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Rev 'em up: With delta smelt moved, pumps are a go

February 18, 2010 |  6:40 pm

The delta smelt have moved, allowing water managers to turn up -- at least for now -- the federal pumps that draw water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Only one smelt has been killed at the pumps in the south delta since Feb. 10, and biologists say most of the smelt are in the north delta now, reducing chances that they will be sucked into the pumps.

Found only in the delta, the native smelt are at the center of an escalating battle over federal endangered species protections and their effect on water deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley. Irrigation districts have gone to court to try to overturn the protections, which at certain times of the year limit pumping to avoid killing spawning smelt and migrating salmon.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is expected next week to introduce a rider to a federal jobs bill that would ease the restrictions to increase irrigation deliveries.

-- Bettina Boxall