State Water Contractors Sue Federal Agencies Over Flawed Delta Smelt Biological Opinion

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.

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.

SOURCE State Water Contractors

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