Salmon Water Now, a collaboration between fishermen and media professionals, has released a superb new video, “The Water Pirates,” describing how agribusiness maintains a dangerous stranglehold on water management policy in California, according to Larry Collins, commercial salmon fisherman.

Anybody who is interested in seeing how Democratic and Republican Party politicians have both manipulated California water politics to benefit big agriculture’s corporate welfare recipients should watch this video, produced by Bruce Tokars, and urge their friends and co-workers to do so also.

You can watch the Video on YouTube.

“The video focuses on the controversial California water bond as well as U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) continued efforts to benefit her friend, campaign contributor, and agribusiness billionaire Stuart Resnick by attempting to expand the practice of private interests selling subsidized public water for huge profits to non-farm users – all while undermining efforts to restore vital Sacramento River salmon runs,” said Collins, who skippered his commercial fishing boat up to Sacramento as part of a “Million Boat Float” in August 2009 to protest the Governor’s plan to build the peripheral canal.

Collins said the video release comes at a time when two federal panels are looking at the science and policies at the heart of California’s fisheries crisis. On Monday, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power, led by Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), held a field hearing on California’s water supply issues. The hearing was hosted by the Metropolitan Water District, the most politically-powerful urban user of water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Meanwhile, a National Academy of Science (NAS) panel in Davis, CA on Thursday finished up its five day meeting to review the current federal water management plans (biological opinions) in the Delta designed to protect Delta smelt, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and the southern resident population of killer whales.

“The Water Pirates” video highlights one of the central policy issues facing both federal panels and the state: the expanding practice of private individuals selling subsidized federal water for huge profits to non-farm users such as real estate developers. “Unfortunately, Sen. Feinstein and others appear eager to expand this harmful practice,” said Collins.

“The NAS panel came about after Mr. Resnick asked Senator Feinstein to request the review and earmark $750,000 in taxpayer funds to make it happen,” according to Collins. “While the panel heard an earful from invited agribusiness representatives and southern California water agency officials in support of stripping protections for fish in order to increase water exports south of the Delta, the NAS inexplicably failed to invite a single representative from California’s quarter-billion dollar salmon fishing industry or from the Delta’s many farming communities.”

Fishing communities along 1,000 miles of U.S. coastline in California and Oregon have lost hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs in the last two years due to salmon closures caused in large part by abysmal water management in the Delta. The closure of salmon season has caused the loss of 23,000 jobs, according to the American Sportfishing Association. These communities have a significant economic and cultural stake in the successful resolution of the current water debate. However, the NAS panel has thus far ignored them to instead focus on agribusiness interests.

The panel also failed to invite coastal and Delta Representatives and other elected officials, leaders of California Indian Tribes and representatives of environmental justice communities impacted dramatically by massive water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California. Mark Franco, headman of the Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe, said the exclusion of tribal representation from the panel testimony is “a continuation of the past 150 plus years of denial that tribal people have a right to discuss the protection of this state’s resources.”

“By not including a tribal perspective of the connectedness of all parts of the environment, plans will be made and years of hard work by all of us will be wasted while the delta and the rivers connected to it are destroyed,” Franco stated. “When will the government leaders wake up and see that we who have lived in these areas for centuries know what the past brought and the future holds? As Florence Jones, our spiritual leader, said, ‘We all just can’t be dumb and die.'”

Salmon Water Now works to raise awareness of the plight of wild salmon, salmon fishermen, and coastal communities dependent upon healthy freshwater flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. The group believes that “water management in the Delta is woefully inadequate to restore the strong salmon runs that once formed the backbone of the fishing industry in California and Oregon.”

“Great sacrifices have already been made in the form of two consecutive closed salmon seasons, intense hatchery programs, large job losses in the fisheries sector, and raised seafood prices for consumers,” said Collins. “All of these sacrifices will be made in vain as long as water, our most precious resource, continues to be mismanaged for the exclusive benefit of California agribusiness. Now is the moment for California to adopt sustainable, equitable water management that will restore the Bay-Delta’s salmon runs, bring back jobs, save coastal and Delta communities, and foster a newfound value for precious freshwater flows.”

While corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies are manipulating federal water policy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in early November ramrodded a water policy/water bond package through the Legislature that creates a clear path to the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams. Voters must overwhelming defeat the $11.1 water bond at the ballot box in November or we can expect to see Central Valley salmon and Delta fish to become extinct.

The same Governor who is promoting the canal is also completely backing corporate agribusiness in its campaign to gut Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Central Valley salmon and Delta fish. To make matters even worse, Schwarzenegger is fast tracking a widely-contested Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative that is infested with conflicts of interests, racism and corruption of the democratic process.

The MLPA process has become a surrealistic parody of a law that was passed by the State Legislature in 1999 to protect the marine environment. Rather than protecting the ocean as it was intended to, the process under Schwarzenegger has been taken over by oil industry, real estate, marina development and other corporate interests and is now funded by a private corporation, the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation. The apparent aim of Schwarzenegger’s MLPA is to kick Indian Tribes, fishermen and seaweed harvesters off the water to clear the way for offshore oil drilling, wave energy projects and corporate aquaculture.

Vote no on the $11.1 billion water bond this November and urge everybody you know to watch this video!

Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer, described as “The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen.”