[env-trinity] CC Times 4 13 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Apr 14 17:03:38 PDT 2009

Delta farmers sue to block Delta canal plan

The Contra Costa Times - 4/13/09

By Mike Taugher

Delta farmers have sued to block plans to build an aqueduct that would
divert Sacramento River water around the Delta. 


It is the latest in a flurry of about a dozen active lawsuits over
California's most important and fought over source of water, but it appears
to be the first to directly take on new plans to build a peripheral canal
like the one voters defeated in 1982.


"This is a life-and-death struggle for us, and we're not giving up," said
John Herrick, a lawyer for the South Delta Water Agency, one of two water
districts that filed the lawsuit last week in federal court in Sacramento.


At issue is a mammoth planning effort that seeks, by the end of next year,
to have a detailed plan and permit to build a peripheral canal around the
Delta that would also help conserve fish and other wildlife that are in
danger of extinction.


The plan, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, would be the largest and
most complex habitat conservation plan ever under state and federal
endangered species laws. It is also on a schedule that would also make it
one of the fastest.


The lawsuit, filed late last week in federal court in Sacramento, says the
plan violates planning laws because the environmental review has begun even
though there is no specific plan for critics to analyze.


"Because of that lack of information, the public and impacted agencies and
jurisdictions ... cannot determine what impacts the (conservation plan) will
have nor whether it complies with the law," the lawsuit said. 


Supporters of the plan say the urgency is warranted because of the collapse
of several fish populations and the effect of the environmental crisis on
water supplies.


"They are sort of grasping at straws," said Laura King Moon, assistant
general manager of the State Water Contractors, an association of water
agencies. "We have a huge fishery crisis that needs to be dealt with. We
have a water supply crisis that needs to be dealt with."


For water officials, the conservation plan could solve two problems with a
single stroke: 


. First, water managers would be relieved of traditional regulations under
endangered species laws because the plan is supposed to be a more
comprehensive approach to environmental protection. 


. Second, by taking the view that building a canal around the Delta would
prevent fish from being killed at Delta pumps, water officials could get
regulatory approval for a highly contested structure.


The environmental study of the plan, which would include a canal but also
wetlands restoration and other measures, is underway even though the state
has not detailed proposal for the project.


Delta farmers have the most to lose from a canal because it would deprive
the Delta of fresh water that now flows from the Sacramento River south to
the vicinity of pumps near Tracy. 


If the Sacramento River water were diverted to a canal, the water used by
Delta farmers would become more polluted with pesticides and salts from
irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley, along with more salt from inflows from
San Francisco Bay. That also would affect water quality near the intakes
used by the Contra Costa Water district.


"We will go out of business if they build and operate a peripheral canal,"
said Herrick. "We will salt up. ... It's simple physics."


The lawsuit, filed by two Delta farming districts - the Central Delta Water
Agency and the South Delta Water Agency - also serves notice that the Delta
agencies are preparing another lawsuit that says the conservation plan
violates endangered species laws.




Byron Leydecker, JcT, Chair

Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 

415 519 4810 cell

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org



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