Fresno Judge Sets Date for Hearing on Salmon and Delta Pumping

April 28, 2008 3:01:05 PM PDT
A drastic drop in the salmon population forced the federal government to cancel California's salmon fishing season. Fishing groups say increased pumping from the delta contributed to the decline.110 miles north of the delta, in Federal Court in downtown Fresno, Judge Oliver Wanger was considering solutions. Mike Sherwood of Earthjustice said "We think there may be some need to modifications to the way the water projects are operated in the interim period, in the next eight months or so before the new biological opinion comes out."

Judge Wanger last week called a 2004 study to increase water exports "scientifically inadequate." He called for a hearing on May 15 to hear updated numbers on the salmon and steelhead trout populations. Farmers on the Valley's west side rely on the delta for irrigation water. They expect to receive less than half of their normal delivery because of this year's dry conditions and pumping restrictions due to the endangered delta smelt.

West-side farmer John Harris said "In our area we've got some wells but they really are over-tapped. They won't last that long and the water quality isn't good. It's a real devastating situation if we can't figure a way to get more water out of the delta."

Environmental concerns over the salmon and steelhead trout could lead to further cutbacks. Sherwood said "One of the questions we will have to address is whether those pumping restrictions are adequate to protect salmon and steelhead as well as delta smelt."

Westlands Water District officials say the situation may lead it to call for summer rationing and mandatory cut-backs. That may result in several growers losing their crops.


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