Saturday, December 29, 2007

Delta Water

Deliveries shrink and the peripheral canal resumes center stage.

Delta water exports halved
It was the first cut rising from a court ruling to protect threatened smelt.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, December 29, 2007

Water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were slashed in half Friday to protect a threatened fish, marking the first action sparked by a federal court order earlier this month.

The Dec. 14 ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno requires state and federal water agencies to reduce their draw from the estuary under certain conditions to protect the Delta smelt. The agencies operate separate canal systems, which serve 25 million Californians and more than 2 million acres of farms from the Bay Area to San Diego.

But those water exports have contributed to a steep decline in the population of the smelt, a fragile fingerling protected by the Endangered Species Act. The fish are not strong enough to resist the pull of the pumps, which reverse natural water flows in the Delta.

Wanger's ruling requires pumping reductions under certain conditions that affect the smelt. One of those triggers was tripped on Christmas Day when water clarity declined at a South Delta monitoring site.