California wildlife agencies say the drought has pushed the endangered Delta smelt close to extinction. State and federal agencies announced Tuesday a joint effort to improve habitat conditions for the fish.
The plan is designed to prevent predators from eating the fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most of those predators are not native. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will spend $4.2 million from the state budget to eradicate invasive aquatic weeds where predators lurk. The strategy calls for assessing the feasibility of adding sediment to certain zones in the Delta to create the turbid waters where smelt hide.
“People talk about restoring the Delta, and this is a very active effort to take restoration actions that will potentially benefit native species over introduced species.” says Carl Wilcox, a fish biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Department is already releasing water from farm fields in the Sacramento Valley into the Yolo Bypass to increase food available for smelt.
Agencies are also studying whether to add sand - used by smelt for spawning - in areas of the Suisun Marsh and Cache Slough.
Some Central Valley farmers blame efforts to save the Delta smelt for reducing water supplies.