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Federal Pumps Killing Threatened Fish In Delta

US The Centre for Biological Diversity has released a statement in which it says that tens of thousands of threatened Sacramento splittail and federally protected spring-run chinook salmon have died recently at Central Valley Project water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California, according to government figures.

The news comes amidst debate over federal legislation that would exempt pumping in the Delta from Endangered Species Act protections for salmon and other fish.

“State and federal water-project pumps are pushing already-struggling salmon and native fish populations closer to extinction while Republican lawmakers are introducing legislation to eliminate environmental protections for the devastated Bay-Delta ecosystem and block restoration efforts on the San Joaquin River”, said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Centre for Biological Diversity.

“Excessive pumping and the highest-ever water diversions from the Delta the past decade have devastated Central Valley fish populations, including commercially valuable salmon”.

Recent salvage data from the US Bureau of Reclamation show that the Central Valley Project pumps have so far killed more than 10,000 juvenile spring-run chinook salmon this year. Central Valley spring-run chinook were listed as threatened under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts in 1999.

Only three of 17 original wild spring-run chinook populations remain in the Central Valley, and numbers of spawning adult salmon are down to as low as 500 wild fish in some years. Overall Central Valley salmon numbers have dropped so low that California’s salmon fishery was closed completely in 2008 and 2009 for the first time in history.

The salvage data also showed that the pumps have killed more than 85,000 Sacramento splittail in the past week alone. The splittail was formerly protected as a federally threatened species but was improperly stripped of Endangered Species Act protections in 2003. The depleted splittail population has declined dramatically in the past decade and has now collapsed to barely detectable numbers in state fish surveys.

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