Editor's Note: Nearly 30 years ago Felix Smith, an employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), leaked information to then Fresno Bee reporter Deborah Blum that selenium-tainted farm drainage water from the Westlands Water District was causing embryo deformities in migratory birds nesting or feeding at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge evaporation ponds in western Merced County. FWS biologists were initially barred from publicly speaking about the bird deformities by Reagan Administration Interior Secretary James Watt. Smith and another FWS biologist, Harry Ohlendorf, had discovered the deformed birds in the Spring of 1983 when they opened eggs in nests at the so-called wildlife "refuge." The Fish and Wildlife Service purportedly was preparing a press release on the issue but after months, Smith got angry and impatient at the stall tactics and let Deborah Blum (who later won a Pulitzer Prize) know what was going on. Within 18 months, following continuing national publicity on the issue, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Kesterson cleaned up or closed. READ MORE »
Felix Smith is the Kesterson whistleblower who filed a petition with the State Water Resources Control Board to halt the irrigation of high selenium soils on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Both the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources filed responses to Smith's petition, which were posted earlier on this website. Now Smith has responded. His response is attached. CLICK HERE.
Felix Smith, the whistleblower on the bird deformities at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge back in the 1980s, has filed a complaint with the State Water Board over the continued irrigation of high selenium soils in the Western San Joaquin Valley. He wants the water board to declare irrigation of these tainted soils an unreasonable use of water under California law. He is joined in his complaint by the California Salmon and Steelhead Assocation. The Water Board has asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies Northern California to federal irrigation districts farming the high selenium soils, to explain what is being done to solve the selenium crisis, now in its third decade. The Bureau of Reclamation recently replied to the Water Board's inquiry. See if you can spot the flaws in the Bureau of Reclamation's arguments that the problem is being solved. Here is the Bureau's response: CLICK HERE READ MORE »