President Obama says he wants to “redesign government” and deliver services in a “smarter” way. Terrific. Perhaps he could start by ensuring a reliable water supply to people living in the devolving state of California.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this spring cut water deliveries to farmers and the two-thirds of Californians who live south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to between 20% and 35% of their contractual allocations. The reason? Because 300 three-inch smelt were caught in the pumps at the south end of the delta. Since the smelt is designated “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, it’s being protected at literally all costs.
Thus 800,000 acre-feet of water this spring was flushed into the San Francisco Bay. That’s enough to sustain 800,000 families, irrigate 200,000 acres of land, grow 20 million tons of grapes and employ thousands of workers. Although California’s jobless rate has fallen to 8.6% and is around 5% in the Bay Area, unemployment in the Central Valley remains in double digits.
As a side note, you don’t need to worry about your next shipment of Sonoma pinots. Northern California vintners don’t get their water from the delta. Nor do the liberal titans in San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights who bankroll the green groups that demanded the pumps be shut.
The real kicker is that more smelt are captured by biologists conducting population surveys each year than are trapped by pumps. An easier way to protect smelt would be to stop these surveys, which officials at California’s Natural Resources Agency tell us aren’t reliable anyway. No surprise, the Department of Interior hasn’t heeded the President’s calls to strike senseless regulations and is refusing to ease pumping restrictions.