Governmental scientific integrity made a comeback recently when the U.S. Department of Interior put the breaks on a questionable experiment in the ecologically-fragile California Bay-Delta Estuary.
The 2-Gates Fish Demonstration Project is being promoted by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, an agricultural water user in the San Joaquin Valley, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Their project would attempt to lure endangered Delta Smelt away from the deadly water pumping facilities in the southern Delta to continue the unsustainable export levels.
In a December 22nd letter, Interior refused to approve the 2-Gates proposal until the proponents address questions raised by federal agencies and independent science entities about the underlying scientific premise for the project.
This decision disrupts the proponents’ efforts to avoid scrutiny of their project. The proponents had already obtained an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act through Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2009 emergency drought proclamation and had prematurely secured federal funding for project implementation through omnibus federal budget bills.
Interior’s actions demonstrate the problems inherent in the Governor’s wide-reaching drought proclamation. Without vetting the scientific assumptions of the 2-Gates proposal, which the proponents failed to do, it’s impossible to determine whether the project will help mitigate the environmental impacts of the drought, a condition for qualifying for the exemption. By complying with Interior’s request, the proponents can help determine if the project will actually protect the environment and therefore warrant use of scarce taxpayer dollars.