Save the Sturgeon, Save the Delta?



Ancient, seven-and-a-half-foot-long green sturgeon — and the environmentalists who have been suing on their behalf for the last nine years — have won the latest battle in a decades-long tussle between conservationists and water districts. And the victory could help save the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at the same time.

Since 2006, the fish, which can live up to seventy years, have been recognized as an endangered species. Most of Washington, certain areas of Oregon, and California have already mandated that southern green sturgeon caught by anglers be released. But now, because of new regulations from the National Marine Fisheries Service, public interest groups can take legal recourse against those who harm or kill southern green sturgeon, says Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity.

That means state and federal water agencies and projects that divert water from the delta to agricultural producers may have to change their practices, according to Miller. “These projects are massively publicly subsidized,” Miller noted. “They’re unsustainable, taking too much out of the delta and not leaving enough for fish. This has been hotly contested for several decades now. Conservation groups sue because they’re taking too much water. Water districts sue because they want more water. The whole process is litigation-driven at this point.”

The new legislation is “likely to contribute to changes in the way water is diverted, and amount of water diverted,” Miller added.