposed fish screens on the Sacramento River are problematic.
Contrary to assurances of BDCP proponents, it is uncertain whether the fish screens for the proposed new North Delta diversion will actually work. The proposed screens are experimental and have never been employed anywhere else. Some 22 studies are required to determine if the proposed screen design concept will work, will be protective, or if the screens can be legally permitted. Half of these studies are proposed post-construction. Waiting until after construction and the expenditure of billions of dollars to see if these experimental new concept fish screens will work makes no sense. Construction of North Delta diversions should not be initiated until it can be established that the proposed experimental fish screens are feasible, protective and legally permittable pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

“The Peripheral Tunnels would increase, not decrease, the massive fish kills from water exports, “ said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “For decades, they have failed to provide effective fish screens at the existing pumps. Why would anyone believe that new, untested fish screens at a second diversion point will be any better? The Peripheral Tunnels are the death knell for our salmon fisheries, and deny San Francisco Bay of the freshwater flows to sustain Pacific fisheries.”

“The history of the Delta tells us that past agency assurances that projects to divert water from the estuary would be beneficial or benign were grievously wrong: virtually all of them exacerbated conditions to the point where Delta fisheries are on life support. The harsh reality is that no estuary in the world has survived the diversion of more than half its water flow and the extreme modification of its hydrograph (i.e., peak flows shifted from winter to summer). Speculative promises of mitigation and accountability can no longer be sufficient to justify the construction of major water projects,” said Jennings.

The complete White Paper, “BDCP and Fish Population Losses at the Pumps,” is posted to RTD’s web site.

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