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The Smelt Excuse

Water exports are not named the number one cause, but it has continued to be the number one solution.

Jul 09, 2019


According to the article below (Spring Delta smelt surveys reveal record low numbers of fish as big water exports continue), the fall of 2018 saw a new record low number of Delta smelt — zero — in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) midwater trawl survey."  The article goes on to blame the low numbers on"massive water exports by the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project to agribusiness interests, combined with declining water quality and the impact of upstream dam operations.   

We're making some headway in the blame game as blame used to go only to "massive water exports" to agribusiness.  At least they're putting some blame on declining water quality.  The declining water quality has to do with the partially treated sewage from treatment plants around the delta.  But, there are other factors that contribute.  

The non-native striped bass feast on smelt and salmon while water bureaucrats cut the water exports to the Central Valley and Southern California.  It would have been a no-brainer to increase the 2-bass catch limit to protect the smelt, but the Fish and Game Commission rejected the proposal in 2012 on a 4-0 vote.  Their answer?  “The consensus of the research is there’s more going on (with native fish declines) than predation. That’s the department’s position.”

We agree.  There's a lot more going on, but the only solution continues to be the reduction in water exports out of the delta.  What else is going on?  In 2011 the Delta Independent Science Board reported "  There are more than 40 potential causes for the Delta’s decline...but ranking them in order is just too difficult."  Water exports are not named the number one cause, but it has continued to be the number one solution.  Water quality is another cause as are the striped bass and 37 other causes.  "Ultimately, the scientists said they could not conclude that any one factor, or any small combination of the 40-plus factors, is the root of the Delta’s problems."

Delta’s biggest enemy hard to pinpoint

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