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February Delta Smelt Update

The February trawl survey indices are in – there are a few Delta Smelt left (Figure 1).

The Smelt Working Group, created as prescribed in the Smelt Biological Opinion issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (in the Department of Interior), has stated following its meetings on February 15 and 22: “The fact that sporadic Delta Smelt catches have continued to occur at Prisoners Point under the lowest February SKT survey on record indicates that the risk of entrainment remains high and is incompatible with current pumping levels.” 1

After its February 22 meeting, the Working Group added: “Salvage: Four delta smelt on February18, geographic influence of the pumps extends to the lower San Joaquin River at the more negative end of this flow range, especially affecting the southern bank near Jersey Point. Recent salvage of adult Delta Smelt confirms that entrainment into the export facilities has occurred and likely is continuing…. The Working Group concluded that any salvage observed at either facility will be of high concern because Delta Smelt abundance is at a historic low, contributing to low detection probability of Delta Smelt in salvage under RPA compliant operations (BiOp page 338). One fish was detected in salvage sampling on January 21 and February 18, counting as eight salvaged Delta Smelt due to an expansion factor of four.”

Following these meetings, the US Bureau of Reclamation (also in the Department of Interior), which operates the federal export pumps in the South Delta, exported more than double the recommendation of the Smelt Working Group. Together the state and federal exports were nearly triple the recommended amount (<2000 cfs). This situation, where the state and federal experts in the Smelt Working Group were ignored by their managers, who instead maximized Delta exports in February, is a gross violation of the intent of the state and federal endangered species acts and species protections in the biological opinion. Graph of Kodiak Trawl Figure 1. Record low indices for Jan-Feb 2016 in Kodiak Trawl Survey2