In a recent Comment in these pages, five researchers affiliated with the University of California, Davis critiqued a biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under §7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that analyzes the effects of ongoing operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) on the Delta smelt. The subject is consequential because the Delta smelt’s historical habitat has been transformed and severely degraded since the California Gold Rush, leading to a significant decline in the size of its population; and because the CVP and SWP are far and away the two largest water supply projects in California, delivering water to some 25 million Californians and irrigating more than three million acres of farmland. It is also a complex subject because agency determinations under the interagency consultation provisions of the ESA occur at the intersection of science, law, and policy, and require a technically demanding, structured decision making process.
Weiland, P.S. and D.D. Murphy. 2021. Revisiting small populations in jeopardy: a rejoinder to Bork et al. Environmental Law Reporter 51:10557-10564.