March 23, 2007

Delta Smelt

Activist judge turns off the SoCal faucet:

The state must stop running the giant pumps that send water to Southern California unless wildlife officials approve the continued killing of protected salmon and Delta smelt, a judge ruled today.

The decision by Judge Frank Roesch of Alameda County Superior Court gives the state Department of Water Resources 60 days to get the necessary permission from wildlife officials. Granting permission could, in turn, require massive efforts to increase salmon and smelt populations elsewhere.

Many environmentalists blame the exporting of Northern California water for causing sharp declines in the number of some fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The pumps operated by the state are located near Tracy and send water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

The Delta smelt and winter and spring run Chinook salmon are protected by the state's Endangered Species Act.

Officials with the Department of Water Resources said they are reviewing the decision.

Shutting down the pumps could paralyze the state's water system, but activists behind the lawsuit said they doubted that would happen.

"We're pleased that the judge has dissipated the smoke screen that DWR and water users tried to put up. Now our attention turns to getting full mitigation for the salmon and smelt," said Bill Jennings, head of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

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