Justices won't question California Delta smelt protections

WASHINGTON (KFSN) -- A US Supreme Court decision rejected appeals from Valley farmers and kept in place federal pumping restrictions to protect the Delta smelt.

Farmers on the Valley's west side were disappointed the Supreme Court decided to keep in place restrictions on water deliveries out of the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta.

Scientists regard the three inch long endangered fish as a key indicator to the health of the delta. High court justices refused to hear an appeal from farmers and water districts who argued pumping restrictions to protect the fish were harmful to the economy.

Kerman farmer Paul Betancourt said, "We're obviously disappointed. This is a real issue to us. Not only has it cut off water over the last few years but look at last month's storms. We have a huge storm, lots of flooding and the feds let 50,000 acre feet of water run out into the ocean."

Kate Poole of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, "Today's decision is good news for the thousands of fishermen, delta farmers, and everyone who depends on the health of California's bay-delta estuary and its native fisheries and wildlife."

Farmers in the Westlands water district received zero water allocation last year. Environmentalists said the drought is causing the water delivery shortage - not the smelt. West side farmers would like to see more water pumped south from the delta to the San Luis Reservoir.

Betancourt explained, "We've got to find a way to balance the economy and the environment. Right now the rules are all swung one way and that's not any healthier than rules being swung the other way."

The Supreme Court decision upheld the US Fish and Wildlife Service's 2008 opinion that restrictions were needed on the use of delta pumps to protect the smelt. null
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