When you hear about water users south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta complaining about delta smelt forcing restrictions on water pumping, take it with a grain of salt. A small group of agribusiness interests in the western San Joaquin Valley and their congressional representatives blamed the smelt for water shortages in 2014. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is on record saying there were no restrictions on delta water pumping in 2014 caused by smelt. There were restrictions ordered to keep saltwater from intruding too deeply into the delta where drinking water is taken, and to protect dwindling stocks of salmon hammered by the drought.
This is really a fight over salmon and the tens of thousands of jobs the salmon fishery supports. Easier to blame delta smelt, a dinky fish few know anything about.
Let’s get real. The last three years were the driest on record in California. Mother Nature has been doling out rain with an eyedropper.
One of the major goals of the legislation by San Joaquin Valley members of Congress that passed at the end of 2014 is to gut protections for California’s most important and most vulnerable salmon runs — protections contained in the Endangered Species Act and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
The Sacramento River and its tributaries and the bay-delta are the backbone of California’s salmon fishery, producing most of the salmon caught in California as well as much of Oregon. Without those fish, our salmon industry would be lost.
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