Written by Gabriel Dillard
For all the headache the plight of the delta smelt has caused for Central Valley agriculture, one local businessman is taking a novel route to fix the problem.
Chris Mathys operates Oro Financial in Fresno and is a former Fresno City Council member. He is currently challenging fellow Republican Rep. David Valadao for the 21st Congress District seat in Congress. He announced Monday that he has sent a notice of intent to file a petition to declare the delta smelt — a fish topping out at about four inches long — extinct.
The smelt has been a focus of contention for local growers because its health — along with the health of other so-called indicator species — has led to restrictions in pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmers and other users south.
“Agriculture products are vital to California’s economy and farmers depend on an adequate water supply to grow nuts, fruits and vegetables that provide food for Americans and the rest of the world,” according to Mathys’s letter.
It’s unknown if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in California can declare a species extinct based on a petition, but you have to give Mathys points for creativity. California’s drought and its impact on water year 2021 is going to be a hot button issue ahead of the 2022 midterms.
And, at least according to “National Geographic” magazine, delta smelt have been heading in that direction since at least 2015.