[env-trinity] Chronicle: Salmon-saving water release in Klamath delayed

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Aug 15 11:09:07 PDT 2013

A couple of days old.  There are lots of comments too.
Salmon-saving water release in Klamath delayed
Bob Egelko
Updated 10:54 pm, Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Central Valley farmers protesting the federal government's release of water into the Klamath River to protect spawning salmon won a delay of at least three days Tuesday from a federal judge.

Saying the farmers had presented serious arguments against the diversion of water that would otherwise be used for irrigation, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill of Fresno issued a temporary restraining order blocking government action through Friday. He said the delay would give him more time to study the dispute and would not cause significant harm to the salmon.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to release cold Trinity River water into the lower Klamath through Sept. 21 to prevent a die-off of the chinook salmon that are expected to swim up the river this fall and need more water to spawn.

The suit was filed last week by water districts representing growers who receive water from the federal Central Valley Project, supplies that have been sharply reduced this year because of weather-related shortages.

O'Neill said federal law may require the Bureau of Reclamation to maintain flows to the water districts at previously agreed levels, and it's not entirely clear whether the bureau has authority to release additional amounts to protect the salmon. He also said the federal agency may not have conducted an adequate environmental review.

Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, which supports water releases, said Tuesday's order wasn't a major setback, but a further delay after Friday would lead to "a major fishery disaster."

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: begelko at sfchronicle.com
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