[env-trinity] Contra Costa Times on Wanger Ruling
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Feb 8 12:05:40 PST 2010
Judge relaxes Delta salmon rules
By Mike Taugher Contra Costa Times
In a win for central and Southern California farmers and cities, a federal
judge on Friday suspended salmon protection rules just weeks after they
began affecting water deliveries.
The decision, which angered salmon fishermen, means that for at least the
next two weeks water agencies serving mostly the San Joaquin Valley and
Southern California can run Delta pumps to take full advantage of flows from
recent storms without regard to restrictions meant to protect salmon,
steelhead and other fish.
"I thought we were on the path to getting those fish back," said San
Francisco fisher Larry Collins, who like other salmon fishers has not been
able to fish for
two years. "I don't know what we're going to do."
U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger suspended a portion of the permit that
limits how hard Delta pumps can run, saying federal water managers did not
sufficiently analyze the impact of the new rules.
"The principle the court applied is very clear," said Dan Nelson, executive
director of the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, which represents
San Joaquin Valley farmers. "The judge found that the federal agencies
should have considered alternatives that would still adequately protect the
fish while causing less harm to people."
In 2007, Wanger invalidated a pair of key endangered species permits because
they were too weak to protect two runs of salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon
and Delta smelt.
New federal permits were written that environmentalists and fishers have
cheered, but farmers have
blasted as onerous.
The Delta smelt permit was responsible for about 25 percent of the water
shortages last year, according to water managers, and the salmon permit had
negligible impact on water supplies until two weeks ago.
The temporary order is in force for two weeks but can be renewed. Wanger
will consider more permanent remedies later.
But the decision brings two issues to a head.
First, it is unclear whether operations at the state-owned pumps that serve
parts of the Bay Area, Kern County and Southern California will comply with
the state's endangered species law. The Department of Water Resources ran
its water project outside of that law until it got a certification last
year, for the first time, from state regulators that determined the new
federal permit met the standards of state law.
It is unclear if the court order affects that determination.
State water officials said they could not address that issue Friday.
Second, some of the environmental groups cooperating with an initiative
backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to create a canal or other means to
deliver water around the Delta are now discussing the possibility of walking
away, which could be a serious blow to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, said
one of the participants.
"(Water agencies) that we're partnering with are out there taking swipes
(and) undermining the protections that are in place right now," said Ann
Hayden, a water policy analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund. "What's
the point in continuing in this long-term solution under the BDCP if actions
are taken that will directly harm the salmon in the short term?"
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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