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>> Article: Judge: Delta salmon 'unquestionably in jeopardy' [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 5:03 pm
Ken Jones


Posts: 9447
Location: California

SFGate
Judge: Delta salmon 'unquestionably in jeopardy'

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(10-21) 23:46 PDT Fresno, CA (AP) --

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that California's canal water systems are placing wild salmon "unquestionably in jeopardy," but stopped short of issuing court-order limits on pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Environmental groups had sought the temporary pumping limits to guard three species of migrating salmon in the delta until a new fish protection plan is due in March.

But U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger declined to do so, after the state Department of Water Resources said last month it would voluntarily reduce pumping to protect the juvenile fish.

"Upon initial glance, the department believes that the judge handed down a responsible ruling," said spokesman Ted Thomas.

If environmental groups want to make new arguments for court-ordered pumping limits, Wanger wrote, any motion filed would be "heard on an expedited basis," an offer attorneys are considering.

"We need to decide whether it's worth doing for this short amount of time or not," said Michael Sherwood, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Chinook salmon and steelhead freely migrated on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers until the federal and state system of dams built to deliver water via canals to the state's arid areas blocked their paths. Now up to 42 percent of the endangered juvenile fish die as they are sucked into Delta pumps that send water into canals.

Wanger's opinion eased the fears of farmers worried about impacts of mandatory water cutbacks on an agricultural industry already suffering from drought, while validating concerns by environmentalists as well as fishing groups affecting by the collapse of the state's salmon population.

"In the meantime, we've got boats tied up this year and probably next," said a frustrated Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, referring to the resulting ban on commercial and recreational fishing.

The ruling stems from Wanger's earlier decision that pitted the endangered fish against Central Valley farmers. In that ruling, he said the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion on water projects tied to the delta does not adequately protect salmon and must be rewritten.

In the meantime, environmentalists, fishing groups and water users filed briefs over how the delta and its water should be managed until then. Earthjustice had wanted the judge to order a cutback in pumping that would be legally enforceable.

Last month, the Department of Water Resources, intervening on behalf of the water districts who depend on canal water for their constituents, said they would operate the water systems to minimize impacts on salmon, especially during the December-January migration of juvenile fish to the ocean, until the new report comes out. Wanger said that testimony under oath made a court order unnecessary.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/21/state/n184807D28.DTL
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Article:Judge: Delta salmon 'unquestionably in jeopardy':/n/a/2008/10/21/state/n184807D28.DTL
SFGate
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SFGate
Judge: Delta salmon 'unquestionably in jeopardy'

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(10-21) 23:46 PDT Fresno, CA (AP) --

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that California's canal water systems are placing wild salmon "unquestionably in jeopardy," but stopped short of issuing court-order limits on pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Environmental groups had sought the temporary pumping limits to guard three species of migrating salmon in the delta until a new fish protection plan is due in March.

But U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger declined to do so, after the state Department of Water Resources said last month it would voluntarily reduce pumping to protect the juvenile fish.

"Upon initial glance, the department believes that the judge handed down a responsible ruling," said spokesman Ted Thomas.

If environmental groups want to make new arguments for court-ordered pumping limits, Wanger wrote, any motion filed would be "heard on an expedited basis," an offer attorneys are considering.

"We need to decide whether it's worth doing for this short amount of time or not," said Michael Sherwood, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Chinook salmon and steelhead freely migrated on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers until the federal and state system of dams built to deliver water via canals to the state's arid areas blocked their paths. Now up to 42 percent of the endangered juvenile fish die as they are sucked into Delta pumps that send water into canals.

Wanger's opinion eased the fears of farmers worried about impacts of mandatory water cutbacks on an agricultural industry already suffering from drought, while validating concerns by environmentalists as well as fishing groups affecting by the collapse of the state's salmon population.

"In the meantime, we've got boats tied up this year and probably next," said a frustrated Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, referring to the resulting ban on commercial and recreational fishing.

The ruling stems from Wanger's earlier decision that pitted the endangered fish against Central Valley farmers. In that ruling, he said the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion on water projects tied to the delta does not adequately protect salmon and must be rewritten.

In the meantime, environmentalists, fishing groups and water users filed briefs over how the delta and its water should be managed until then. Earthjustice had wanted the judge to order a cutback in pumping that would be legally enforceable.

Last month, the Department of Water Resources, intervening on behalf of the water districts who depend on canal water for their constituents, said they would operate the water systems to minimize impacts on salmon, especially during the December-January migration of juvenile fish to the ocean, until the new report comes out. Wanger said that testimony under oath made a court order unnecessary.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/21/state/n184807D28.DTL
2008 Hearst Communications Inc. | Privacy Policy | Feedback | RSS Feeds | FAQ | Site Index | Contact

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