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'Fisheries at Risk'

July 22, 1988

The article "Fisheries at Risk if More Delta Water Diverted" by Peter B. Moyle and Bruce Herbold (Opinion, July 3) on water supplies for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay was dangerously oversimplified and based on assumptions of dubious technical merit.

In actuality, the opinion of Moyle and Herbold that more water in the estuary means more fish is the subject of debate among experts and one not universally shared by their peers. The State Water Resources Control Board is the authority that will ultimately decide this complicated issue.

In addition, the authors' position ignores an important fundamental principle: Through proper management, the reasonable water needs of people, agriculture and the environment can be met.

A more thorough analysis would have revealed:

- Numerous factors affect fish populations including pollution, oceanic conditions, declining fish fertility, dwindling food supplies and the impacts of intensive commercial and sport fishing.

- Substantial amounts of fresh water are already committed to fish protection and the control of water quality in the estuary. Without fresh water releases, the ocean would intrude far into the delta channels this year.

- Growing urban communities in the San Francisco Bay area, Central California coast and Southern California need additional drinking water. Contrary to the authors' implication, new delta supplies are not earmarked for expanded agricultural operations in the San Joaquin Valley.

- Construction of new facilities to improve delta water flow patterns would dramatically improve fishery conditions as well as provide more drinking water. Fish experts supported construction of these facilities. Efforts to build them, however, have been repeatedly defeated, largely due to opposition from Northern Californians.

Protecting and improving the bay/delta fishery and other components of the environment are important and necessary goals.

Metropolitan Water District and other State Water Project participants recognize their obligation in this regard and have agreed to spend $15 million to develop a fish protection program and an additional $2 million annually to protect existing fish populations and to increase hatchery production.

These agencies also have agreed to even more fish protection measures before increased drinking water supplies are exported from the delta in the future.


MWD General Manager

Los Angeles

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