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Delta Science Panel Witness List Raises Questions About Commitment to Real Science


January 22, 2010 -- Stockton --  The Department of the Interior has released the draft agenda for the National Academy of Sciences panel reviewing the biological opinion mandating reduced diversions of fresh water from the Sacramento Delta to protect Delta fish populations.
The panel's list of outside experts has struck the environmental and fishing community with its blatant bias in favor of agricultural and urban water users.
The "expert" invited to represent the Sacramento Delta is a representative from the "Coalition for a Sustainable Delta," an astroturf organization funded by Stewart Resnick, the billionaire owner of Paramount Farms, a San Joaquin Valley agribusiness.   The group is housed in Resnick's Paramount Farms headquarters, and three of its four officers are Paramount employees.
"This is an insult to Delta residents who will be most affected by the decisions of this panel," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta. Delta farmers and Delta cities rely on water from the Delta, which has suffered from water quality problems from overpumping in previous years.   The collapse of Delta fish populations has also severely impacted the Delta's and California Coastal commercial, sportfishing and tourism industries, to say nothing of the natural environment.  Neither Restore the Delta staff, nor any of its 4500 members were invited to testify before the panel.
Commercial salmon fishermen aren't even represented on the witness list.  The group invited to testify before the panel is the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which studies skipjack and yellowfin tuna populations.  These deep sea fish breed in Mexico and in warm years are sometimes found as far north as Point Conception in Santa Barbara.  "It is ridiculous to suggest that the West Coast's largest salmon run can be replaced by increased fishing of skipjack tuna in Southern California," said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association.   "This leads me to question whether the Department of the Interior is serious about restoring the West Coast salmon fishery and the thousands of lost jobs in coastal communities in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington."
Another "expert" witness has been the source of deep skepticism because of the lack of vetting of his research.   BJ Miller, who is listed on the panel as a "consultant" is expected to testify that he has found no correlation between Delta smelt populations and Delta pumping.   Miller has no University affiliations and his research has never been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  He has been listed as a "Consulting Engineer" for agricultural groups, including the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, a major beneficiary of Delta pumping.
The Metropolitan Water District also is slated to testify at the hearing.   The District has had its plans for further housing development in Southern California impacted by the biological opinion.  Observers wonder whether these industry groups even belong as expert witnesses at a hearing for an independent scientific review of the biological opinion determining freshwater flows needed to restore salmon, smelt, and other species of fish.

We had expected better from the current administration," said Byron Leydecker of Friends of the Trinity River.  " Seeing that the National Academy of Science review will be an extended process, we hope that representatives from the salmon industry,  Delta communities and the independent, University-affiliated biologists who are studying the decline of Delta fish populations will be given an equal opportunity to testify in the near future."


Contact:  Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, (209) 479-2053

Zeke Grader, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen  (415) 561-5080 x224

Byron Leydecker, Friends of Trinity River (415) 383-4810

Carolee Krieger,  California Water Impact Network (805) 969-0842