November 16, 2008

Water cutbacks and the California Endangered Species Act

By Water cutbacks and the California Endangered Species Act

On Friday, the California Fish & Game Commission voted to authorize emergency water pumping cutbacks to protect the longfin smelt, a small fish for whom a petition to list under the California Endangered Species Act is currently before the Commission (under the state ESA, unlike its federal counterpart, a species receives full protection as a candidate for listing).  The pumping restrictions will take effect if a certain number of smelt are found dead in various sampling locations.  The restrictions would last for a 90-day period (December to February), during the smelt's migration, spawning, and hatching.  The state is predicting that Southern California water users, who depend upon the pumps of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to send water from the north of the state to the south, may see severe water shortages this winter, owing to state ESA restrictions for the longfin smelt as well as the delta smelt, which is protected under the federal ESA.

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