The harm that has been done in the name of the ESA is considerable and an excellent book examining that is, Green Gone Wild: Elevating Nature Above Human Rights, by David Stirling, former General Counsel for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and former Chief Deputy Attorney General.
This article from the Sacramento Bee, does a good job laying out the various points involved in the current water issues impacting the agricultural valleys of California.
“On Sept. 17, the famously hypertensive Fox News commentator Sean Hannity rolled into the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, satellite truck in tow. Months earlier, the federal government had announced that it was slashing water deliveries to local farmers, after it became clear that a 2-year-old drought would grind on for another year.
“Central Valley farms are muscular emblems of American-style production agriculture, growing everything from tomatoes for Heinz ketchup to organic spinach for Amy's-brand pizzas and vegetable pot pies. The farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are confederated as the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the United States, which has a reputation for bare-knuckle combativeness. But Westlands has fared badly in the face of both the drought and water-pumping restrictions to protect a threatened fish called the Delta smelt. Last year, farmers in the Westlands district received only 10 percent of the water they hold federal contracts for, forcing them to leave roughly 156,000 acres – about a quarter of the district – unplanted.
“Hannity and many others quickly blamed the crisis on the Endangered Species Act. His retinue set up camp on a fallowed field, clipped microphones to the area's congressional delegation and began beaming the farmers' plight to the world. As a boom cam floated over the sign-toting, flag-waving throng, Hannity said, "The government has put the interests of a 2-inch minnow before all of the great people that you see out here tonight." He brandished a blown-up photo of a smelt and said: "This is what this comes down to: No water for farmers, because of this fish."