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No more Delta smelt? The Delta tunnel project threatens their extinction for good

No Delta smelt found for sixth consecutive year
No Delta smelt found for sixth consecutive year 02:47

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY - A project to move water from the Sacramento region down to Southern California was recently approved by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The $16 billion Delta Conveyance Project is causing major controversy around environmental concerns.

This is a very complex issue, Californians are in need of water all over the state. But with a project like the delta tunnel, environmentalists say the 50 species of fish in the delta are at risk as well as the wildlife and people who depend on the fish.

"I don't think it's gonna make the situations we already have goin' any better i think it's probably gonna make it worse," said recreational fisherman Hayden Kell.

For the sixth year in a row, the DWR has found no Delta Smelt, a small endangered fish that's only found in the San Francisco Estuary.

"My grandpa taught my dad how to fish on the delta, I learned how to fish on the delta and the fact that we haven't seen smelt there in years shows just how much work we have to do to protect the heritage of the delta that has been so essential for these fish populations going back generations," says Congressman Josh Harder.

The future for the Delta Smelt population looks grim, considering the delta tunnel project's invasive construction.

"The breeding is guna be off and the population numbers are guna be way off I think it's going to affect the fish pretty heavily," said recreational fisherman Riley Mask.

"We're already having problems with the salmon runs so what's going to happen to the striper and the catfish and whatever else, the bass?" Kell said.

But the threat of the tunnel project isn't only about fish.

"I understand that they need water, but so do we. We have farms and agriculture and all the same things, doesn't make sense why they can take our water," Kell said.

"The project has been designed to minimize and avoid potential impacts to native fish and particularly listed salmonids and delta smelt," the DWR said in a statement to CBS13.

"The last thing we should be doing is building a boondoggle project that doesn't create a single gallon of water for anyone across our state, all it does is move water," Harder said.

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