Skip to main content

Delta Smelt Biological Opinion

Steamboat Slough, in the Bay Delta.

Earthjustice litigation has protected the smelt under the Endangered Species Act, aiding not only smelt, but salmon and rivers as a whole. Delta smelt are an indicator of the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem, and are representative of a much larger decline in Delta fisheries, including striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and others.

Brad Zweerink / Earthjustice

Case Overview

The tiny smelt that lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been declining for years. Studies clearly indicate that increasing diversions of water would harm the fish, but the administration decided to proceed anyway. Earthjustice and NRDC sued to block an offending biological opinion. The court ruled in our favor in December 2007.

Case Updates

April 28, 2014 | Blog Post

Why “Fish Vs. Farmers” Is a False Dichotomy

California water management is not about protecting animals over people. It’s about coddling powerful special interests at the expense of average citizens, Delta farmers, commercial and sport fisherfolk—and a healthy Delta ecosystem.

April 16, 2014 | In the News: Central Valley Business Times

Delta Smelt Gain a Win in Federal Court

A federal court ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved contracts to pump water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to agriculture projects in the Central Valley, as the Delta provides crucial habitat to the endangered delta smelt fish.

March 14, 2014 | In the News: The Daily Republic

Protections of California Delta Smelt Upheld

After extensive scientific review, a federal appeals court upheld a 2008 decision that enacted water restriction on transporting water from the San Joaquin Delta to agricultural farms in the Central Valley to protect the Delta Smelt, an endangered fish.

“At the core of this decision, the 9th Circuit says this [study] is fine, and that at the time that it was finalized the agency had considered the best available science of the Delta smelt.” said Earthjustice attorney, Trent Orr.

February 24, 2014 | Blog Post

A Pear Farm On The Frontlines of California’s Water Wars

Notes from a trip to the San Francisco Bay Delta to hear stories from people who would be directly impacted by aplan to pump massive amounts of freshwater out of the Delta to farms in the southern Central Valley.

June 16, 2011 | Blog Post

Awash In Water and Profits, Cal Growers Denied More

It’s hard to view the recent actions of some big agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley as anything but hostile to the state’s wildlife. Some of the biggest growers are refusing to take an overflowing allotment of irrigation water as enough and are cluttering up the court system with lawsuits aimed at wringing every last drop of water for themselves, no matter what damage that causes native fish species.