It's come to this.
A drought approaching epic status in California may force the state to choose one imperiled species of fish over another.
On Thursday, state and federal water agencies petitioned regulators to relax standards for flows of fresh water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, hub for most of California's water supply.
This means holding fresh water in the state's severely depleted reservoirs. Water officials fear there won't be enough cold water behind those dams this fall to trigger and sustain the Central Valley's fall run of iconic chinook salmon.
But the controversial move would leave less fresh water for other fish species breeding in the Delta now – namely the threatened Delta smelt and its cousin, the longfin smelt.
"We pray it won't be the extinction of these species," said Spreck Rosekrans, an analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund. "This is unprecedented."
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