Background on Delta Smelt from Save the Bay
B. Moose Peterson/USFWS
The Delta smelt is a small fish endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary. Typically 2 to 3 inches long, Delta smelt need fresh water and brackish habitat in order to survive and reproduce. The Delta smelt has a steely blue sheen on its sides and an adipose fin, which is a small fleshy fin on the back between its dorsal fin and tail, and seems almost translucent. Smelts live together in schools and feed on zooplankton.
Smelt adults live for just one year. The fish begin as larvae in the fresh water of the lower San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. When the cold rushing waters pour down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the larvae break free from their shallow nursery. They float downstream towards Suisun Bay until they reach saltier water. The majority of growth for the smelt is within the first seven to nine months of its life. Adult smelt live in Suisun Bay until the following year when they make their return journey upstream to lay their eggs.
The smelt’s short life span and need for both brackish and fresh water habitat make it an environmentally-sensitive species. When few fish reproduce successfully during a year, or consecutively over several years, the population plummets. The smelt’s numbers have remained extremely low for the past 20 years due to several factors, including low fresh water flows, the increase in non-native species in the Delta and the increase in toxins.
This fish was listed as a threatened species on both the state and Federal endangered species lists in 1993 and, in the following year, the population trend survey indicated that the population was at its lowest point in the 26 years of the survey. Over the past three years, Delta Smelt populations have continued to fall to dramatic lows.
In January 2005, state and federal authorities, including the state and federal Fish and Game departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, set aside $2 million to analyze existing data and gather new information on the decline of the Delta Smelt. The hope is to find a solution for keeping this small but mighty fish alive and well in its native home.
Photo: from the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.savesfbay.org/site/pp.asp?c=dgK
Try campesino permaculture; intercropping w/ hedgerows, oaks & use less rio agua for agriculture consumption por favor!
Getting plantation agribusiness to reduce water consumption will certainly alleviate problems faced by delta smelt and other Sacto/San Joaquin riparian species. How to get plantation agribusiness to reduce water consumption is a problem for people everywhere. Then there's the suburban sprawl lawn culture that sucks up water in additional large quantities. Need we mention thinned out golf course lawns as especially thirsty??
One possible alternative to plantation agribusiness is a campesino style permaculture farm that uses interstory crops of varied height to reduce evaporation potential from monoculture rows. Certain foods can be planted together in rows, though using a diversity of plants together is more desireable. An example appropriate to the CA great valley flatlands would be the three sisters; maize (corn, non-GMO!), beans and squash..
"Three Sisters Gardens
Corn, beans, and squash have a unique symbiotic relationship in a Native American garden. Corn offers a structure for the beans to climb. The beans, in turn, help to replenish the soil with nutrients. And the large leaves of squash and pumpkin vines provide living mulch that conserves water and provides weed control. This ancient style of companion planting has played a key role in the survival of all people in North America. Grown together these crops are able to thrive and provide high-yield, high-quality crops with a minimal environmental impact.
Mardi Dodson - ATTRA"
more 3 sisters @; http://www.kitchengardeners.org/blogs/darrol/archives/2006/01/my_three_sister_1.html
Yardspace can use the same concept, lawns are fine for walkways through gardens, but large monoculture lawns really soak up great amounts of agua during summer months! Try not having uninterrupted lawns unless it is a shared community sports field. Other than we can encourage our neighbors in suburbia to plant variations of drought tolerant or native edible plants in their yards. The people from Food Not Lawns have shown their creative potential is unlimited!!
Even in the nearly horizontal sloped central valley, these principles also apply;
Insure the rapid application and infiltration of water to the landscape, while paying close attention to salinity, over saturation and related problems. This is achieved by improving soil structure and the strategic use of terraces, swales and ponds.
Use specific pattern cultivation methods that combine soil aeration and water control.
Choose earth moving principles that are economical and effective. Making the least change for the greatest effect.
Our goal is to make the greatest use of the water as it flows through the land. Things to consider are: How many ways can I use the water before it leaves the site? (washing-irrigation-aqua-culture-irrigation) What is the longest route that the water can take through the site?
Every watershed has a primary key point. This point is the interface between collection and distribution, and is characterized as the point where the ridge meets the valley. Where springs flow together to form a stream, or where water infiltrated into the top of a ridge resurfaces, are key points. Key points are good places to begin our collection and distribution systems. Typically, surface water above the primary key point is potable quality, and the water below it is nutrient carrying and is best used for irrigation and infiltration to charge the water table.
Most of us live farther down the watershed and are unable to steward the primary key point in our landscapes. However, a watershed will encompass several key points. Secondary key points can be found at slope changes in stream beds or where two streams converge- anywhere that water is concentrated. For those of us in urban settings, the key point we work with in the "watershed" of our yards could be the point where our rain water converges into a cistern."
entire article @; http://www.foodnotlawns.com/keyline_water.html
In the Sacto/SanJo valley ecosystem, valley oak trees are greatly needed! Oaks have evolved to the hot dry summers and cool damp winters, and acorns are great for either livestock or human consumption following proper leaching of tannic acids..
Oak Woodlands and Savannahs- The Forgotten Acorn Orchards-Experience and participate in the restoration of vanishing oak habitats. Learn restoration thinning techniques and how to use prescribed fire to invigorate oak woodland health and increase plant and wildlife diversity. Learn how to process acorns in a traditional way as a main food staple for our regional diet.
how to restore valley oaks @; http://www.lomakatsi.org/Events/WhiteOakFarmWorkshop/tabid/94/Default.aspx
Indigenous peoples of the Sacto/SanJo valley have relied on acorns as nutricious food source for centuries, so why not help the modern day Pomo, Wintu, and others who continue to maintain their cultural tradition of acorn collection! There aren't a great deal of valley oaks remaining, and the shade they provide is crucial for cooling and adding moisture to the central valley ecosystem. Migrant farmworkers are also glad when the shade of an oak tree is available for a needed break from the heat. Overworked migrants suffer from heatstroke from being out in open sunlight for too many hours. Growers who care for their migrant workers would consider planting valley oaks as shade trees along hedgerows. Oak tree islands are great if surrounded by crops, they provide a perch for raptors who keep the rodent population at bay. Under the oak tree exists a cooler microclimate that shelters small animals and pollinators..
In Davis, the Community Alliance with Family Farms (CAFF) is encouraging regional growers to implement hedgerows;
"CAFF Program Goals
Reduction of sedimentation transport by using vegetative buffers to slow agricultural run-off into streams and waterways.
Reduction of stream and waterway nutrient loading by increasing nutrient uptake with native plant hedgerows and buffer strips.
Reduction of pesticide use by increasing beneficial insect populations with flowering hedgerows and increasing reliance on biological pest control methods.
Increase overall ecological diversity by improving habitat for plant and animal species."
article @; http://www.caff.org/programs/farmscaping/hedgerowin.shtml
this is along the same lines of farming wild; http://www.watershedmedia.org/fwtw_resources.html
from above site;
"For more than a decade, Charlie, his brothers Bruce and Rick, and their father, former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Richard Rominger have been restoring habitats on their commercial farm northwest of Winters. They’ve planted hedgerows of native grasses, shrubs, and trees as living borders between fields. Levee banks and roadsides have been revegetated and help control weeds and filter runoff. Rice fields are flooded following the harvest season to help decay rice straw and to provide important habitat for waterfowl. And numerous ponds have been constructed to filter irrigation water, capture winter rain, and provide essential wetland habitat for native terrestrial species, as well as birds migrating along the Great Pacific Flyway."
People in LA remember the southcentral campesino farm. This model of polyculture could be restored and also duplicated elsewhere to provide humans with healthy food and also reduce consumption of rio agua, thus allowing the delta smelt enough fresh water to survive!!
Por favor, visit southcentral farm @; http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1&PHPSESSID=f38e48aaa84d646b7366da7ef1aaffcb
For Immediate Release , May 24, 2007
Contact: Tina Swanson, The Bay Institute, (530) 756-9021 or (831) 389-4638
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Kate Poole, Natural Resources Defense Council, (415) 875-6100
Conservationists Threaten to Sue Feds, Appeal to State for Emergency Action as Delta Smelt Spiral Toward Extinction
Meltdown in the Delta: Agencies Allow Business as Usual While Juvenile Smelt Population Crashes Another 92 Percent From Historic Low of 2006
SAN FRANCISCO– The Bay Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, and Natural Resources Defense Council today sent a 60-day notice letter of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to respond to a March 2006 petition requesting changing the federal listing of the critically imperiled delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) from a threatened to an endangered species. The groups also sent an urgent request letter today to the California Fish and Game Commission requesting that the agency reconsider an emergency state listing of endangered for the delta smelt under the California Endangered Species Act.
California Department of Fish and Game data released this month on juvenile delta smelt abundance from 2007 indicate a staggering, possibly fatal drop in the delta smelt population. Spring trawl surveys looking for juvenile smelt in the Delta from March through May found just 25 juvenile delta smelt, the smallest number ever recorded, and most trawls caught no smelt at all. Juvenile smelt numbers are 92 percent lower than in 2006, which was a record low. So far this year the federal pumps in the Delta have killed nearly three times more young delta smelt than have been collected during the entire survey. On May 15 the Delta Smelt Working Group, comprised of agency biologists, declared that delta smelt are “critically imperiled” and that an "emergency response" is warranted.
“Scientists have been warning that delta smelt was on the brink of collapse for the past three years,” said Dr. Tina Swanson, senior scientist with the Bay Institute. “These same scientists have repeatedly recommended specific management actions that would help the fish, virtually none of which have been implemented by the state and federal agencies responsible for protecting this endangered species. The delta smelt’s current condition is a tragedy – but it should be no surprise to anyone who was paying attention to how this vital ecosystem was being mismanaged.”
In response to the new data, the Working Group urgently recommended that the state and federal water project change their operations to eliminate reverse flows in Delta channels, prevent further losses of the fish to the pumps and allow the remaining population to move safely downstream. The meager response by water project agencies — slight reductions in exports and partial opening of a single Delta channel barrier — has failed to satisfy the Working Group objectives. As of yesterday, state and federal fisheries agencies have failed to require compliance with the Group’s recommendation.
"Instead of enforcing existing environmental laws to protect native fishes and the Delta, Governor Schwarzenegger could turn out to be The Terminator for the delta smelt,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “He is allowing the state water and fish agencies to continue to evade their legal and resource-management responsibilities in the Delta while we all watch the ecosystem’s best indicator species, the delta smelt, fade to extinction. If this business-as-usual approach continues, today it’s the delta smelt and tomorrow it could be the longfin smelt, Chinook salmon and the Sacramento splittail.”
Current water-management operations in the Delta are not only driving the delta smelt (and other species) toward extinction; they are also illegal, according to a recent court ruling. In January, an Alameda County Court ruled that the California Department of Water Resources had been illegally pumping water out of the Delta without a permit to kill delta smelt and other fish species listed under the California Endangered Species Act. In response, the state agencies have attempted to evade compliance with the law for another year by relying on a memorandum of understanding that anticipates a future “consistency determination” based on as-yet unwritten federal permits that the agencies themselves do not expect to be completed before April, 2008.
“As the delta smelt goes, so goes the entire delta,” said Kate Poole, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If this little fish goes extinct, it will irreversibly damage the West Coast’s biggest estuary. It could lead to a cascading series of fish extinctions in California’s most important source of water. That’s not just bad for fish; it’s bad for all of us who depend on the delta for clean, healthy drinking water and agricultural irrigation supplies.”
The conservation groups submitted petitions in March 2006 to the Fish and Wildlife Service and February 2007 to the Commission to uplist the smelt’s federal and state status to endangered, a change necessary to compel fisheries agencies to implement recommended actions needed to protect the smelt and its Delta habitat. The rationale for emergency action was the delta smelt population plummeting to the lowest levels ever recorded, new population viability analyses indicating that the species was at imminent risk of extinction, and increasing magnitude and frequency of known threats to the species and its habitat, such as massive water exports. In June 2006 the Fish and Wildlife Service made a determination that emergency reclassification to “endangered” was not warranted, but that if conditions changed, the Service could develop an emergency rule. The Service has since failed to respond to the petition, though a 90-day finding was due in June 2006 and a 12-month finding was due on March 9, 2007.
On March 30, 2007, Fish and Game recommended that the Commission not take emergency action but rather proceed with a standard rulemaking for the delta smelt and at its April 12, 2007 meeting, the Commission denied the request for emergency action. On April 19, Fish and Game recommended a positive 90-day finding on the state petition and the Commission must make a finding at its June meeting.
The delta smelt is not the only fish species facing extinction in the Delta. Since 2002, scientists have also documented catastrophic declines of longfin smelt, threadfin shad, Sacramento splittail and striped bass. Numbers of white and green sturgeon in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River have fallen to alarmingly low levels as well, and the green sturgeon was federally listed as threatened in 2006.
The Sacramento splittail was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1999, but was removed from the list in 2003 and stripped of protections by former Bush administration official Julie MacDonald, who resigned April 30 as deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Interior. MacDonald was being investigated by the office of the inspector general for altering Fish and Wildlife Service scientific reports on endangered species and improperly leaking internal reports to industry groups. A congressional inquiry has been launched to determine if MacDonald engaged in unlawful activity in delisting the splittail, since she edited the decision on the species in a manner that appeared to benefit her financial interests. MacDonald owns an 80-acre farm in Yolo Bypass, a floodplain that is key habitat for the splittail.
More information on the delta smelt decline and the ecosystem collapse in the Delta can be found at; http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/deltasmelt/index.html
article found @; http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/delta-smelt-05-24-2007.html