State Water Contractors Sue Federal Agencies Over Flawed Delta Smelt Biological Opinion
Biological Opinion Ignores Best Scientific Data and Other Causes of Fish Decline
The lawsuit makes the case that in drawing up the Delta smelt biological opinion, federal agencies ignored the best scientific data available and other causes of the species’ decline. Scientists have identified several other probable causes of the smelt population decline. Invasive species and thousands of unscreened agricultural diversions in the Delta are upsetting the biological balance while toxic runoff from pesticides and wastewater treatment plant discharges that flow through Delta waters and nonnative predator fish, introduced for sport fishing, have altered the natural food web. These other significant sources of fish mortality are summarily dismissed in the biological opinion.
“Due to this biological opinion, we are not able to take advantage of the recent storms to improve our water supply: more than three billion gallons of water a day are passing by water project facilities right now. Without addressing the other threats to survival of the Delta smelt, it is unclear that pumping restrictions will provide any benefit to the fish,” said
The pumping restrictions imposed by the biological opinion have hampered public water agencies’ ability to access and deliver water to farms, businesses and residents throughout the state during wet periods, thereby hindering the state’s ability to withstand and respond to the ongoing three-year drought. Right now, the biological opinion is costing those who depend upon the SWP about 8,000 acre feet of water every day. That is enough water to meet the needs of 40,000 to 50,000 people for a year. And that loss is occurring today, tomorrow and will continue for the foreseeable future.
“We’re doing everything we can to fight unnecessary, irresponsible restrictions because people are losing their businesses and jobs as a consequence of them,” added Moon. “We support effective protection of endangered species, but we need to be smart about how we do it. With the current economic crisis and drought situation, we need to look to comprehensive solutions rather than just pumping restrictions.”
At the center of the state’s water supply woes is the failing Delta – a critical estuary and the hub of California’s primary water delivery systems. Public water agencies, environmental organizations, and state and federal agencies are working together to develop a long-term solution. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a comprehensive conservation plan for the Delta, will provide a basis for addressing the many threats to the Delta needed for fishery and ecosystem recovery, while finding a way to continue to deliver water to Californians throughout the state.
For a copy of SWC’s lawsuit, please contact
The State Water Contractors is a statewide, non-profit association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and
SOURCE State Water Contractors