December 15, 2014

New smelt oped

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Last week, the San Diego U-T published my oped on the smelt water cutbacks.  One of the commenters on the newspaper’s website contends that, this past water year, the Endangered Species Act protections for the smelt had no impact on California’s water supply.  Instead, the cutbacks were imposed because of ESA protections for other fish species and for state-law requirements.  The commenter is no doubt correct that regulations other than those for the smelt have negative impacts on the state’s water supply.  But the criticisms that the oped levels against the smelt protections could be made with equal force against those for other ESA-protected fish in the delta.  Moreover, a win for the farmers in the Supreme Court in the smelt case also would result in improvements in the ESA regulations for those other aquatic species.  Finally, it is indisputable that, over these last several years of drought, the smelt-inspired water pumping restrictions have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water.

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