Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dueling Law Suits

An excellent strategy by the farmers, imitating that used by the environmental community for many years, and if nothing else, will continue the discussion about what really is causing the problems around the fishery.

Farmers sue in fight over water
State fish policy ruining the Delta, they claim.
By Denny Walsh and Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, January 31, 2008

After months of losing fights over how much water can be pumped to farms from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a coalition of farm groups is striking back with a federal lawsuit blaming state agencies for endangering native fish in the Delta.

In a suit filed in Sacramento federal court, the groups ask for a halt to California's practice of maintaining predatory, nonnative striped bass in the Delta for the benefit of fishermen, claiming the policy violates the Endangered Species Act.

The bass feed on spring- and winter-run chinook salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt – all protected by the Endangered Species Act – and their dwindling populations harm the overall health of the estuary, ultimately resulting in reduced water deliveries to farmers, the lawsuit charges.

"Allowing this destruction to continue when the populations of several of these species – including the Delta smelt – are crashing is outrageous," said Michael Boccadoro, spokesman for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, the lead plaintiff in the suit filed late Tuesday.

Biologists already are concerned about drastic reductions in the Sacramento River's fall chinook salmon run, saying it is near collapse.

Sport fishermen, however, scoffed Wednesday at the lawsuit's thesis, saying the real threat to the Delta is all the water channeled to farmers through the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.