Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not All Fish are Created Equal: California's Green Drought and Virginia's Hot Ditch

Another article on California's drought, blaming it at least partially on the measures taken to protect that "charismatic megafauna", the Delta Smelt. I mostly post it for one interesting statistic:

Delta Smelt
Liberals blamed for California drought
. . . Environmentalists have long blamed agriculture for absorbing more than its share of water, but figures from the California Department of Water Resources show that farming accounts for about 41 percent of applied water usage. Fully 48 percent is reserved for environmental purposes, which includes improving the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its most famous inhabitant, the delta smelt.
. . .
The order calls for urban water agencies to achieve a 25 percent reduction through methods such as increased rates, reductions in kitchen and bathroom faucet flow rates and converting 50 million square feet of lawn into “drought-tolerant landscaping.”

Environmentalists laud the stricter conservation order. . .
So, basically, half of California's water is untouchable for ecological reasons. Now, I understand that water flows in rivers needs to be maintained to the extent possible, but 48% seems like quite a healthy chunk, something that you could work with during a period of extreme drought.

But environmentalists interest in saving fish is selective at best. Here in the Chesapeake we have a situation where an economically important fishery is being killed off (along with most of the fish) at the behest of environmentalists:

Speckled Trout - at a different hot spot
Closure of coal-fired plant spells end for trout hot spot
In this industrialized stretch of the Elizabeth River - among shipyards, chemical storage tanks, a junk yard and coal-fired power plant - swam an unrivaled population of huge speckled trout.

Even stranger, the power plant was a major reason why the fish were there. Since 1953, a skinny hot-water-discharge canal from Dominion's Chesapeake Energy Center has pumped a steady stream of warm water into the river.

The warm water gushed through what anglers call The Hot Ditch and spread into the river near Deep Creek, creating a plume of habitat that during winter allowed trout to survive and flourish.  Come January, February and March, when not much was biting in the bay or the cold wind was blowing so hard few ventured out, anglers could always count on the specks drawn to the warmth of The Hot Ditch.

"It was probably the premier trout fishing location, honestly, in the U.S.," said David Hester, who used to lead guided trips in the river. "I was told by many people who fished all over the country that this was the best trout fishing they'd ever experienced, and it was."

But that time might be over. The hot water is no longer flowing. On Sept. 23, Dominion closed the power plant for good as part the company's plan to meet clean air standards.

Then came the harsh winter. It's too early to know exactly what will happen to the speckled trout. But the signs aren't promising. Thousands have died, and nobody knows how many, if any, are left.
So why are the trials and tribulations of the Delta Smelt grounds for restricting agriculture and residential consumption in California, while the prospect of killing thousands of Speckled Trout in Virginia along with the coal-fired power plant brings a warm and fuzzy feeling to enviro-weenies hearts?

To be sure, part of it has to do with the respective fishes range. Delta Smelt are restricted to the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta in California, while Speckled Trout are a wide ranging species, from Cape Cod in the north, to Mexico in the south, along with Island in the Caribbean. Killing all the specks in the Hot Ditch would barely make a dent in the species while an event that caused the delta to become totally inhabitable to the smelt could make it extinct. But still, it's a smelt. They basically exist to be eaten by other fish, and sometimes people.

But I can't help but thinking that one reason is that the main reason is that the typical environmentalist would rather restrict human endeavor than save a fish.

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