[env-trinity] Chico Enterprise-Record 7 2 2010
bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Jul 2 10:40:37 PDT 2010
Feds sued over north-south water transfer plan
By Heather hacking
Three environmental groups, including Chico-based AquaAlliance, Thursday,
filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation calling for
environmental review of plans for a 2010-11 north-to-south water transfer.
The planning documents call for up to 395,000 acre feet of water each year,
moved through both the federal Central Valley Project and California's State
While the deals would be for two years, AquAlliance and co-plaintiffs
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the California Water Impact
Network, have said in court documents that repeated water transfers over the
past decade have never included a full federal or state environmental
This would require a "baseline conditions, comprehensive monitoring and the
disclosure of impacts," the lawsuit states. The concern is that the
transfers will continue, perhaps each year, leaving the Sacramento Valley
exploited "in the same disastrous condition as the Owens and San Joaquin
valleys," AquAlliance Executive Director Barbara Vlamis said in a press
The 395,000 acre feet would be the maximum amount, and would include a
combination of groundwater substitution, cropland idling and crop
Groundwater substitution is when surface water is transferred and
groundwater used instead. Crop substitution is growing crops that use less
The Bureau of Reclamation states National Environmental Policy Act review is
not necessary because minimum flows will be maintained for downstream users
who don't transfer water. Also, existing temperature requirements for fish
would be maintained and operations rules under the Endangered Species Act
will be maintained.
The document states that to avoid adverse groundwater levels and land
subsidence, the program will be "coordinated and implemented in conjunction
with local rules and groundwater management programs and other local
"Reclamation will not approve transfers without adequate mitigation and
monitoring plans. Therefore, the proposed action will not have a significant
adverse impact on groundwater resources," the report states.
The water would be provided by willing sellers in Butte, Colusa, Glenn,
Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.
Vlamis said the lawsuit, which is in addition to a previous lawsuit against
the state Department of Water Resources, is necessary because state and
federal water agencies "continue to transfer without performing
environmental review. No one knows the impacts."
Last year the Department of Water Resources conducted a drought water bank
transfer with no environmental review, stating emergency conditions existed,
she said. That transfer went through, but Vlamis, then working with the
Butte Environmental Council, filed a lawsuit against the state Department of
A state court ordered a retroactive environmental review, Vlamis said
Thursday, declaring that a review should have been done before the transfer,
A programmatic environmental review was also started jointly by federal and
state water agencies in 2003, but never completed, she said.
"The law is very clear. If you have a project you have to analyze it,"
Vlamis said. "But a lot of agencies and jurisdictions will try to do
something on the cheap unless they get challenged."
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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