[env-trinity] EENews: Court revives fishermen's challenge to Reclamation contracts

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Apr 8 11:03:24 PDT 2016

WESTERN WATER:Court revives fishermen's challenge to Reclamation contracts Jeremy P. Jacobs<http://www.eenews.net/staff/Jeremy_P_Jacobs>, E&E reporterPublished: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 A federal appeals court yesterday revived a challenge from California fishermen to federal water delivery contracts to California's agricultural hub. The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld a lower court ruling that sided with the Bureau of Reclamation in a lawsuit concerning water deliveries to major irrigation districts. But the panel also said the bureau failed to adequately explain in its environmental assessment why it did not consider an alternative in which less water was delivered than the maximum obligated under the contracts. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association were seeking to undermine eight interim two-year contracts that account for 1.2 million acre-feet of water deliveries from the San Francisco Bay Delta to the Westlands Water District and others via the federal Central Valley Project. They raised several claims under the National Environmental Policy Act, including that the bureau's environmental assessment focused entirely on environmental impacts where the water would be delivered and not impacts on where it was taken from. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit agreed with one of their arguments. The unanimous panel concluded that the bureau's environmental assessment was inadequate "because it did not give full and meaningful consideration to the alternative of a reduction in maximum water qualities." It added that was an "abuse of discretion." Bureau water contracts have increasingly been the target of environmental group lawsuits. The contracts, which are periodically renewed, govern how much water major irrigators receive from the Central Valley Project, which moves water from the northern part of the state to agricultural hubs to the south. In court documents, the fishermen contended that the bureau is automatically renewing the contracts without seriously considering their effects on the Bay Delta, where many fish species, such as the delta smelt and some salmon, are severely threatened. "Reclamation is barreling down a track that ends with the extinction of the Delta's iconic fisheries," they wrote, "but Reclamation claims that since it has already left the station it cannot consider the impacts of deciding to continue on that journey rather than get off at the next stop." Courts, they wrote, should force the bureau to consider those effects "before it is too late to avoid the environmental train wreck." Click here<http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2016/03/28/14-15514.pdf> for the opinion.  
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