San Francisco, Calif.  December 5, 2019Today, representatives of fishing organizations, tribes, and environmental advocacy groups spoke against the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s proposed issuance of a 25 year permit to continue discharges of selenium and other toxins from commingled agricultural and stormwater runoff into the San Joaquin River and the San Francisco Bay Delta. These contaminants would impair the survival of commercially harvested salmon, degrade the quality of the freshwater environment downstream, and poison the drinking water supply for tens of thousands of Californians.

Over the past 25 years millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to study treatment of the poisoned land discharges. Despite a massive effort, no solutions have been found other than to stop irrigation of poisoned lands. In fact a recent report demonstrates that the Bureau of Reclamation “spent a reported $67.8 million for just a project (demonstration treatment plant) that  has not met its legal obligation to provide drainage services and that has not consistently met operational performance goals.

Last month five groups, including PCFFA, filed suit against the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the US Bureau of Reclamation for the failure to adequately review the environmental impacts from continued operation of the Grasslands Bypass Project to drain agricultural pollution.

“The Central Valley Regional Board is devising a toxic solution to the continued dumping of a toxic solution,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “Continued operation of the Grasslands Bypass to dump agricultural waste into public waterways will certainly kill fish and harm fishing jobs. It will also prove to be unlawful, rendering the board’s issuance of a 25-year permit to pollute unlawful as well.”

“The selenium and mercury discharges from the Central Valley’s toxic lands have been released into the San Joaquin River, and thus the state’s drinking water supply, for over 25 years under the condition that they would cease by now,” said Regina Chichizola, co-director of Save California Salmon. “These are the same discharges that caused the Kesterson Refuge disaster. Only in California would the state admit that agriculture pollution could soon make the Central Valley’s water unusable, encourage the use of unfarmable lands, then divert toxins into our rivers and drinking water, and call it a solution.”

“Toxins in water impact fish, divide indigenous families from traditional foods, and can cause permanent learning disabilities in children,” stated Sherri Norris, executive director of the California Indian Environmental Alliance. “Many of these toxins cannot be removed from water once it enters into the system.  It’s imperative that we protect all of California’s water from these toxins.”

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.