[env-trinity] AP 5 18 2010
bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue May 18 16:12:59 PDT 2010
Federal judge sides with farmers in delta pumping lawsuit
By Terence Chea
Posted: 05/18/2010 03:27:27 PM PDT
Updated: 05/18/2010 03:27:28 PM PDT
A federal judge ruled today in favor of Central Valley farmers and urban
water agencies seeking to loosen restrictions on pumping from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a major source of irrigation and drinking
water for much of California.
U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno said the federal government did
not properly develop a management plan that restricted water exports to
protect endangered salmon, steelhead and other fish.
The judge scheduled a hearing Wednesday to determine how much water can be
exported without harming threatened fish that migrate through the delta to
the Pacific Ocean.
Groups representing San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California water
users filed suit to block the pumping restrictions imposed by the 2009
management plan written by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The restrictions were aimed at protecting winter- and spring-run chinook
salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and a group of orca whales.
Judge Wanger said pumping restrictions were necessary to protect those
species, but the agency did not adequately explain how they determined
specific pumping levels.
The restrictions - along with three years of drought - have forced farmers
to leave large tracts of land fallow, leading to significant economic loses
and soaring unemployment in many agricultural communities, said Sarah Woolf,
a spokeswoman for Westlands Water District, which serves about 600 farms in
western Fresno and Kings counties.
Environmentalists, fishermen and tribal communities that defended the water
management plan in court were disappointed by Tuesday's ruling, said Doug
Obegi, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"We will urge the court to uphold these protections for salmon and the
fishing and tribal communities that depend on them," Obegi said. "Weakening
those pumping restrictions will jeopardize those species."
Officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service were still reviewing
the ruling and declined comment, spokesman Jim Milbury said.
Wanger is also expected to issue a ruling on a similar lawsuit that seeks to
block a 2008 management plan that imposed pumping restrictions to protect a
tiny endangered fish called the delta smelt.
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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