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The Multiple Factors Contributing to Delta Decline: Testimony Highlights to State Water Resources Control Board From
The Multiple Factors Contributing to Delta Decline: Testimony Highlights to State Water Resources Control Board From

The Multiple Factors Contributing to Delta Decline:

Testimony Highlights to State Water Resources Control Board From State Water & Central Valley Project Agencies

This document reviews the highlights of the testimony submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board by the public water agencies served by the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Page references to the source material are indicated in parentheses.

Predation

Nine-out-of-ten juvenile salmon are being killed by predators before ever reaching the Delta. (main, 8)

There is an estimated nearly one million striped bass in the Delta and the watershed and catch of large-mouth bass has quadrupled since the 1980s. Both are non-native fish that prey on young salmon; (main, 8-9)

Research last year estimated that striped bass consumed 21 to 42 percent of endangered winter- and spring-run juvenile salmon, respectively. Other studies show the water projects took less than 3 percent. (main, 9)

The National Marine Fisheries Service has stated that predation on winter-run salmon is a “major stressor.” (main, 9)

Ocean food sources for salmon have dropped in recent years, coinciding with the lower salmon population levels. (main, 8)

The force of the inbound and outbound tides has a greater influence on the movement of juvenile salmon than river outflows. (main, 13)

Commercial salmon fishing claims significantly more salmon than losses due to the water projects, according to research by the University of California. (main, 21)

March 15, 2010

Project Operations

The causal relationship between Delta outflow and fish abundance remains

unproven and undefined. Research indicates that flow may in fact be masking other important factors, such as contamination and predation, which are limiting fish abundances and are unrelated to flow. (main, 3) There is no relationship between Delta outflow and abundance of Delta smelt.

(main, 3) There is no evidence that Old and Middle River flow restrictions result in changes to the population level of Delta smelt. (main, 17)

Pollution and Invasive Species

The Delta’s production of key food sources such as phytoplankton is among the lowest of all estuaries in the world, and the food that is being produced is of low value to the native fish. (main, 32)

Studies have shown that elevated ammonia levels from wastewater plant discharges can inhibit the production of a key food source, diatoms. (main,

37)

Ammonia levels inhibiting food development are now almost always exceeded in the Delta. (main, 37)

Increases in ammonia levels in Suisun Bay have coincided with the decline of fish species such as Delta smelt. (summary, 6)

Millions of pounds of pesticides are applied throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. Urban pesticide use could potentially be the most problematic. (main, 37)

Exposure to common pesticides may pose important constraints on salmon recovery. (main, 41)

Invasive species now comprise the majority of biomass in the Delta. (main,

69)

The evolving scientific understanding of Sacramento splittail illustrates the importance of improving floodplain habitat as opposed to increasing river flow (summary, 3)

Flows are not a proven effective control against the invasive Asian clams. (main, 34)

Conclusions

March 15, 2010

Flow is only one driver of ecosystem health; flows can mask other stressors that need to be addressed; key existing outflow requirements are, at best, hypotheses; a new framework built largely around narrative criteria that would examine the relative importance of all stressors would provide great value to Delta planning efforts. (summary, 12-15)

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March 15, 2010