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Fish threatened with extinction shuts Delta water pumps

By Matt Weiser - Sacramento Bee  May 31, 2007

State water officials Thursday morning stopped exporting water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect the threatened Delta smelt, a tiny native fish that appears to be on the brink of extinction.

The action, announced in a press release by the California Department of Water Resources, could mean water shortages for some cities and farms served by the California Aqueduct, which conveys water exported by the state's Delta pumps near Tracy. But it was not clear Thursday afternoon who will be affected and for how long. Some users will be able to continue drawing water already in the aqueduct. The Delta supplies 23 million Californians with a portion of their drinking water, as well as to 5 million acres of farmland.

The action follows bad news from a recent population survey for smelt. Preliminary results from the annual spring survey turned up only 25 smelt at regular survey points in the Delta, down from a seven-year average of 353 fish. On May 14, state officials also began finding dead smelt in the pumping system. This is a routine event, but had not occurred previously this year. DWR decided to halt the massive pumps when numbers of smelt in the pumping system began to increase.

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