Delta smelt, culture wars icon

Fiorina told delegates at the state Republican Party convention here that protections for the threatened Delta smelt were a product of the “tyranny of the left, the tyranny of environmentalists.”

I fear discussions of the Delta smelt and environmental costs and benefits of moving California’s water from north to south have passed the point of useful discourse and into the realm of culture wars politics. (Quote from David Siders in the Sacramento Bee.)


  1. This is one of those culture wars where people get caught between two Truths. On one side, there’s a government-created drought. Which is true. The water in the flow standards in the Biological Opinions has to come from somewhere. On the other side, there’s a project-created drought that kills fish. Also true — the fish deaths wouldn’t be so bad if the projects weren’t diverting flows. So one side blames fish and the other side blames farmers, and they are both right. Cue the rhetoric.

  2. So, does it really sound reasonable to anyone that over the last to weeks of March that only ~4.5% of total Delta inflow was exported by federal and state pumps as up to 80,000 cubic feet per second was roaring down the Sac River – equivalent to four 2,500 square foot homes filled with water floating by every second, of every minute, of every hour…all day? All the while, up and down the state, electeds and residents alike call for more stormwater capture and storage, yet we can’t take advantage of high storm flows at the point where 50% of all the state’s runoff flows and facilities are available. Really?!

  3. Does anyone hav an answer to Eric post? If the minimum flows during the summer are ok for the fish population wouldn’t that be the determing factor as to how much could be pumped to Southern California when 80,000 cfs was moving through the delta?

  4. We can all agree on the data as to how much water is in the reservoirs and how much water is moving through the Delta each day. What is missing is how much water are the managers deciding to allocate to what is needed for the delta ecosystem each day. Where are those numbers? Who decides on what those numbers are? When an abundance of water is moving through the delta out to the San Francisco Bay, who makes the decision not to divert that water to the southern part of the state?

    You don’t get those days back when you have that abundance yet the behavior of those managing the system showed that they decided not to pump that abundance south.

  5. from what i’ve read the decision not to pump (or to
    reduce pumping) is based upon actual observations
    and science about when endangered fish species minnows
    are most vulnerable to diverted flows.

  6. The permitted capacity of the Delta pumping plants is about 11,000 cfs, so they couldn’t catch 80,000 cfs of outflow anyway.

    My understanding of the slow pumping rate in a time of relative abundance is that there are now environmental controls on some of the internal Delta rivers (Old and Middle Rivers), so that they do not flow backwards at time when endangered fish are most susceptible. We ask a lot of California’s Delta, more than it can provide in a number of ways.

  7. Thank you Jay. The point of the 80,000 cfs is to show that 11,000 cfs could have have pumped south and still satisfied environmental and fisheries demands. Eric’s point is that this didn’t happen in that time of abundance which was an opportunity lost. Each day of abudance that pumping is not maximized is a opportunity lost. We have enough data to make more efficient decisions and yet that doesn’t happen.

  8. Mike, you don’t understand, the flows from the south have
    been dismal this season, almost no rains have fallen. so they
    cannot pump as much water from the north to the south
    through the delta because it changes the flows of the rivers
    (reverses them) and the minnows never make it to where they
    need to go. having already done this for so many years they’ve
    endangered many species.

    it is about time that nature gets a fair share and some

    they will resume pumping when the minnows are out of the

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