California’s salmon (and salmon fishermen) catch a break today

Over the past 8 years of the Bush Administration, politics trumped science to enable water exports to reach unprecedented levels in California, reaping a host of consequences.  One of the consequences was that the state's native fish, particularly salmon, were left in bad shape, and as a result, California's salmon fishery has been closed for the past two years, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impacts and thousands of lost jobs.  In 2009 alone, the closure has cost the state nearly $270 million and more than 2,600 jobs.

But today, salmon fishermen and lovers caught a break when the House rejected an amendment to a spending bill that would have prohibited protections for California's threatened and endangered salmon populations.  This is good news for salmon fishermen, fishing jobs, Tribes, and local economies that have been badly hurt by the fishery closure, as well as everyone who loves wild salmon, whether in our rivers or on our dinner plates.  For years, fishermen, conservation groups, Tribes, and businesses have worked together to protect and restore endangered fish like salmon, recognizing that protecting salmon protects healthy rivers, sustainable jobs, and healthy communities.

Today's action in Washington is a reminder of the failures and costs of our current water practices in California, and the need for real solutions, particularly as our third year of drought continues to cause water reductions across the state, which have particularly hurt farmers in the Central Valley. As drought continues to cause low water supplies across the state, this highlights just how important it is to develop long term water solutions that benefit all Californians.  Scientifically sound decisions like the salmon biological opinion that this amendment targeted must be part of the foundation for that solution.  And while California has made some significant investments in alternative water supplies and win-win solutions, including federal investments from the stimulus bill, it's time for a new, better, smart-water solutions for the 21st century that will help all Californians get the water they need for drinking, fishing and growing our food supply into the future.  For instance, a new report from NRDC showed businesses across the state that are already saving money with water efficiency measures.

By making big investments in alternative water supplies like groundwater banking, water recycling and water efficiency, California can sustain its farming, fishing, drinking water supply and economy.