U.S. government to weaken protections for Californian fish, diverting water to farms

The United States government has moved to weaken protections for a California fish.

The delta smelt is already threatened, but the Trump administration has decided large amounts of water will be diverted from San Francisco Bay Delta to farmland in the area.

A report released earlier this week reverses a decision which granted the smelt protections under the Endangered Species Act.

The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement:

“The new operations plan that has emerged includes more nimble and responsive water project operations that both protect endangered fish and allow the flexibility to quickly adapt to changing conditions—like the variable weather in California—to ensure effective and efficient water supply management.”

The move has been criticized by local wildlife groups.

Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife said:

“The Trump administration signed off on water operations that will drive salmon, smelt and other iconic species to extinction.
“These new opinions will be devastating for the Bay-Delta, its tributaries and the fish that rely upon the Delta for their survival.
“This decision will speed up the biological collapse of the largest estuary on the West Coast, threatening California’s salmon industry and the livelihoods of all who depend on a healthy Bay-Delta.
“These new biological opinions weaken virtually every protection required by previous decisions, eliminating clear, science-based habitat protections.
“The opinions will allow for increases in Delta pumping that will kill large numbers of young salmon and deprive gravely endangered Delta smelt of essential freshwater flows.
“Defenders and other groups will challenge this illegal action in court, and we call on the State of California to join us in defending California’s fish and wildlife from this federal water grab.”

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