Fishermen Reject Water Bond, Skeptical of Proposition 1

Bay Area fishermen are expressing their strong opposition to a $7.5 billion state water bond to be voted on in November that may result in the construction of new dams which could decrease Bay Area fisheries.

California environmentalists are divided in their support of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, known as Proposition 1.

Proponents, such as environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy, say the water bond will push forward many positive water conservation efforts and improve the state’s water infrastructure.

The act, if passed, will bolster watershed restoration and groundwater cleanup across the state, but critics of the legislation say that while those efforts are desperately needed, the act will also pave the way for reservoir and dam construction.

Critics say that the bond is not the answer to California’s water crisis and does more damage than good.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Restore the Delta based in Stockton, said the proposition puts the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at risk while doing nothing to address the problems associated with the current drought.

Zeke Grader Jr., the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association stood with other fishermen at Pier 45 in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf today and expressed his disapproval of the proposition, saying it will help the state’s agriculture industry while diminishing its fishing industry.

Grader said that as an environmentalist, he thinks the proposition endorses major water conservation efforts that California needs in the third year of a drought, but what Grader doesn’t approve of is the $2.7 billion that the act earmarks for water storage.

The fishermen who gathered at the pier today worry that the act would boost reservoir and dam construction that would hinder fish passage and harm the estuary that accommodates salmon, herring, crab and other critters.

Grader said that Proposition 1 is playing off the panic generated around the drought.

Otherwise, he said, a proposition like this “would not pass muster” with voters, especially environmentalists.

Grader said if the proposition passes, he would be trying his “damnedest” to stop any dam construction.

He also said the state needs to place a greater emphasis on creating groundwater storage as opposed to surface water storage.

Surface water storage leads to a lot of evaporation and interferes with fisheries, Grader said.

Meanwhile, Sacramento-based organization California Farm Bureau Federation, which represents about 55,000 farmers as well as others in the agriculture industry, is supporting Proposition 1.

The federation’s president, Paul Wenger, said today that the state needs to invest in its water infrastructure.

He agreed with the fishermen who say groundwater storage is a good solution to water storage. He said the state, including its farmers, are overdrafting groundwater and that aquifers need to be replenished as they are depleted.

Wenger said that the $2.7 billion that will go toward water projects will be determined by the “public benefit,” meaning that in theory, the water projects that best benefit the public will be prioritized and accommodated.

But both Wenger and Grader said they’re not so sure how that “public benefit” gets determined, and worry that the group who makes the greatest noise or has the most money will win the approval of the state.

Environmentalists and industry proponents alike, agree that whether its through desalination efforts, refilled aquifers, or other water storage efforts, the impacts of both climate change as well as California’s increased human population, require all parties to work together to find compromises that can preserve California’s natural resources.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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