Saturday, September 01, 2007

San Francisco v Delta Smelt

I have this sneaking suspicion that San Francisco liberals will find someway to justify not changing their lifestyles just to save a type of minnow. Does anyone think Mayor Gavin Newsome is going to insist his city stop drinking tap water?

Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus): The delta smelt is a small, slender-bodied fish, with a typical adult size of 2-3 inches. … Delta smelt are found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (the area where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers flow into San Francisco Bay. Delta smelt are found in brackish water. They usually inhabit salinity ranges of less than 2 parts per thousand (ppt) and are rarely found at salinities greater than 14ppt. … Delta smelt are fast growing and short-lived with the majority of growth within the first 7 to 9 months of life. Most smelt die after spawning in the early spring although a few survive to a second year.

These tiny and short lived creatures are prey for many larger predators in the estuary ecosystem. Since they usually live only one year the reproductive chain can potentially be broken in that time frame. Almost certainly two consecutive years without any new baby fish sends the species to extinction. The last several years the observed populations in the wild have plummeted and environmentalists have run straight to the courts.

Judge sides with smelt: A U.S. District court judge late Friday agreed with environmentalists’ claims that the tiny Delta smelt is endangered by current pumping levels of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, the vast water systems that serve about 25 million Californians.

If it survives expected appeals, the ruling would restrict water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California. "Judge Oliver Wanger's decision is a devastating blow to our water supply system and state economy,” says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a written statement Friday night.

Now I am ardently against the environmentalists because their motivations are, in large part, driven by a desire to use government to control society and what I consider a seriously flawed and ideologically dependent understanding of the natural world. I am, however, a conservationist which means supporting preservation and protection of important habitats. It’s also no secret that the population of California has historically drained off excessive amounts of fresh water from the environment.

In this light, I would recommend that San Francisco understand they can import water in plastic bottles carried by gasoline and diesel fueled transports. Seriously, their ban on bottled water is based on two false beliefs that carbon dioxide and plastic are bad for the environment. Ecosystems are not as fragile as the environmentalists love to portray them, but even conservationists know there is a point where human stress on a unique location should be restrained.