In May, news broke of efforts by a Fresno town council member’s attempts to reclassify a local endangered fish, the delta smelt, as extinct. The reasoning behind this move would be to free up resources and allow for greater use of available water to combat California’s water shortage.
What is the delta smelt?
For those not well-versed in environmental law and history, many consider the delta smelt an icon of California’s water wars, according to an article in National Geographic. It is a small silver baitfish commonly found in the waters near the Bay Area. Its significance vastly outweighs its size as one of the commonly cited reasons for not using some of northern California’s freshwater sources is to protect this fish.
However, it appears that protective status and intervention may have had little effect with fewer and fewer delta smelt found in the intervening years.
What will happen if the fish is declared extinct?
If the delta smelt is declared extinct, the interventions in place for its protection will no longer be necessary. This will free up the water sources for use across the state in agriculture or other projects.
The possibility of newly available water sourcing makes this subject of interest to commercial real estate ventures. With additional water sources, previously inhospitable areas a bit more experience friendly. This may open new housing development opportunities.
Complications in environmental law
Any species going extinct is a bad sign and definitely isn’t something to celebrate. California takes every available step to prevent such losses. However, if those measures fail and open viable investment opportunities without creating a sizeable ecological disturbance, then companies should take notice and begin planning.