Report shows flaws in Endangered Species Act

Apr 2, 2010
by WLJ

A scientific report on actions to protect fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta confirms the need for better justification of water restrictions and confirms flaws in the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the leader of California’s largest farm organization.

California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said the report from the National Research Council provides insight into actions intended to benefit delta smelt and salmon in the delta.

“This report is an important step toward balanced management of the California water system,” Wenger said, noting that federal agencies have addressed fish problems chiefly by reducing water pumping from the delta.

“We believe the government must do a better job of managing the delta pumps to make more water available to people while still protecting the fish. The report acknowledges that the existing water system can be managed better for people and fish,” he said. “It also reaffirms that our existing water system must be improved.”

Wenger noted the scientific panel concluded that a number of other factors— such as sewage treatment plants and non-native fish— present a “potentially large” threat to protected native fish.

“We know that other factors affect the fish,” he said.

“We look forward to the follow-up report from the research council that will explore those factors in detail and offer recommendations on potential long-term solutions.”

The report said it is difficult to judge whether government actions to protect delta smelt and salmon might conflict with one another, in part because ESA does not require government agencies to take that into account.

“We support the report’s call for agencies to work together more closely. That clearly could reduce the water supply impact of fish protection,” Wenger said. “By pointing out how the species-by-species approach of the ESA prevents overall analysis of the delta, the report underscores the need to make the act more flexible and less punitive.” — WLJ