Thursday May 23, 2024

Sacramento Bee

Just east of the San Francisco Bay, a steel bucket holding 90 gallons of water is strained to rescue precious cargo. The metal roars as it spins, dispelling more and more water, to reveal, finally, a wriggling pair of juvenile Chinook salmon.

These young, 2-inch long fish were drawn into danger by giant pumps that push water south to millions of Californians and farms. Saving them from likely peril has been the core purpose since 1968 of the John E. Skinner Delta Fish Protective Facility.

But the facility been the subject of considerable attention recently for a spike in fish deaths, drawing the ire of environmentalists and anglers. That’s not to say farmers are happy either, as pumps deliver less water despite a second year of drought-busting storms.

A Sacramento Bee analysis of data from the Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that since 2002, state and federal water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta killed an estimated 600,000 Chinook salmon and 50,000 steelhead trout.

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