Northern California Council

Federation of Fly Fishers

November 20, 2010 Quarterly Board Meeting

Conservation Report



1.  Relicensing efforts continue in several watersheds – Klamath (myself), Yuba River tributary watershed (Frank Rinella), Middle Fork of the American (Bill Carnazzo) and early stages of the Merced and Tuolumne (Cindy Charles).  Klamath work involves much effort by many to meet and gather data for the Secretary of Interior for his secretarial determination, due in early 2012.  Additionally, work goes on for the drought plan on the Klamath, and political effort for funding legislation.  On the Middle fork of the American Bill Carnazzo is busy negotiating flows on the peaking reach, and has completed much of the higher elevation flows.   Frank Rinella continues to represent NCCFFF on several groups on both the upper Yuba watershed, and the Lower Yuba River.  Of note is the probable restoration efforts on the lower Yuba by SYRCL, and maintaining angler access for the stretch of river below the Highway 20 bridge at Parks Bar.

 2. Smith River management Plan – Chuck Bucaria will report on this and its excellent progress.

 3.  Coastal Coho and the Timber Harvest management in watersheds where listed fish exist continues under the watchful eye of Mike Laing and others.     Coastal Coho are our most threatened fishery, with very small populations in isolated rivers and streams from the Oregon border to south of Santa Cruz.  Progress is being made in timber operation rules, especially for roads and set backs, but the fight is not over by any means.  Mike represents NCCFFF well on this, and is working with a group of other groups advocating for improvements.

 4.  Striped Bass Lawsuit – We were successful in defending the summary judgment phase of the suit, with the judge ruling that he wants to hear arguments.  At this point it is in a settlement conference before the judge, and we (defendant interveners) have communicated an unwillingness to settle unless stripers are no longer targeted for removal from the DFG game fish list.  We should know more by the end of November on the status, and if the case will go to trial in 2011.  Striperfest was a big success, with approximately $27,000 now available for the suit.

 5.  Steelhead lawsuit – WE WON!  NCCFFF was again a defendant intervener in this case brought by a group of water users and a S.J.V. grange.  They were claiming that steelhead and Rainbow trout were genetically the same, and since we have no shortage of Rainbow trout, steelhead should not qualify for listing under the ESA.  This suit had long tentacles and could have affected every steelhead ESU in the Pacific NW, so it was critical to prevail.   Earthjustice was our legal representative, and they did a great job. 

 6.  Salmon/Steelhead Biological Opinion lawsuit – This case was brought by water users in the San Joaquin valley and claimed that there was insufficient science behind some of the RPAs from the fish agencies in the Biological Opinion.  Essentially, they won on the claim about reverse flows in Old and Middle River, and as a result, pending further appeals later this year, the judge allowed increased diversions based upon old criteria for the last 10 days of the diversion limitations in 2010.  The findings are under appeal and Earthjustice and NRDC are working the case on behalf of NCCFFF, again as defendant litigants. 

 7.  Bay-Delta issues – I have been working closely with the other members of the Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) to formulate a new report, California Water Solutions Now, endorsed by NCCFFF and distributed at the June BOD meeting.  I along with several others helped write the report, and we have since had it printed in both English and Spanish, for our southern California supporters.  David Nesmith, Nick DeCroce and Mike Jackson and I made a Powerpoint presentation on Sept. 24th to the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) on this as an alternative to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) for their Delta Plan, due for completion in December 2011.  Nick, Jim Edmonson and Carol Lee Kreiger (C-WINN) made a presentation to the Municipal Water District members last week as well.  On October 26th, Mike Jackson and I met with DSC staff for more than an hour to discuss formation of workgroups to further evaluate our report contents for inclusion in the Delta Plan.  The DSC agreed to a series of meetings around the scoping process for the Delta Plan in early 2011.  Lastly, we just submitted a formal letter to the DSC for the EWC report to be placed in the notice of preparation for the Delta Plan EIR.   A meeting was held on November 18 for this process. 

 General comments – The Bay-Delta and all its issues remains the number one issue for NCCFFF conservation.  This includes California water policy, and the current efforts with the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) and Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  The EWC, as a broad coalition of groups (27) represents our best opportunity to craft a new approach to water policy.  We (they) have been very active in efforts with the DSC, and it seems that DSC does understand the issues, has a legislative mandate for a balanced policy and less reliance on the Delta for water, and in discussions with staff and council members, they do seem to understand that business as usual is inappropriate.  It is up to all of us to drive this home over the next 12 months with the DSC, and I know EWC is focused on doing just that. 

I will be in Washington D.C. later this week and have meetings scheduled with Senator Boxer and Feinstein staff, Rep. Miller’s legislative director and with the Environment and Public Works committee director.  I will be discussing the EWC report with all of these people and asking for support from both the Senators and Representative Miller.  We could use their downward pressure to the DSC in support of our ideas and proposal.  Additionally, we are trying to find a way to meet with Governor-elect Brown to put the EWC ideas on his mind.  Discussion is welcome.

 A note on BDCP – A group of 7 NGOs who either are on the steering committee, or close to it with outside inputs, wrote a letter (attached) on November 8, 2010, bringing up discrepancies from stated goals, and pointing out where BDCP is deficient in its efforts.  I just finished a letter of support from EWC for their concerns (also attached).  There was a big meeting in Washington D.C. 2 weeks ago where all the federal and state agencies, NGOs and interested parties were invited to attend.  In essence the feds stated that they were supportive of BDCP pressing forward, but that substantial changes would have to happen before the federal agencies could endorse it.  This is a good sign that the NGOs and fish agencies have made their point that the BDCP is not doing a good job in achieving ecological and species protection and recovery goals.  There is no way to know what this means to BDCP.  If the water agencies were to pull out because they don’t see they’ll get more water, then it is likely this process would die.  The state or feds cannot do an HCP/NCCP on their own unless affected parties agree.  Hence, it is possible we will be left with the DSC as the decision maker, which for now seems like a better outcome.  I do feel that for the first time in 7 years there could be light at the end of the tunnel on water and the Delta.  We’ll have to wait and see, but more effort is needed for success to be possible. 

 Mark Rockwell, NCCFFF Vice President Conservation

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