Salmon Fishermen Critique Federal Plans to Spend Millions on Salmon Restoration Plan

San Francisco, CA — Salmon fishermen and industry advocates are giving mixed reviews to a federal plan to spend millions restoring salmon in 2016. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) funded the plan in 1992 with $50 million annually to be used to restore waterfowl and to double the wild salmon populations. The salmon advocates note progress has been made in moving more funds to on the ground projects that will help salmon soon.  However, a significant part of the money is still being spent on unproductive projects, overhead, and activities that do not result in increased ocean salmon populations, according to the salmon stakeholders.

Since creation of the fund in 1992, funding decisions were made solely by the two federal agencies overseeing the fund, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.  However, in July, the two federal agencies announced a major revision to how salmon projects will be selected in the future.  Salmon and public water and power agency stakeholders are being invited to help create a new model which will provide data on which salmon restoration investments will yield the most salmon. This new stakeholder input comes in response to requests from the Golden Gate Salmon Association and others seeking greater input. 

Dick Pool, Secretary of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We strongly support a major change in the way future projects will be selected and we are cautiously optimistic that the new system will work.”

The 2016 spending plan proposes to spend $48 million on salmon projects between 2016 and 2018.  The industry strongly supports fourteen projects totaling $17.4 million but rejects fifteen others totaling $17.3 million.  The rejections were based on projects that did not have a meaningful value to the early salmon population doubling objectives called for in the CVPIA.  The full text of the industry comments can be seen hereJohn McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, praised the plan’s proposal to open four new rearing areas in the upper Sacramento River and its tributaries.

“Rearing areas allow the newly hatched juvenile salmon a place where they can grow and avoid predators.  The lack of adequate rearing areas for salmon in the Sacramento River has been a major problem for years.”

Shifting money to projects likely to produce near term results follows criticism by the salmon industry and the public water and power agencies that provide much of the $50 million in the fund.  The fund has failed to double the salmon populations, as required by the CVPIA.  In 2012, twenty years after the CVPIA passed Congress, the salmon populations stood at only 13 percent of what they were in 1992 when the act originally passed.  In the opinion of the salmon industry and others, millions of dollars have been spent and wasted on projects and activities that did not yield results.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.