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Congressman: Delta Fish a “Worthless Little Worm”

Peter Johnsen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Photo: Peter Johnsen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

In hearings by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommitee today, Rep. George Radanovich (R-Fresno) called the Delta smelt “a worthless little worm that needs to go the way of the dinosaur.” He made the remark as part of a five-minute attack on “environmental alarmism,” in response to testimony from former vice-president Al Gore, founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The tiny fish, recently listed by the state Fish & Game Commission as “endangered,” came up in remarks by Radanovich about the current drought conditions in the Central Valley. He blamed the lack of water on lawsuits that have restricted water supplies to farms, “for a Delta smelt–a worthless little worm that needs to go the way of the dinosaur. They’ve shut pumps down and restricted water deliveries to California over that thing, when what’s eating it is a striped bass, a non-native species in the Delta.”

Radanovich rejected the possibility that climate change might be a player in the current drought. Instead he took aim at what he described as “collaboration between environmentalists and sport fishermen,” blaming that for slashed water allocations to farms, as many as 60,000 job losses and “a $6 billion-dollar hit to our economy.”

“That is not global warming,” he said. ” “It’s the result of bad policy caused by environmental alarmism.”

Joining Gore among the 21 witnesses before the subcommittee on Day 4 of the climate bill hearings was UC Davis professor Dan Sperling (.pdf link), who had just come from a marathon hearing before the California Air Resources Board. Last evening the Air Board approved the first-ever Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, as part of it’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Delta Smelt Listed as Endangered

The California Fish and Game Commission today officially qualified two species of freshwater fish for special protection under the California Endangered Species Act.

Longfin smelt. Photo: NOAA

Photo: NOAA

The Commission listed the delta smelt as “endangered” and the longfin smelt as “threatened,” a lesser classification. Both are denizens of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and have long been at the center of controversy over water diversions from the Delta. According to the San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity:

“The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is home to the largest and southernmost self-sustaining population of longfin smelt. Longfin smelt populations that inhabit the estuaries and lower reaches of Humboldt Bay and the Klamath River have also declined and may now be extinct. Since 2000, the Bay-Delta longfin smelt population has fallen to unprecedented low numbers. Since 2002, the delta smelt has plummeted to its lowest population levels ever recorded.”

CBD was among the environmental groups that petitioned the state for listing of the longfin in 2007. Delta smelt have been protected as a “threatened” species since last year but today that designation was escalated to “endangered.” The Center has also petitioned for–but has yet to attain–federal listing for both species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The listing could have major implications for water supplies this year. Court decisions in favor of the fishes have already forced reductions in water pumped out of the Delta for diversion to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The rulings have prompted some to characterize subsequent reduced water deliveries as a “regulatory drought.”