[env-trinity] Sac and Fresno Bees 6-23-10 Delta Pumping
bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Jun 24 10:10:22 PDT 2010
Compromise reached over Calif water pumping limits
California farmers, environmentalists, water managers and city officials
have worked out a compromise over how to manage pumping limits from the
delta through the end of June.
On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced all sides agreed to
stick with current water restrictions on state and federal projects tied to
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Federal scientists have recommended water cutbacks to safeguard the
threatened delta smelt and other native species. Farmers argued the limits
have caused crop losses and damaged the local environment.
The negotiations came after a federal judge's ruling in May that water
officials had to consider humans along with the fish in limiting water use.
He also said federal science didn't prove that increased pumping alone
imperiled the smelt.
Both sides claim victory in water compromise
By John Ellis
Water users have reached a short-term compromise with environmentalists and
their federal government allies on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumping
levels that currently face potential cutbacks to protect the threatened
Even as they compromised, however, both sides claimed victory.
A management plan for the smelt - known as a biological opinion - regulate
delta pumping levels by setting a range of water flows in parts of the San
Joaquin River known as the Old and Middle rivers.
The compromise permits the pumping of the maximum amount of water allowed by
the biological opinion, which pleased water users. But it also keeps the
biological opinion in place and doesn't allow pumping at levels higher than
those set forth in the plan, which satisfied environmentalists.
In addition, environmentalists said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can
still step in if something unforeseen arises.
The compromise was reached after more than three weeks of negotiations. For
all that work, however, it will not be in effect very long. The biological
opinion covering the smelt is only in effect until June 30.
Thanks to heavy rainfall this year, high water flows on the San Joaquin
River have pushed so much water into the south delta that there was no need
for the government to enact any pumping restrictions.
But by late this week, reduced pumping would likely have been put in place.
To protect the smelt, the federal government could have significantly
reduced pumping levels from Friday through the end of the month.
Both sides said they were pleased to reach an agreement.
"This is an example of what we hope will continue to be a balanced approach
to protect the environment, the people and the economy of our state," said
Sarah Woolf, a spokeswoman for the Westlands Water District, which relies
almost exclusively on delta water for irrigation.
George Torgun, an attorney with Earthjustice, which is one of the groups
fighting to keep smelt protections in place, said that in the "spirit of
cooperation we were willing to go along."
The compromise came after U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger issued a
ruling that found flaws in the current smelt management plan. The ruling was
a victory for water users and a setback to environmentalists.
Wanger's ruling found that water officials must consider humans along with
the smelt in limiting use of the delta for irrigation and urban use. The
judge also found that water users made convincing arguments that the federal
government's science didn't prove that increased pumping from the delta
imperiled the smelt.
But Wanger made no finding on the water users' request for an immediate
injunction on the smelt plan, which lead to the negotiations for a
With that in place, both sides will now return to their adversarial roles as
they prepare for battle on the smelt management plan, which water users are
A two-day hearing on the matter is set for July 8 and 9.
Water users want the biological opinion invalidated and then rewritten by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Environmentalists and the federal
government say the opinion should stay in its current form.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/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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