Ag Uses Sound Science to Help Fish

Ag Collaborates to Help Endangered Fish

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Don Bransford, president of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) as well as a member of the State Board of Food and Agriculture, expressed major concerns with the proposed State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) diversion of 40% of the water from many irrigation districts on rivers that drain into the San Joaquin River to increase flows in the Delta to protect endangered fish.

 

“It’s a very difficult challenge because it appears that the SWRCB wants to increase the flows in the Sacramento River. That water has to come from somewhere, and it looks like it’s going to come from the irrigation districts. Unless we can do environmental projects on the River to improve habitat for fish and re-manage our water, we have water at risk,” said Bransford.

Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District
Don Bransford, president, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District

 

Bransford, who is also a rice farmer, said “Everyone has their own science regarding protecting those species. We’re talking about salmon, steelhead trout, and of course the smelt.”

“The difficulty is, we believe they’re using a lot of old science. There is newer science that suggests there are better ways to manage this. And, if something does not work, then you change. You just don’t throw more water at it,” he noted.

“We think habitat improvements are important in providing refuge for the fish,” Bransford explained. “We’re looking at flushing rice water into the rivers to provide food. Currently, the rivers are pretty sterile because they are just channels now. If we could apply flows from rice into the rivers like we did for the Delta Smelt this summer, you’re providing food for smelt.”

Bransford noted the Northern California irrigation districts work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase flows in certain areas of the Sacramento River at certain times. “Our irrigation district managers work with the Bureau to provide flushing flows on the upper Sacramento.” These flows clean out diseased gravel beds in the absence of natural high water flows.”

“So they used some extra water late March of this year,” Bransford elaborated, “to just turn the gravel over to freshen it up. It did help the fish, particularly the salmon,” said Bransford.


Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID), according to its website, is dedicated to providing reliable, affordable water supplies to its landowners and water users, while ensuring the environmental and economic viability of the region. As the largest irrigation district in the Sacramento Valley, GCID has a long history of serving farmers and the agricultural community and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The District fulfills its mission of efficiently and effectively managing and delivering water through an ever-improving delivery system and responsible policies, while maintaining a deep commitment to sustainable practices. Looking ahead, GCID will remain focused on continuing to deliver a reliable and sustainable water supply by positioning itself to respond proactively, strategically and responsibly to California’s ever-changing water landscape.

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Collaboration Results in Win-Win Endangered Fish/Safe Thiobencarb Use Policy

By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday Editor and Reporter

Roberta Firoved, Industry Affairs Manager for the California Rice Commission
Roberta Firoved, Industry Affairs Manager for the California Rice Commission

Roberta Firoved, Industry Affairs Manager for the California Rice Commission, stated in a press release Wednesday, “A great example of our positive relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is found in the recent press release, ‘U.S. EPA, federal and state agencies, rice growers, industry act to protect endangered salmon and steelhead trout in California.’”

In the release, Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, states, “Working closely with our state and federal partners, our joint efforts will protect salmon and steelhead trout while maintaining rice production in California. This action also supports EPA’s commitment to minimize pesticide pollution in the San Francisco Bay Delta.”

“This is a smart approach to pesticide use that includes important safeguards for protected fish while still allowing growers to care for their crops,” said Will Stelle, administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries) West Coast Region, in the same release. “This demonstrates that we can find balanced and workable solutions through collaboration.”

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) established measures to protect salmon and steelhead trout based on proximity to endangered and threatened species habitat according to NOAA Fisheries geographic locations, as well as information and best management practices from the California Rice Commission and its grower members, plus the California Regional Water Quality Control Board – Central Valley Region. U.S. EPA and Valent, the manufacturer of the herbicide thiobencarb, also worked to put these restrictions in place.

After reviewing CDPR’s data on pesticide use and the state’s protective measures to be enforced by County Agriculture Commissioners, NOAA Fisheries found that thiobencarb use on rice in California would not jeopardize salmon and steelhead trout provided protective measures currently being applied in California are ensured.

“The positive approach we applied throughout development of the thiobencarb use conditions,” Firoved explained, “expanded into our interaction with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) as they researched and wrote the biological opinion (BiOp) for thiobencarb.”

Thiobencarb is a systemic, pre-emergence herbicide in liquid or a granular formulation that inhibits shoots of emerging weed seedlings. First registered for use on rice in 1982, thiobencarb is used to control grasses, sedge and broadleaf weeds in food crops such s rice (represents 95% of use), lettuce, celery, and endive. Thiobencarb, or Valent’s Bolero® UltraMax Herbicide, may be applied using ground spray equipment or by aircraft.

“The win for rice growers is that the farming practices developed over time are also protective of endangered species. We always assumed this to be the case, and entrusted the thiobencarb BiOp for confirmation.

Reflecting on the successful collaboration, Firoved stated, “We have no magic bullet, nor do we approach the issues with contention. Our perspective is that all participants around the table are looking for the same end result, no matter where they work.”

 

 

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