Proposal Would Let California Salmon Perish At The Pumps

Major ag operators push to pump more water

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Thousands of jobs linked to the decline of Sacramento River salmon have been lost—but big agricultural interests in California are stepping up political efforts that may permanently extinguish salmon and the industries they support.

Even without this latest assault, the future of California’s king salmon is in doubt. Salmon runs are at all time lows, due in large part to water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta that suck baby salmon in and kill them. The water is going to agricultural operators south of San Francisco Bay—and now they want more.

Those operators, addicted to the extra water delivered during the last decade, are fighting tooth and nail to have a federal restoration plan overruled. The plan was introduced last year, calling for a more balanced division of water between agricultural operators and salmon.

The ag operators enlisted the support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein who proposed ramping up delta pumping even while the 2012 class of salmon is currently trying to migrate through the delta past those killer pumps.

Sen. Feinstein’s proposal drew a sharp letter from House Democrats from California and Oregon who oppose actions that will wipe out more salmon and communities that depend on them.

Earthjustice is working overtime to keep the restoration plan in place in order to rebuild the salmon runs and restore thousands of salmon-related jobs lost in the last few years.

This is just the latest gambit in the organization’s 20-year struggle to rebuild the king salmon runs. We enjoyed notable success during the 1990’s, but in the year 2000, water pumping increased by an average of 16 percent, sending the salmon into steep decline.


John was Earthjustice’s Media Director and chief press wrangler from 2001 until 2013. He came to Earthjustice in 2001 to defend freshwaters and public land—and salmon.