Delta on the brink
At a time when salmon runs are struggling to survive in the Central Valley, a woman with four years of experience working to find solutions for the troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will speak locally this week.
Kim Taylor served as deputy director of science at the CALFED Bay Delta Program from 2000-2004 and will give a presentation on the Delta titled ‘Our River Runs to It’ at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22 at the Odd Fellows Hall in Nevada City. The event is sponsored by the Yuba Watershed Institute.
“I think the biggest hurdle is we’ve created a very unnatural habitat in the delta. It’s very vulnerable,” Taylor said. Taylor will explain how the Delta works and the resource management challenges ahead.
Although miles away, what happens in the delta affects the fish returning to the Yuba River, Taylor said.
“I think things going on in the Delta are important for people living near the Yuba to know about because our watersheds are connected,” Taylor said.
The sustainability of the human altered delta is on the brink of collapse as ever increasing demands by agriculture and urban water users strain the system held together by a weak levee system, warned a report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this month.
Several species of fish, including the delta smelt and Chinook salmon, have shown signs of decline in recent years. Managing the Delta as a freshwater system is wrong, PPIC said because historically the ecosystem was subject to strong tidal cycles that mingled fresh and brackish waters.
The group stated the Delta could become an “environmental and economic disaster due to changing conditions, deterioration and increasing vulnerabilities to its system of levees.”
“We just don’t have the money to sustain the levees to make them secure,” Taylor said. Tough decisions will have to be made in coming years to protect fish and water resources, she added.
Composed of 57 leveed island tracts and 700 miles of sloughs and winding channels, the Delta is the west coast’s largest estuary.
Prior to the development of agriculture by early settlers, the original delta was a vast marsh covered with tules and teeming with wildlife. Now it is the hub of the Central Valley and State Water projects and supplies water to two-thirds of Californians.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@the union.com or call 477-4231.
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