The dead fish plan - Page 2

Why the latest proposals to save the delta aren't going to work

Going, gone: CALFED did nothing to help the delta smelt

That's an astonishing admission coming, in effect, from the same government agencies that once promised they would double fish populations by the year 2002.

The fact is that anadromous fish and other pelagic species populations, which depend on the delta estuary, have reached alarming all-time lows.

How did the salmonid and other endangered species reach what may be the point of no return? It's simple — the delta pumps that send water south to irrigate arid land, as approved by CALFED, are by their very nature fish- killers.

According to data from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), from 1984 through 2006 an estimated 22 million fish were killed at the State Water Project's Delta pumping facilities alone. That works out to an annual average of nearly 1 million fish killed as a result of SWP's water exports from the delta.

And that's just one pump. The federal Central Valley Project, which also sucks up delta water, provides estimates of federally-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead loss, as well as estimates for salvage rates of delta smelt, Sacramento splittail, and longfin smelt.

Data obtained from government sources indicate that from the period of 1980 through 2002, 54 million fish were salvaged from the SWP Skinner Fish Facility and the federal project's Tracy Fish Facility. That averages out to 2.4 million salvaged fish, or five per minute, 365 days per year.

What happens to the salvaged fish? Nobody knows for sure. The DFG recently disclosed that it has never conducted a quantitative analysis or study on the topic.

The numbers would not be good. The salvaged fish are placed in tanker trucks and transported from the pumping facilities and dumped back into designated locations in the delta, where eagerly awaiting predators have a daily feeding frenzy. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2008 report, "salvaged" Delta smelt, which in some years ranged as high as 5 million, are typically written off as dead.

Ironically, in all that time the responsible officials have yet to be held legally accountable for even one dead fish.