Capitol Alert

Loretta Sanchez says relaxing species law ‘on the table’ to help state


Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, campaigning for U.S. Senate, said Tuesday that she would consider amending the federal law governing endangered species to help improve the water supply across the parched state of California.

To help address the drought, Sanchez said she wants to take a broader approach that calls for continued conservation measures, increased storage sites and the construction of Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin Delta tunnels project to move water south. Asked whether the Endangered Species Act should be looked at, Sanchez said yes.

“Everything needs to be on the table when we go in to find a solution,” Sanchez told the editorial boards of McClatchy Newspapers at a meeting in Fresno.

The decades-old species act, which has been used to protect fish such as the Delta smelt and Chinook salmon, has long been a target for conservatives. Democrats and their environmental allies have generally pushed back. As attorney general, Brown joined several other states in challenging the Bush administration’s efforts to weaken the landmark law.

Lately, however, it’s come under increasing scrutiny from some Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is pushing a major water bill. Feinstein called it “inexcusable” that water pumping levels were reduced “without sufficient evidence of fish mortality.”

“But rather than pumping as much water as possible under the biological opinions, pumping levels were ratcheted down for an entire month between mid-January and mid-February,” Feinstein added.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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