Like most Americans, I appreciate clean water. However, unlike many Americans, I don’t take take clean water for granted. Nor do I want it at the expense of the Delta Smelt.
For those of you not up on your Hypomesus transpacificus, Delta Smelt are small, almost translucent fish whose home is located in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. For the past twenty years, the population of the Delta Smelt has declined so significantly that in 1993, the Smelt was added to the Endangered Species Act.
Why? Because the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta supplies water to over 23 million Californians and to millions of acres of farming land. But whose water is it anyway? Because of the great tug-of-war between humans and marine life, groups have formed to figure out ways to provide water to encourage Smelt growth, while continuing to satisfy the demands of people and land. I get the Top-of-the-Food-Chain argument, but human beings have more options for survival than the Smelt. Bottom line: if we take their water, they die.
Hoping to restore the Delta population while providing water to Californians and their farms, Governor Schwarzenegger named a task force called “Delta Blue Ribbon Task Force”, which places a limit on the amount of water pumped south through the Delta from December (when the Smelt spawn) through June (when the Smelt would have the opportunity to head for safer waters).
The Task Force has come up with a couple of plans, both of which, according to Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee, “focus on armoring levees along the Middle River and the South Fork Mokelumne River in a north-south path through the center of the Delta. The goal is to create a corridor within the Delta for Sacramento River water to reach state and federal water pumps near Tracy [California]”.
Another option includes a peripheral canal, which would operate alongside the channel. The peripheral canal would redirect Sacramento River water to the export pumps, bypassing the Delta altogether. Some of the group members feel that a peripheral canal might protect that water in the event of a natural disaster.
Governor Schwarzenegger has asked the group to come up with a formal plan by November. Hopefully it will keep ourselves and our crops hydrated without killing off the Smelt.