It is dangerous being a threatened or endangered species in California.

Just look at how free-range environmentalists, the judicial system and state bureaucrats are protecting the lowly, near-extinct Delta smelt/minnow. Radical environmentalists are suing to keep a few tiny minnows from going through the Delta pumps moving water south to 25 million Californians and 3 million acres of farmland.

Sidling up against those big bad pumps may actually be the safest place in the Delta for the minnow. Elsewhere, people are dumping waste, some of it toxic and illegal, into the smelt’s habitat. Thousands of irrigation pumps in the Delta not fitted with fish screens are taking smelt. Introduced game fish species are devouring smelt and their food supply.

The smelt loss at the pumps is only 1 percent. The other 99 percent are meeting their demise in the Delta, and environmentalists want the pumps shut down. It is dangerous being an endangered minnow protected by environmentalists and the courts.

People are no better off than minnows when the judicial system says the economic impact on humans through enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is irrelevant. Endangered species are more important than people, according to the ESA and the judge.

Maybe it is time we declare California man an endangered species. Not sure what would be worse; being ignored as a human being or being protected as an endangered species. Best scenario for endangered species man if the smelt is a benchmark; at least he would have a 1 percent chance of survival.

The smelt, whether it becomes extinct or survives, may become the little minnow that makes a big difference. This summer, as Bay Area citizens turn on the taps in their homes and blow out more hot air than the California legislature, maybe there will be long overdue action to fund repair of the Delta and develop new water supplies for the state.

Remember, farmers and urbanites south of the Delta are not taking water from the Delta. The Delta is only a conduit to move water from the North to the South. The time has never been more right for a viable Delta bypass solution, be it the peripheral canal or some other, more efficient way to move water around or through the Delta.

And there is the irony of it all; the irony of environmentalists possibly derailing other environmentalists. With the protect-the-minnow ruling and the uncertainty of water supplies, Westlands Water District and others are looking to the San Joaquin River for either supplemental irrigation water or to mitigate the reverse Delta flows away from the pumps.

This smelt ruling is threatening the fragile farmer/environmentalist settlement to introduce salmon back into the San Joaquin. In the wake of the smelt ruling, Madera County Farm Bureau and Kole Upton, the Chowchilla farmer and president of Friant Water Users who helped broker the river restoration settlement, now say farmers want another river deal because of the smelt issue. They are afraid the smelt deal will take more water away from farms and cities.

The environmentalists’ big smelt victory could send the previous environmental salmon reestablishment win down a dead end river. Now wouldn’t that be a fine kettle of crawdads?

email: hcline@farmpress.com