Stealing Water from Salmon?

Recently, the scarcity of water in California’s west valley has forced court-ordered sanctions to divvy up the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta–an event that lead to the forced closure of a 150-year-old salmon fishery in both 2008 and 2009.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is home to hundreds of thousands of wildlife species, including migratory birds, native fish, and the threatened Chinook salmon. It’s obvious–in addition to these wildlife that depend on the local water habitat–particularly salmon need protection in order to thrive with drought and a habitat that is being pumped away.

However, California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein is proposing an amendment to cut water allocations from salmon and give them to farmers in the naturally arid region.

This change would negate Endangered Species Act protections that currently regulate how much water salmon need in order to survive. This decision would especially have negative impacts on the times that juvenile salmon need larger flows in order to reach the ocean.

Sen. Feinstein says she wants farmers to receive 40% of their allocations of subsidized water this year, but that she will consider the environmental impacts of taking water from the Delta. Yet, Sen. Feinstein is moving along with this amendment without getting a full report from the National Academy of Science–which is reviewing pumping limits for water deliveries to Central Valley agriculture sources in order to protect the Delta smelt.

This amendment must be stopped in order to protect the endangered salmon population, as pumping water from the Delta may temporarily help farmers, but will significantly harm already threatened salmon populations and the fishing industry of California.

Please take a moment right now to tell Sen. Feinstein that reversing ESA protection of salmon is not helpful for California.

By Kolleen Kawa, National Wildlife Federation

Published: February 22, 2010