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Pombo calls for Delta hearing

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Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006 10:00 pm

Recent studies suggest that smelt and striped bass populations in the Delta have reached record lows, and some Washington lawmakers want to know why.

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is bringing a committee oversight field hearing to Stockton at 8 a.m. Monday to examine Delta fisheries' populations in the San Francisco Bay-San Joaquin Delta.

"We are looking at the lowest numbers of Delta smelt in recent history," Pombo said. "Something is not working, and we need to fix this problem. But first, we need to hear from the on-the-ground scientists who are trying to figure out the causes of the declines."

The committee invited a group of government scientists and water experts to testify at Monday's hearing about the health of the Delta. While written testimony from others can be submitted, there will not be time set aside for public comment.

"Public comment is critical to understanding the whole nature of the problem," said Carrie McNeil, head of the Stockton-based environmental group Delta Keeper. "That a congressman, who is not traditionally a supporter of environmental protections of the Delta, is bringing the issue here just shows us how severe the crisis is."

Various environmental groups are expected to show up for the hearings, and the American Land Rights Association is expecting them to picket.

"I haven't heard of any plans for pickets from any other environmental groups," McNeil said.

Members from both sides requested the hearing to learn about the areas of concern and plans on restoring the fisheries' populations.

"Fish declines and the state of the Bay-Delta are not partisan issues, nor should the science be," Pombo said.

"This hearing will help give us some answers and is a step toward a scientific roadmap for restoring the health and preserving the multipurposes of the Delta," said Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman George Radanovich, R-Fresno.

Contact reporter Phil Hayworth, call 830-4221 or e-mail phayworth@tracypress.com.

Witnesses to testify

The following witnesses have been called to testify before a House Resource Committee field hearing about the health of the Delta. The witness order will be determined the day of the hearing:

Chuck Armor: operations manager, Central Valley Bay-Delta Branch, California Department of Fish and Game

Randall Baxte: senior biologist supervisor, long-term monitoring, Central Valley Bay-Delta Branch, California Department of Fish and Game

Rich Breuer: environmental program manager, chief environmental water quality and estuarine studies, California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Mike Chotkowsk: fisheries biologist, Scientific Support Branch, Mid-Pacific Region, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

David Harlow: assistant field supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Matt Nobriga: environmental scientist, Aquatic Ecology Sections, California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Ted Sommer: environmental scientist supervisor, Chief Aquatic Ecology Section, California Department of Water Resources

First published: Friday, February 24, 2006 6:23:47 AM

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