Date: Mar 19, 2010

Western Growers Looks Forward to Additional NAS Findings

IRVINE (March 19, 2010) - Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued the following statement today regarding the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) release of its first report on the Endangered Species Act-based restrictions on water pumping operations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta:

“We commend the NAS for this first report, which was produced in a very short period of time. The NAS focused on the scientific validity of the actions imposed by the federal fish agencies to restrict water pumping operations and attempted to identify alternative actions that would be equally or more protective of fish species while causing less economic harm to water users south of the Delta. It is interesting that the NAS characterized the impact of stressors to the fish species other than the pumps as ‘potentially large.’ These include urban wastewater discharges, predatory and invasive species, pesticide runoff and others factors. We look forward to the NAS’s second report which will thoroughly examine the impacts of these other stressors.

“The NAS’s report finds that reducing pumping to protect fish species has scientific validity, yet the report focuses on concern that ‘there is substantial uncertainty regarding the amount of flow that should trigger a reduction in exports.’ This is the heart of the matter. In fact, Senator Feinstein’s proposal to moderate the pumping restrictions within the confines of the biological opinions goes directly to this point. Lacking solid data that establishes the effectiveness of the reverse flow triggers used by federal agencies to reduce pumping, the agencies simply default to the most severe restrictions on water supply within their discretion. The agencies should require better monitoring of the effectiveness of these reverse flow restrictions and set triggers based this data, even if the result is to restore some water supply to farms and cities south of the Delta.

“The report similarly indicates concern with the triggers used by federal agencies to manage salinity in the Delta by increasing Sacramento River flows in the fall. Specifically, the report notes ‘uncertainty about the biological effectiveness’ of this requirement, which requires a large amount of water to be held in reservoirs through the summer months when farmers need is greatest. This stored water is then flushed through the Delta and out to sea in the fall. While this salinity requirement clearly harms farmers, its benefit to fish is highly questionable, as the report states by noting that it may ‘adversely affect salmon and steelhead under some conditions.’

“The theme that runs through the report is clear: The implementation of the water pumping reductions by the federal agencies, and their use of discretion within this regulatory regime, lacks scientific credibility due to the lack of monitoring data as well as research focused on the complex relationships between multiple Delta factors and the fish species. These issues, plus the proportionate impacts of the other stressors in the Delta, must be addressed with transparent, externally peer-reviewed science. The result, we believe, will be restoration of lost water supplies to cities and farms south of the Delta and restored confidence that actions taken to protect fish species are valid and effective.”

Western Growers is an 85-year-old agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship about half of the nation’s fresh produce.

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