[env-trinity] CC Times Feb 8 NRDC, et al v. U.S., et al
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Feb 8 10:00:53 PST 2006
Decision imminent on Delta water case
Contra Costa Times - 2/8/06
By Juliana Barbassa, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO - An 18-year-old court battle over how much San Joaquin River
water should flow from a dam to bring back the salmon that once lived there
could be nearing an end as environmental activists, farm representatives and
federal water officials close in on an agreement.
A hearing on the case was postponed Tuesday for 30 days after the parties
filed a document telling Sacramento U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton
they hoped to settle within the next month.
"The goal is to be expeditious and try to wrap it up as quick as we can,"
said Cole Upton, chairman of Friant Water Users Authority, which delivers
river water to about 15,000 farmers and is one of the defendants. "The judge
is pretty adamant he wants to get things moving on this."
Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger increased the pressure on the
Department of the Interior to join the Natural Resources Defense Council and
the Friant Water Users Authority in a three-part settlement by becoming the
first governor to weigh in on the dispute.
The governor's letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton expressed his
"strong support for this potential settlement to restore the San Joaquin
River in a reasonable and practical manner."
But reaching a compromise is difficult because there are so many interests
at stake, from fish to farmers and the approximately 20 million Californians
who get their drinking water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.
Since the 1940s, when Friant Dam started holding back about 90 percent of
the river's flow, the water has been used to irrigate more than a million
acres in the San Joaquin Valley.
The diversion also dried large portions of the river below the dam, killing
off the salmon which had relied on the river to spawn, and decreasing water
levels in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, which hurt local species
and forced farmers in the area to rely on increasingly salty water.
Environmental groups sued the federal government in 1988. The judge ruled in
November 2004 that the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the
dam, had broken state law by not leaving enough water on the river to
sustain the historic salmon population.
What's in dispute now is how much water is needed to bring the fish back.
Trial was scheduled for Feb. 14; but intervention from Rep. George
Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein brought the
parties back to the table.
Since then, progress has been steady -- to the benefit of all involved, the
governor said in his letter.
"Restoring the San Joaquin ... will provide broad benefits to the
environment, to the federal, state and local governments, and to millions of
Californians," the governor said.
The parties involved in the suit are now reaching out to water users in the
valley as well as to state and federal agencies like the National Marine
Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hear their
The goal is to reach an agreement before the next court date, they said.
"There's real hope that we'll have a conceptual agreement within a month,"
said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst with NRDC. "There's no guarantee,
but it's a realistic hope."
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
Advisor, California Trout, Inc
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 ph
415 383 9562 fx
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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