Fish conservation restrictions outrage California water agencies

Water restrictions in California could hurt farmers.
Water restrictions in California could hurt farmers.
Additional restrictions on water projects announced by the California Department of Water Resources will cut statewide water deliveries by an additional 10 percent, which regional water agencies say will harm the state's agricultural economy.

The cutbacks were outlined in a biological opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service for protection of three fish species. These new water restrictions come on top of previous cuts imposed to address the decline of the Delta smelt.

According to the State Water Contractors, a nonprofit association of 27 public water agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California, the fisheries service has failed to prove that declining fish populations are a direct result of water projects.

Public water agencies throughout the state have filed lawsuits challenging the fisheries service opinion. A recent federal court ruling ordered the federal fish agencies to take into account the harm that the water cutbacks have on people.

"These cuts are crippling on our people and businesses - especially in the Central Valley where farmers are being forced to fallow their land and workers are being laid off," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors.

California has also begun imposing restrictions on air quality emissions that impact the agricultural sector through requirements for emissions reductions on farm equipment and other agricultural sources.