Delta smelt on the scaffold of extinction, says new report
July 14, 2014
• Fish numbers have dropped sharply
• “A species that existed in this estuary for thousands of years … is on the scaffold”
Cable TV and talk radio bloviators and politicians may soon have no more Delta smelt to ridicule.
The minnow-like fish, which lives only in the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is on the precipice of extinction, says a report Monday from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
Its analysis of government data says the population of the small fish has dropped to near-extinction levels.
“A species that existed in this estuary for thousands of years and was the most abundant fish in the Delta is on the scaffold,” says the report.
And tying the noose are agencies that are supposed to keep species from going extinct: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game and the State Water Resources Control Board, the report says.
“The point of no return -- the level where the population cannot recover -- is unknown. But, that point is likely approaching,” the report says.
It points to “significantly less” fresh water flowing through the Delta than the state is reporting and warmer water temperatures as threatening the smelt as well as other fish.
The report says the U.S. Geological Survey maintains four state-of-the-art flow gages on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and Three-mile and Dutch sloughs that, cumulatively, record total “Net Delta Outflow” that is far less than the data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources.
“The outflows reported by USBR and DWR are seriously inflated in low water conditions,” the report contends.
It says that this year Delta smelt are being subjected to another year of critically dry conditions on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.
“And this year, the State Water Board seriously weakened Delta flow and water quality standards. Delta outflow is below levels in recent memory and Delta smelt populations are at historic lows. Yet exports continue and water transfers are being approved with little environmental review,” says the report.