Are New Melones Lake releases for fish necessary?

Fish biologists who study fish populations on the Stanislaus River near Oakdale said Thursday large releases of water from New Melones Lake to help fish were not necessary.

"We don't feel the releases are doing anything to benefit fish populations. The monitoring we've done for 20 years, the current releases are no benefit to the fish," Fishbio's Doug Demko said.

Fishbio is hired by the South San Joaquin and Oakdale Irrigation districts to keep track of fish populations on the Stanislaus River, but the consultant firm has represented agencies on both sides of the environmental debate. Demko said fish survive in the river and water serves better purposes kept upstream.

"Certainly fish need water, but in the fourth year of unprecedented drought, we'd like to use the water as effectively and efficiently as possible. There are times when it's prudent to be saving and conserving," Demko said.

At a Sacramento forum on the drought Thursday, a State Water Resources Board official said releases from lakes like New Melones are for the health of entire water system.

"Everyone assumes flows are for fish. If you don't have enough water through the [Sacramento-San Joaquin] delta to keep salt water in the bay, you have salt with farmers, salt in the state systems. You have to keep salt out of the delta," the water board's John Laird said.


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