Delta Reports Detail Fish Safety: Environmentalists Will Review Information About Government Projects.
By John Ellis, The Fresno Bee, Calif.
Jul. 24–Attorneys representing state and federal water projects said Wednesday that they could prove the massive system of pumps, dams and canals isn’t harming three threatened fish species.
U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger gave them until Aug. 29 to submit reports showing that’s true.
Wednesday’s action was the latest in a long-running fight between environmental groups and the state and federal governments over the projects’ effect on winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead, all of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
On Friday, Wanger issued a written opinion that three fish species are at risk of extinction, and the state and federal water project operations are further jeopardizing them.
Attorneys for the environmental groups who sued to protect the three species will review the reports and, if they are dissatisfied, could press Wanger to take action to protect the fish.
“It’s their job to figure out how to fix that,” Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Kate Poole said of the coming reports. “It makes sense the first go-around to propose what is sufficient.”
Among things they could request are restricting water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta when juveniles of the three species are migrating, and lowering water temperatures in the American River below Folsom Dam to assist spawning. Cooler water from Folsom Lake could be released to change water temperature.
During the hearing Wednesday, the parties participated by telephone. Wanger ordered both sides back in his Fresno courtroom Sept. 4. That’s when the environmental groups are expected to say whether they are satisfied with the state and federal government reports that the species are being protected, or whether they believe further action is necessary.
“We’ll have to see what it looks like,” Poole said. “There are a bunch of different scenarios that could play out. It all depends on the adequacy of the plan.”
Attorneys for the state and federal governments and their water-contractor allies could not be reached to comment.
The report would cover Central Valley Project operations through early March, when federal biologists are scheduled to finish a new plan on the operation’s effects on the three species.
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