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Federal Favours Fish, But May Limit California's Water

by Ellen Hardy
17 April 2008, at 1:00am

US - A federal judge's ruling made this week could mean less water for farms and cities this time to protect salmon and steelhead.

According to SacBee.com, Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno found that the US Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service ignored their own evidence that fish would be harmed as they looked to increase water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Wanger's ruling came in a lawsuit challenging a 2004 plan by state and federal agencies to change reservoir operations.

The US Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act in approving rules to guide these new operations, called a biological opinion, Wanger ruled.

The biological opinion was controversial from the beginning. A draft prepared by Fisheries Service biologists in Sacramento concluded fish would be harmed by the new water operations. But The Bee reported in October 2004 that this finding was summarily reversed by political appointees.

The agencies behaved in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner, the judge found, by failing to include measures to recover the species, which include Central Valley steelhead and winter- and spring-run chinook salmon. They also failed to consider the effect of climate change on water operations.

View the SacBee.com story by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy