Smelts dealt raw deal

California environmentalists are continuing their efforts to prevent the extinction of delta smelt, a tiny endangered fish species living in the San Joaquin Delta.

Last week, a federal judge heard testimony from environmentalists who claim the huge pumps that provide water to nearby agricultural areas and Southern California are sucking the species to their deaths and destroying their spawning habitat.

The point of the hearing was to figure out how to manage water operations between now and late next year, when water agencies and regulators are to provide the court with a new pumping permit that sufficiently protects the fish. In the meantime, environmentalists want new protections that would reduce pumping by about 20 percent.