Feds reduce Calif. water pumping to protect fish | TheUnion.com

Feds reduce Calif. water pumping to protect fish

SACRAMENTO -The federal government said Tuesday it will reduce pumping in the delta this week because a threatened fish could be killed by the equipment, a decision that follows two years of limited deliveries that left fallowed fields across the Central Valley.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation intends to shut off one of its five pumps beginning Thursday because adult delta smelt swam into the area, said bureau spokesman Pete Lucero.

The restrictions to protect the smelt, a finger-sized fish, primarily affect Central Valley farmers and could last until June 30.

The federal government had been pumping at full capacity since Saturday. That was the day after a federal court judge lifted separate federal pumping restrictions that had been in place to protect salmon.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the state’s major rivers drain from the northern and central Sierra Nevada, is the hub of California’s water supply. Both the state and federal government run massive pumps that siphon drinking and irrigation water to more than 25 million Californians and the Central Valley farms that produce half the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

The state Department of Water Resources is reviewing whether it also needs to reduce pumping to keep smelt away from its 10 pumps, said department deputy director Jerry Johns.

Unlike the federal government, the state did not increase pumping after last week’s court ruling lifted federal salmon restrictions. That’s because the state is obligated to protect migrating salmon under California’s endangered species law, Johns said.

The state pumps primarily send drinking water to Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area.

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