[env-trinity] Judge temporarily blocks increased Trinity River flows

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Wed Aug 14 08:31:33 PDT 2013


"Having considered all of the materials filed thus far, the Court  
concludes that a brief temporary restraining order to maintain the  
status quo is warranted," wrote U.S. District Judge Lawrence J.  
O'Neill. "This would afford an opportunity for the Court to consider  
a reply and perform a more measured analysis of the issues."

download PDF (169.3 KB)

Judge temporarily blocks increased Trinity River flows

by Dan Bacher

A federal judge Tuesday granted the Westlands Water District and the  
San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority a temporary restraining  
order (TRO) to block increased Trinity River flows through Friday,  
August 16.

The Bureau of Reclamation began releasing the water from Trinity  
Reservoir on August 13 to avert a massive fish kill on the lower  
Klamath like the one that took place in September 2002, when over  
78,000 fish perished due to an outbreak of disease in low, warm water  
conditions. After the judge issued the order, the Bureau reduced the  
flows from Lewiston Dam back to 450 cfs.

Reclamation planned to release a total of 62,000 acre feet of Trinity  
water, plus an additional 39,000 acre feet of emergency water if fish  
demonstrate signs of disease, to the Klamath through the end of  

"Having considered all of the materials filed thus far, the Court  
concludes that a brief temporary restraining order to maintain the  
status quo is warranted," wrote U.S. District Judge Lawrence J.  
O'Neill. "This would afford an opportunity for the Court to consider  
a reply and perform a more measured analysis of the issues."

O'Neill stated, "On the one hand, Plaintiffs have established that  
these releases have the potential to reduce further already low water  
allocations to their members. Although there is dispute over whether  
such reductions can be reasonably anticipated to follow from the  
planned releases, if dry conditions persist into the next water year,  
they are likely to impact next year’s water allocations, with  
associated economic and environmental impacts."

"On the other hand, the releases are designed to prevent a  
potentially serious fish die off impacting salmon populations  
entering the Klamath River estuary, an event that could have severe  
impacts on both commercial and tribal fishing interests. However,  
nothing in the record indicates that delaying the additional flows by  
several days to permit a more measured analysis of the issues would  
render ineffective the overall flow augmentation efforts," the Judge  

The Hoopa Valley Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's  
Associations intervened in the case in support of the Bureau of  
Reclamation plan to increase flows starting August 13.

"We have what is just a very temporary TRO in effect just until this  
Friday to allow the Judge to consider the pleadings in more detail,  
and to allow responses to the existing pleadings," said Glen Spain,  
Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of  
Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA). "This is to be expected given the  
very tight time constraints in a complex case."

"We are facing a very serious emergency situation in the Klamath  
Basin, but it is also true that the salmon runs are nowhere near  
their peak yet, which is expected to be early September," said Spain.

He emphasized, "However, those valuable salmon runs will not wait for  
anyone, and remain in serious jeopardy of a major fish kill disaster  
as long as that emergency pulse flow is delayed. Doing nothing is not  
an option that makes sense."

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, represented  
by Earthjustice, filed papers in the U.S. District Court in Fresno  
defending the planned release of Trinity River water needed to keep  
salmon alive.

You can read the document: Opposition to Motion for Temporary  
Restraining Order at: http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/ 

A news release from PCFFA and Earthjustice, issued before the  
granting of the TRO, stated, "The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water  
release plan would help prevent another disaster like the Klamath  
River Fish Kill of 2002. That year very low flows and high  
temperatures contributed to a massive die-off of adult Chinook salmon  
that is considered one of the single worst adult fish kills in U.S.  

More than 78,000 adult spawners died in that disaster before they  
could lay their eggs, according to official estimates by the  
California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The groups said this in turn led to "nearly coast-wide closures of  
ocean salmon fisheries in 2006, thousands of lost fishing jobs and a  
declared fisheries disaster by the U.S. Department of Commerce that  
resulted in estimated economic losses of up to $200 million."

Due to the current drought, another 2002-like fish kill is likely  
without emergency increased water releases from Trinity River dams.  
If another similar fish kill is allowed to happen, a major fisheries  
economic disaster four years later in 2017 could be the result,  
according to the groups.

“These emergency cold water releases will help salmon survive this  
drought,” said Spain. “Why should Central Valley corporate farmers  
get all the water they demand while coastal fishing-dependent  
communities get dead fish and dry rivers?”

Spain noted that nearly half of the total flows from the Trinity  
River are already diverted from northern California to the Central  
Valley for irrigation and hydropower needs. Westlands’ demand for  
even more water would take it from Trinity-Klamath River fish.

The salmon and steelhead in the Klamath Basin help provide a living  
for commercial fishermen, charter boat captains, sportfishing guides,  
Tribal members and coastal communities from Fort Bragg, California to  
southern Oregon, according to the groups. Another major Klamath- 
driven fishing closure like what occurred in 2006 could close ocean  
salmon fishing down from Monterey to well into central Washington,  
causing devastating economic damages.

“The fishing community – commercial, recreational and Tribal –  
has sacrificed a great deal to ensure there are ample returning  
spawning salmon, including total closures of our seasons and loss of  
our livelihoods in recent years," said Eureka commercial fisherman  
Dave Bitts, President of the PCFFA. "It has been painful, but we have  
done this as an investment in our future. All of this sacrifice will  
be for nothing if San Joaquin Valley agribusiness gets its way and  
steals the salmon’s water.”

Attorney Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice said, “Healthy salmon runs  
are the sustainable lifeblood of Northern California coastal  
communities. Salmon runs can provide jobs forever if managed  
correctly. But without enough water in the river for salmon and  
steelhead to survive, these resources will disappear.”

The Hoopa Valley Tribe, an intervener on behalf of the U.S.  
government in the lawsuit, said it will be issuing a full press  
release on the temporary restraining order pertaining to the Trinity  
River flows on Wednesday morning. Here is the initial statement from  
the Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairwoman:

"Today I have received a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by  
Judge Lawrence J. O' Neill that has an adverse effect on the  
scheduled release of Trinity River water to advert a Klamath fish  
kill," stated Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Danielle Vigil-Masten.  
"This TRO contradicts almost 60 years of laws pertaining to the  
diversion of the Trinity River, which put the Hoopa Valley Tribal  
water rights and the Trinity fishery over the needs of Central Valley  
irrigators. It is unfathomable that the Central Valley water users  
would file this suit after they have made millions of dollars off the  
backs of the Trinity River salmon and communities."

In a press release on Wednesday, August 7, the Hoopa Valley Tribe  
warned that the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) plan to supplement  
Klamath River flows to avoid a fish kill may not be sufficient. “We  
need more water and we need it sooner,” said Hoopa Fisheries  
Director Michael Orcutt.

Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said her tribe "fully  
supports" the Hoopa Valley Tribe's intervention on behalf of salmon.

"The salmon need waters that were always theirs, water for them that  
Creator put there from the very beginning for them.....that water was  
never intended for corporate farms growing watermelons and cotton in  
contaminated arid lands in the deserts of Southern California," said  
Sisk. "Salmon FEED the World and clean the WATERS!"

"This is Deja Vu all over," said Tom Stokely of the California Water  
Impact Network (C-WIN). "In 2002, Westlands, SLDMWA, Sacramento  
Municipal Utilities District, Northern California Power Authority and  
San Benito County Water Agency obtained a preliminary Injunction  
prohibiting additional Trinity River releases. Additional Trinity  
flows into the Lower Klamath River could have prevented or at least  
abated the fish kill. It looks like Westlands and SLDMA are trying  
for a repeat performance!"

C-WIN supports the higher flows and opposes the lawsuit. You can view  
C-WIN's comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment at: http:// 

The TRO was issued as the Brown administration is fast-tracking the  
construction of the peripheral tunnels to export northern California  
water to Westlands Water District, other corporate agribusiness  
interests and oil companies. The construction of the 35-mile-long  
tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River chinook  
salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other  
fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on  
the Trinity River, the only out-of-basin water supply for the Central  
Valley Project.

Other documents filed with the court:

Intervention Memo

PCFFA Declaration

Hoopa Valley Tribe intervention documents: http://www.c-win.org/ 

For recent news and more background on this story visit:
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/attachments/20130814/cc844710/attachment-0001.html
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: unknown.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 142176 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/attachments/20130814/cc844710/unknown-0001.jpg

More information about the env-trinity mailing list