Indecision Over Water and Smolt in California

March 5, 2012 By: Benjamin Clary

Because of its protected status, environmentalists, politicians, and farmers—although perhaps more begrudgingly—agree that the presence of salmon smolt must be taken into consideration for any plan that will affect the delta of California’s Central Valley.  However, the groups could not be further apart on how to achieve a plan that is not harmful or even neutral for the salmon.

New York Times reporter John Upton examines an ambitious plan that would include a contentious proposal to implement a canal that sucks the water from the Valley.   Upton examines it from the prospective of flood prevention, rather than a war of water.  Following the failure of the faulty New Orleans levees and the part they played in the Hurricane Katrina damage, it’s a worthy rally cry for proponents.

Despite those in support proclaiming that the plan will increase the area of the flood plain and thus be beneficial to the smolt, others are skeptical.  Furthermore, it is the invasive striped bass eating the smolt, not water exports, that is more damaging to the fish, a problem that could be fixed by among other things increased catch rules toward the bass, proponents say.  Proponents counter that water export will increase the salinity of the water and that striped bass is now classified a “native fish” by the state.