Executive Summary for September 2nd

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key developments in the California drought including money for the Salton Sea and a Hetch Hetchy lawsuit. We also look at the results of a new delta smelt program.

Published on Sep. 2, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Delta Smelt Program Shows Results

A new plan to help the endangered delta smelt by providing them with more food is producing results, according to information released this week by California’s Department of Water Resources.

The project diverted water from the Sacramento River through the Yolo Bypass, a wetland and tidal slough, before entering the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which created a bloom of phytoplankton, the smelt’s tiny food source.

“This effort provides a good example of the application of scientific research to address complex management issues,” said Ted Sommer, lead scientist for DWR. “The overall strategy of the smelt plan was based on intensive effort by a multi-agency team to isolate the major factors affecting different life stages of the delta smelt and to identify the habitat, environmental and landscape conditions that could be improved to support better growth and reproduction.”

It’s unclear yet what the effects of increased food sources has been on the delta smelt’s population, which is critically low.

The effort is part of the larger Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy, which focuses on a number of habitat and water quality projects.

Salton Sea Gets a Boost

This week we published a story about why the Salton Sea in the desert of Southern California is approaching a dangerous deadline that would impact the health of thousands of people and endangered habitat for migratory birds.

Because of a complicated arrangement to reduce Southern California’s dependence on the Colorado River, at the end of 2017 the Salton Sea will lose a key source of water that could expose vast amounts of dusty lake bed and further increase the lake’s salinity, killing off fish critical to migrating birds.

The state was tasked with efforts to help mitigate the problem, but efforts have been slow until recently. In June, the state legislature approved $80.5 million for some modest habitat projects. Then on Wednesday President Obama announced that the federal government would commit $30 million to help spur restoration efforts at the Salton Sea. Another $10 million will likely come from the Water Funder Initiative, a group of leading philanthropic foundations.

Hetch Hetchy Lawsuit Tossed

The latest legal effort to prove the Hetch Hetchy dam should be removed because of environmental reasons has failed after a U.S. District Court judge tossed the case saying the environmental group did not have standing.

For about a century, environmental groups have been fighting the dam that plugged the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park and flooded a popular valley. The dam created the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which is used to capture and store drinking water for the San Francisco Bay Area.

The most recent lawsuit was brought by the Center for Environmental Science Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) and one of its members, Jean Sagouspe. It charged that the National Park Service violated the Endangered Species Act in creating its water diversion.

In another effort in 2012, the group Restore Hetch Hetchy put an initiative, Proposition F, before San Francisco voters that would have required the city to come up with a plan to remove the reservoir and find alternative sources of water and power. The initiative was defeated 76 percent to 23 percent.

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