July 6, 2009

Cut CA farms’ water to help Northwest’s orcas?

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One doesn’t usually think of water used on farms in California as being in competition with the orcas of the Pacific Northwest. But that’s what a new federal endangered-species plan does, pointing out that water withheld from streams where salmon breed in the Central Valley affects orcas’ food supplies. Orcas specialize in salmon, particularly the Chinook. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s report could be used to restrict irrigation water in the valley, the nation’s leading producer of farmed goods. Les Blumenthal of McClatchy News Service does a good job highlighting an unspoken contradiction in the feds’ plan: While the California plan clearly says harming salmon hurts orcas, a separate Bush-era plan on the salmon stocks of the Columbia and Snake rivers – aimed at keeping intact electricity-producing dams that harm salmon – downplays the risk to orcas. It says additional salmon for orcas to eat can always be produced in hatcheries. Look here to find out why hatcheries might prove a problematic solution.

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