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Hired gun tries to make it all about the smelt
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Steve Martarano is a hired gun for the Bay-Delta Office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
He is paid to parrot the “corporate line” as the agency’s public affairs specialist.
To say Martarano took exception to Wednesday’s column, “Delta smelt can’t be saved in the wild” is a slight understatement.
His opening line in a testy email reads, “Hey Dennis, do you know where that 1.4 trillion gallons figure came from? Did you check? Do you care? FYI it was made up by the Wall Street Journal.”
He is referring to the figure of 1.4 trillion gallons of water flushed through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay since 2008 in complying with court and government orders to protect the Delta smelt. Martarano conveniently ignores the 2008 date in the column which references a decision by U.S. District Judge Oliver Wagner that silenced a number of pumps near Tracy for a period of time so water would flow to the Bay and not south to cities and farmland for the expressed purpose of protecting the Delta smelt.
Of course framing the argument as Martarano is trying to do, “… And we have no idea here, since there have been zero impacts due to Delta Smelt since early 2013” very nicely ignores the 2008 reference in the column. It tries to make the huge amounts of water squandered on what most people would deem a lost cause go away. No one is debating water used to save the Delta smelt since 2013 is aggravating the problem simply because poor resource management — led by the save-the-Delta-smelt-at-all-costs crowd — has effectively accelerated the draining of reservoirs as the drought deepens.
In other words, there is no water left to squander on the Delta smelt and not risk creating serious health and safety issues should the drought persist or deepen due to water policy put in place to protect the Delta smelt.
A funny thing, but over the past decade plus urban users — including those in the much ragged on Los Angeles Basin — have reduced their per capita  water use. Farmers have done likewise with water they apply to crops. How about water going to fish?
Hold it, you say, that’s part of nature. Ok, then let them use natural water flow and not stored water. Yes, man altered the Delta, the Sierra, and just about every ecological system in California. From some perspectives, it was all bad but then again to make them happy they’d have to be 38.2 million less Californians. And for those not quite so far gone, they should ask themselves what the Delta would be like now if it wasn’t for the vast manmade storage and water transfer system.
No, I am not digressing from Martarano’s accusation that the Delta smelt is being picked on during the drought. The problem is he misses the point, but then again he’s paid to do so.
Let’s get back to the 1.4 trillion gallons squandered on the Delta smelt. The apparently unreliable State of California Natural Resources Agency in January 2013 noted in the previous three months that curtailment orders specifically for the smelt sent 700,000 acre feet of water to the bay and not into the pumps. That water loss in three months was enough to irrigate 200,000 acres of farmland and supply  1.4 million households a year (or supply the needs of 5.2 million individual Californians.) Those, Mr. Martanano, are figures bantered about by your fellow bureaucrats.
Given there are 325,850 gallons in an acre foot of water that 700,000 acre feet in early 2013 alone came to 228,095,000,000 gallons or 228 billion gallons of water. In the previous four years leading up to the drought that curtailment for the benefit of the Delta smelly easily reaches 1.4 trillion gallons.
If you doubt that happened, state data in early 2008 noted 600,000 acre feet of water or enough water to supply the needs of 4.8 million Californians was used specifically to help the Delta smelt in the first year following the court ruling
If that water hadn’t been released specifically for the Delta smelt it could have been left in storage and used in subsequent years for food production, urban uses, ecological purposes and — god forbid — other fish species that have different life cycles.
And let’s not forget the gutter flooding 0f 2011. The Bureau of Reclamation and assorted (but not all) federal and state agencies that have something to do with water worked in concert to release over a million acre feet from reservoirs claiming they needed to make room for 2012 runoff. At the same time water users from irrigation districts to the urban water agencies were arguing modeling was showing a severe drop in precipitation was likely in 2012. Surprise of all surprises, the drought started in 2012.
It wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last time that myopic government agency staffs clutching to the only reason they have a paycheck advocate viewing California’s water needs in the vacuum of their own special interest have driven California water policy into the ditch.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.