National Academy of Sciences Concludes Less Delta Pumping Saves Fish

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) released A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay Delta. The report confirms that limits on pumping water from the South Delta make sense to protect the beleaguered ecosystem. Here’s how the scientists put it: “the concept of reducing … negative flows to reduce mortality of smelt at the (pumping) facilities is scientifically justified.” The report was prepared at the behest of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

A second report from the NRC, scheduled to be released in 2011, will evaluate broader concerns beyond the scope of their initial report – including an ordinal ranking of the factors that are killing fish in the Delta and the long-term environmental goals that might realistically be achieved.

In the interim, the NRC report underscores the need to reduce the state’s reliance on water exports from the Delta. If California wants salmon, smelt, and the jobs that come with healthy fisheries, we’ll need to adopt policies and projects like those recommended in PCL’s “8 Affordable Water Solutions for California”, increasing local water supplies and decreasing our dependence on unsustainable water extraction from fragile ecosystems.