Saturday, April 16, 2016

Despite El Niño Rains, the Feds Keep Favoring Fish over Farmers

From Allysia Finley, at WSJ, "California's Water Injustice":
El Niño has doused northern California, but farmers in the state’s Central Valley won’t see much benefit. The Obama Administration is again indulging its progressive friends at the expense of low-income communities.

The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that Central Valley Project agricultural water contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would receive a mere 5% of their contractual allocation this year despite brimming reservoirs in the North. Lake Shasta is at 90% capacity, and billions of gallons of water were released from Lake Folsom this winter to avert flooding.

Meantime, wildlife refuges and farmers north of the Delta—those in Democratic Reps. Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi’s districts—will get 100% of the water they’re owed. The liberal gentry in the Bay Area, which pipes its pristine water directly from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, also won’t be affected by this government water rationing. Federal biological opinions limit Delta water pumps to a third of capacity to protect endangered smelt and salmon, which can get sucked into the machines. Despite these restrictions, fish populations continue to decline.

The Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged last year that “existing regulatory mechanisms have not proven adequate” to halt the smelt’s decline and that “we are unable to determine with certainty which threats or combinations of threats are directly responsible.” The bigger culprits appear to be invasive species, Delta farm fertilizer, Sacramento effluence, the drought and, perhaps, natural selection.

The Obama Administration is nonetheless doubling down on a failed policy. Amid this winter’s storms, Delta water regulators reduced water pumping to protect putatively vulnerable larval and juvenile smelt. Three adult smelt—and no juveniles or larvae—have been killed by the pumps this year....

House Republicans and [California Democrat] Senator [Dianne] Feinstein have backed legislation to give federal agencies discretion to increase pumping during heavy storm flows. Ms. Feinstein last month told the Sacramento Bee that Mr. Obama hasn’t engaged. The unavoidable conclusion is that the President and his green patrons care more about protecting fish larvae than the poor.
Keep reading.