ARCATA -- Some fish advocates fretted over lost funds for salmon restoration before a joint legislative committee Wednesday, while others voiced concern over the state's precarious water scenario.
The 33rd annual Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture -- several members shy due to a lack of travel funds -- met at Humboldt State University to consider what lawmakers might do to continue the state's long-standing support for fisheries.
Several recent developments were aired, including the governor's veto of restoration money, Dungeness crab provisions and an appeals court ruling on the Klamath River.
State Sen. Wesley Chesbro said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill that would have directed state oil revenues to salmon recovery bucks a historical trend. It also ignored the broad support -- from timber, fishing and water interests -- the bill enjoyed, the Arcata Democrat said.
"We simply can't accept that," Chesbro said.
Humboldt State University professor Walt Duffy said the loss of the bill will weaken the California Department of Fish and Game's restoration program, which contributes millions to the local economy and supports hundreds of jobs.
Tom Weseloh of California Trout said that Fish and Game needs to work more closely with its constituents, who can help get in front of issues instead of reacting to crises.
"We are your advocates," Weseloh said. "We are the people who want to help."
Chesbro said he will be working with the Legislature to draft a bond measure that could fill in the gap -- but said it would be no substitute for the tidelands oil money.
That bond could also help restore funding to the California Conservation Corps, Chesbro said which is key to many restoration projects around the state but was drastically cut in 2003.
CCC Fortuna Center Director Larry Hand -- who has been "working in fish restoration since Moby Dick was a guppy" -- said he believes the program needs to expand the environmental agenda into cities and into grade schools.
Crab fishermen pleaded with Chesbro and Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, for emergency legislation to extend a boat limit in the state's Dungeness crab fishery. The limit was vetoed along with a limit on crab pots for boats in the San Francisco area.
Trinity County Senior Planner Tom Stokely raised serious concerns about plans to increase water exports from the Sacramento River delta. He said the state and federal CalFed plan ignores how Trinity River restoration will cut water pumped from the Trinity to the Sacramento.
He said CalFed would draw down reservoirs to allow more water storage for eventual delivery to farms and cities, a risky plan that would endanger salmon in the Trinity, Klamath and Sacramento rivers in the event of a multi-year drought.
A recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision determined that an environmental analysis of CalFed's plan was invalid because it didn't consider alternatives to export less water from the delta. Stokely said as much as 2 million acre feet of water might be freed up by retiring farmland in the San Joaquin Valley with poor drainage and salt, selenium and boron tainted soils.
"It defies science," Stokely said of the plan. "The science tells us we shouldn't be putting more water on these areas."