Wednesday March 1, 2023

Courthouse News Service

A judge has extended a temporary settlement of a long-running dispute over California water rights and how the Central Valley Project and State Water Project manage the Sacramento River flows.

Conservationists and the state of California filed two challenges to two biological opinions issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2019 pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. The opinions address how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources’ plan for operating the Central Valley and State Water Projects affects fish species. The opinions make it possible to send more water to 20 million farms, businesses and homes in Southern and Central California via the massive federal and state water diversion projects, and eliminate requirements such as mandating extra flows to keep water temperatures from rising high enough to damage salmon eggs. 

Supporters of the Trump-era water and wildlife policies say the biological opinions helped provide needed irrigation water to help family farms and ranches thrive, employ workers and keep California’s $50 billion-per-year agricultural industry afloat. Opponents say the endangered species assessments jeopardize the survival of threatened Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, delta smelt and longfin smelt.

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