Smelt Creates Clash Over Delta Water Exports

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Longfin smelt are a small fish…about four-inches long. Randy Baxter is a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game. He says high-powered pumps that push Delta water to farms and cities can displace the fish. 

“When export pumping is high with winter outflows, sometimes the adult smelt are caught up in those flows.” 

And he says that threatens the fish’s survival. But agencies that deliver water to cities and farmland say cutting back on water deliveries could be devastating. Laura King Moon is with the State Water Contractors – a coalition of agencies that purchase water. 

“This year we’re in a drought and having this on top of it potentially creates a big concern for the water agencies that we work with.” 

If state biologists tracking the longfin smelt determine the fish’s population is too low, water deliveries could be reduced by one-million acre feet of water. But King Moon says state water contractors intend to file a lawsuit to block any drastic restrictions.