Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee is reporting that Federal wildlife officials ordered cuts in water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect the Delta smelt. The order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came as dead Delta smelt have piled up at the state and federal water diversion pumps since mid-December.
The native species is protected by the Endangered Species Act and considered a bellwether for the health of the estuary.
The rules allow 305 smelt to be killed at the pumps over the entire water year, which concludes Sept. 30. Already, the pumps have killed 232 smelt as of Wednesday. This surpasses a 75 percent threshold that triggers talks between the agencies to find additional measures that may be necessary to protect fish.
If the limit of 305 is exceeded, the Fish and Wildlife Service would be compelled to impose new rules that could curtail water deliveries at critical times later in the year.
The pumping systems near Tracy deliver water to roughly 25 million people and about 3 million acres of farmland from San Jose to San Diego.
The C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant (renamed in 2006) was completed in 1951, and the sheer size of the facility is an engineering accomplishment. The facility diverts water from the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta into the Delta Mendota Canal. The facility can pump up to 767 cubic feet per second of water.