[env-trinity] Judge affirms ruling to shut delta pumps, protect fish

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Fri Apr 20 09:48:10 PDT 2007


 

Judge affirms ruling to shut delta pumps, protect fish

Associated Press – 4/18/07

By Samantha Young, staff writer

 

SACRAMENTO -- Brushing aside state objections, a judge Wednesday reaffirmed his March decision that California must stop pumping water out of the delta within 60 days unless it complies with environmental laws protecting fish.

 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch filed an order reiterating his position that the Department of Water Resources lacks the proper permits or authority to run a key station that pumps water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta into the California Aqueduct.

 

"They submitted volumes of documents and declarations. The judge took one look at it, read it and said nothing has changed," said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. 

 

The Department of Water Resources will appeal the decision, spokesman Ted Thomas said after the ruling became public.

 

In court filings, the department said it had the authority to run the Harvey O. Banks pumping plant, a station west of Stockton that sends water to Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and the Central Valley.

 

Environmentalists and fishing groups have complained for years that the pumps suck in and kill threatened or endangered fish, including the chinook salmon and delta smelt, which are protected under the California Endangered Species Act.

 

The smelt, which average 3 inches long, are considered a key indicator of the health of the delta. Their numbers have been dwindling over the past few years as pumping has increased.

 

State officials have argued that the smelt are falling prey to other habitat changes and maintain that the department operates its pumps in a manner that does not lead to excessive fish kills.

 

The water department also has applied for authorization from state wildlife officials to run the pumps. A decision is expected within the next month, which could satisfy the judge.

 

If the pumps are shut down, state water deliveries couldn't continue without the Banks pumping station, according to the court order. It is the heart of the state water project and funnels 10,688 cubic feet per second of delta water through 11 pumps into the 444-mile long aqueduct.

 

More than 23 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland get water that passes through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State officials have warned any interruption of its water deliveries would cause severe economic harm. #

http://www.sacbee.com/114/story/157225.html

 

 

Ruling to shut down delta pumps affirmed

San Francisco Chronicle – 4/19/07

By Glen Martin, staff writer

 

An Alameda County judge has affirmed his earlier decision that orders the state Department of Water Resources to comply with the California Endangered Species Act or shut down the huge water pumps that send water to 24 million Californians. 

 

Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ordered the agency to shut the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant near Tracy within 60 days unless it obtains authorization from the state Department of Fish and Game to kill winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon and delta smelt. The species are protected under state law. 

 

The pumps, which shunt Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water south, have been blamed for destroying the beleaguered fish. 

 

On March 23, Roesch issued a draft ruling demanding the pump shut down in lieu of permits required by state law. The 60-day countdown will begin when the order is signed, which is expected no later than today. 

 

Water Resources Department spokesman Ted Thomas said agency officials could not comment on the ruling because they had not reviewed it. 

 

Fish and Game Department spokesman Steve Martarano said department officials were also reviewing the order. 

 

The court decision resulted from a lawsuit filed last year by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which wants more fresh water for the delta and its fisheries. 

 

Bill Jennings, the executive director of the sportfishing alliance, said the ruling "takes the albatross from (Water Resources) and puts it on Fish and Game." 

 

Jennings said the Fish and Game Department could declare the state rules comply with federal law or issue a permit to kill the fish. Either or both strategies could keep the pumps running. But such rulings would have to be based on firm scientific data showing no significant harm would be done to the fish, Jennings said. 

 

"We'll be sitting on their shoulder watching everything they do," he said. #

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/19/BAG52PB52J1.DTL

 

 

Threat to key water supply reaffirmed; A judge's order over fish killed during pumping could halt the flow from the Bay Area delta to the Southland. A state official vows an appeal

Los Angeles Times – 4/19/07

By Bettina Boxall, staff writer

 

A Superior Court judge has refused to back down from a ruling that in two months could virtually shut down the State Water Project, stopping the flow of Northern California water to Central Valley farms and 17 million Southern Californians.

Over the objections of water officials, Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch this week reasserted a preliminary March ruling in which he found that the California Department of Water Resources had not obtained the proper state environmental permits to operate the huge pumps that siphon water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, in the process killing threatened and endangered fish.

The judge has given the department 60 days from the issuance of his final order to comply with the California Endangered Species Act, or he will turn off the pumps. 

Water officials have warned that a prolonged pumping shutdown would wreak havoc on the California economy and slash water deliveries to urban Southern California at a time when the region is experiencing what is on track to be the driest year on record.

Water department Director Lester Snow said his agency would appeal the decision.

"The 60-day clock starts ticking on what would be a devastating blow to the state's water system," he said. 

In the meantime, his agency is asking the state Department of Fish and Game to allow fish to be killed at the Harvey O. Banks Delta Pumping Plant, based on existing federal environmental permits. The pumps have long been a focal point of concern over the effect of huge water diversions from the delta, which is part of the largest estuary on the West Coast and has been severely degraded by farming, contaminants and water deliveries that have altered its natural tidal rhythms.

The tiny native delta smelt, salmon and introduced sport fish have all been in steep decline. Recent years have brought an especially sharp drop in the population of smelt, which some scientists believe is headed for extinction.

The escalating conflict between delta water deliveries and environmental protection is spurring a reexamination of whether the state should continue to use the sprawling delta northeast of San Francisco as the hub of its giant plumbing system or find some other ways of ferrying water between north and south.

In the past the pumping has been briefly stopped, and water deliveries have also been reduced, to protect fish. But the possibility of a longer shutdown is sending ripples of anxiety throughout the State Water Project, which supplies about two out of three Californians, as well as irrigation water for 750,000 acres of farm land.

Southern California water officials have said they have enough water in storage to avoid immediate rationing.

But in court declarations, managers for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California warned that a shutdown of more than a year would empty their reservoirs, halt groundwater recharge programs and ultimately force mandatory rationing in the region.

Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which filed the suit in which Roesch ruled, said it was unlikely the pumps would be turned off for long. "There's not a scare scenario here," he insisted.

He argued that the water department could pursue a different tack to obtain a permit under the state Endangered Species Act to kill fish at the pumps. But, he said, that would probably involve reducing pumping levels to offset environmental harm caused by the water operation. 

However, state officials have said that permit process could take as long as 18 months. #

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-pumps19apr19,1,769555.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

 

 

Judge's ultimatum on delta pumps; ENDANGERED SPECIES AT HEART OF DISPUTE

San Jose Mercury News – 4/19/07

By Mike Taugher, MediaNews 

 

An Alameda County judge rejected last-minute pleas from state water officials and instead completed his order that they shut off massive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumps in 60 days unless they can comply with the state law that protects endangered species such as delta smelt and salmon. 

 

The California Department of Water Resources said it would appeal Wednesday's ruling and warned of dire economic repercussions should the pumps be shut off. 

 

The State Water Project delivers water to 25 million people from the Bay Area to San Diego, but a shutdown would probably most severely affect Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore. 

 

The Zone 7 Water Agency, which serves 200,000 people in those areas, gets 80 percent of its water from the state project and would have to impose a mandatory 20 percent reduction in the first year of a shutdown, said General Manager Jill Duerig. That would probably prohibit watering of lawns, carwashing and other activities, she said. 

 

"It would be water available for health and safety only," Duerig said. 

 

Some Livermore vineyards could be cut off entirely, she added. In the unlikely event that a shutdown extended into a second year, water use would have to be cut in half as water stored underground and in Lake Del Valle is used up. 

 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch finalized his March 22 order and ruled the project lacks permits required under the California Endangered Species Act to kill delta smelt and protected salmon runs. 

 

Few expect the pumps to be turned off for any length of time, in part because it could cost the state economy hundreds of billions of dollars, state water officials say. Still, it has brought new urgency to the ongoing water crisis. 

 

The Department of Water Resources finds itself without a clear way to resolve the thorny legal predicament. 

 

Last week, the agency for the first time asked the Department of Fish and Game to formally review its operation by asking it to endorse federal endangered-species permits. If the Fish and Game Department agrees the federal permits are consistent with state law, the project would be in compliance and the shutdown threat would be averted. 

 

But the federal permits are widely perceived as flawed, and they are already being rewritten to address several shortcomings. #

http://www.mercurynews.com/localnewsheadlines/ci_5701604

 

 

State loses pumps ruling; It has 60 days before Delta water affected

Stockton Record – 4/19/07

By Hank Shaw, staff writer

 

SACRAMENTO - Tick, tick, tick. The 60-day clock has begun on a court case that could result in the shutdown of the giant water pumps near Tracy that supply water to 25 million Californians.

 

Alameda Superior Count Judge Frank Roesch ruled against the state Wednesday in a case brought against the departments of Water Resources and Fish and Game that argues the state has failed to follow its own laws - bringing a key species of fish to the brink of extinction as a result.

 

Few expect the pumps to shut down, but the legal action, coupled with parallel litigation over the federal water pumps next to the state facility, could significantly curtail water pumping from the Delta.

 

Water agencies from the Bay Area to the Central Valley and on into Southern California are beginning to develop emergency plans as a result.

 

Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said stopping the pumps would be a "devastating blow to the state's water system."

 

State Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, said the state should have been following the law, even if it does mean less water for farms and communities elsewhere.

 

"Everybody may have to step back and reassess what their expectations are," Machado said.

 

At issue are the Delta smelt and the California Endangered Species Act.

 

Smelt are viewed by biologists as a bellwether of the Delta's health, and they are dying. Scientists estimate only 35,000 smelt exist, down from 800,000 a few years ago.

 

The die-off coincides with dramatically increased pumping at both the state and federal pumps.

 

Killing threatened fish - or any other creature - requires a "take permit" issued by the Department of Fish and Game. The permit is designed to allow an entity to kill a few of the threatened creatures, so long as it does not harm the species as a whole.

 

The Department of Water Resources has never requested such a permit, although Snow told a Senate hearing in 2005 he'd ask for one. Snow says a "patchwork" of internal rules effectively brings the department into compliance with the law.

 

Roesch thought otherwise. He's given the state 60 days to follow the state Endangered Species Act or show it is acting consistently with the federal Endangered Species Act; if the state fails, he'll order the pumps shut down.

 

A complicating factor is that the rules governing the federal pumps are likely to change as a result of another lawsuit; a hearing in that case is slated for next Thursday.

 

Snow said the state will appeal Roesch's decision.

 

Machado said he wants to hear from the department what it plans to do should it lose that appeal. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday. #

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070419/A_NEWS/704190325

 

 

Ruling Could Jeopardize State Water Supplies

KCBS 740 AM – 4/18/07

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A judge today reaffirmed a decision that California must stop pumping water out of the delta within 60 days unless it complies with environmental laws protecting fish. 

 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch filed an order reiterating his position that the Department of Water Resources lacks the proper permits or authority to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

 

The Department of Water Resources had asked him to reconsider his March 22 ruling.

 

A department spokesman said the state will now appeal the decision.

 

The state pumps water from its Harvey O. Banks facility to more than 23 million people in Southern California, the Bay Area and the Central Valley. If the pumps were shut down it would cripple state water supplies.

 

The water department has applied for authorization from state wildlife officials to run the pumps. A decision is expected within the next month, which could satisfy the judge. #

http://kcbs.com/pages/366919.php?contentType=4&contentId=422691

 

 

Water decision bad news for Kern

Bakersfield Californian – 4/18/07

 

SACRAMENTO -- It was more bad news for Kern County farmers and water officials when Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch finalized his order giving state water project managers 60 days to get a major environmental permit or shut down their pumps.

 

Jim Beck, general manager of the Kern County Water Agency, said the agency and the state Department of Water Resources and other water users are "analyzing all our legal and political options."

 

"From what I understand," Beck said, "we have 60 days to file our appeal." 

 

If the pumps are shut down in 60 days, it would halt flows in the California Aqueduct, which supplies more than 20 percent of the water used in Kern County, at the height of the summer irrigation season.

 

That would be a severe blow to the county's biggest industry, costing farmers "millions and millions of dollars" and throwing many workers off their jobs, Beck has said. #

http://www.bakersfield.com/102/story/122806.html

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