[env-trinity] LA Times 2 6 10 on Wanger Delta Pumping Decision
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Feb 8 11:05:20 PST 2010
Judge eases curbs on delta pumping
By Bettina Boxall
A federal judge has temporarily lifted pumping curbs designed to protect
salmon migration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, an action that
allows the diversion of more winter storm flows to farms and cities in the
Friday's ruling is the latest in a tortuous legal fight over Endangered
Species Act protections that limit pumping from the troubled delta east of
San Francisco, a source of water for 23 million Californians and millions of
acres of farmland.
The decision was a victory, however brief, for San Joaquin Valley irrigation
districts that have tried in the courts and the halls of Congress to loosen
pumping restraints that have reduced their water deliveries.
Ironically, the ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger,
whose earlier decisions forced the federal government to strengthen
protections for the delta's collapsing fisheries.
Wanger issued a 14-day restraining order, lifting curbs designed to keep
migrating Chinook salmon away from the giant pumps that suck water from the
He concluded that the additional pumping would not seriously harm the young
winter-run salmon moving through the delta to the sea, whereas reduced
diversions were significantly hurting agricultural and urban water supplies.
"It is undisputed that every acre-foot of pumping that is foregone during
this time of year is an acre-foot that does not reach the San Luis Reservoir
where it can be stored for future delivery to users during times of peak
demand later in the water year," Wanger wrote.
But his decision sent mixed signals about the ultimate outcome of the case.
He found that plaintiffs "have not yet established a likelihood of success"
on their claims against the Endangered Species Act.
Instead, Wanger ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had not performed
the necessary analysis of the pumping permit and its restrictions under
another federal law, the National Environmental Policy Act.
"This is not a decision on the soundness of the [permit], the analysis
included in it or the actions required by it," said Chris Yates, a NOAA
Fisheries Service assistant regional administrator. "We continue to stand by
those conclusions very strongly."
Maria Rea, director of the NOAA Fisheries Central Valley office, said the
increased pumping would probably result in more salmon losses.
The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Westlands Water District,
the nation's biggest irrigation district, sought the injunction, along with
the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
"I think it has much broader implications," said Dan Nelson, executive
director of the San Luis authority, which represents Central Valley
irrigators. "I would hope the federal government would take a couple steps
back and take another look" at the salmon permit as well as another designed
to protect the delta smelt, which is nearing extinction.
Most of last year's cuts in water deliveries were a result of the state
drought, not the pumping curbs, according to government water managers.
But that has not stopped agriculture and Central Valley politicians from
attacking the Endangered Species Act protections as the cause of economic
Commercial salmon fishermen, who have endured two closed seasons because of
collapsing stocks, have shot back that without them, their entire way of
life will disappear.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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