DeMint wants a smelt showdown

Sen. Jim DeMint said he wants to end the drought in California's Central Valley by blocking government funds that have been used to divert water from the area to protect a 3-inch fish called the delta smelt.

The South Carolina Republican will introduce an amendment to a Department of the Interior spending bill that would place a one-year ban on the federal government using money to stem the flow of water from the regions farms.

For months, water that is normally pumped into the area has been diverted into the ocean, causing a severe drought that has devastated the area's farming economy and caused a steep rise in unemployment (40 percent in some areas).

The government began diverting water from the valley after environmental lawyers successfully sued to get protection for the smelt, which they said were being hurt by the water pumps. And there could be additional pumping restrictions now that salmon have been added to the list of protected fish.

DeMint pointed out that the area produces half of the nation's fruits and vegetables and 13 percent of the overall food supply comes from the region The drought, he said, could eventually result in higher food prices.

“What is happening in California is an example of what could happen across the country if we don't reform the Endangered Species Act,” DeMint said. “Environmentalists could use this statute to bring great harm to our economy and to American families working to make ends meet.”

The smelt issue first showed up in Congress back in April.

Beltway ConfidentialUS

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