Science panel says Delta pumping restrictions are justified in California

By Matt Weiser and Michael Doyle

A high-level science panel Friday concluded that federal rules that limit water diversions from the Delta to protect endangered fish are “scientifically justified,” dealing a blow to south state water interests that had hoped the review would punch holes in the rules.

The panel of 15 experts was appointed by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, in response to a formal request from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the Interior Department. They made their request at the urging of water users – particularly San Joaquin Valley farmers – who say the federal restrictions on pumping in the Delta are ruining them financially.

Called biological opinions, the federal rules regulate how much water is diverted south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, depending on the needs of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and Delta smelt. State and federal water pumps in the Delta suck fish to their deaths and alter their habitat. The regulations aim to limit those effects by reducing pumping at certain times of year, depending on where the fish are.

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