Wednesday October 19, 2022

Santa Barbara Independent

The federally endangered steelhead trout of Southern California and its champions — Los Padres Forest Watch and San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper — won a major legal victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month. According to the ruling, the operators of Twitchell Reservoir — which supplies much of Santa Maria’s drinking water — must comply with the Endangered Species Act. To comply, they will almost certainly have to release some small allotments downstream to create an environment in which the steelhead can reproduce. 

Dam Operators and the Bureau of Reclamation — which built Twitchell in 1958 — have argued that federal rules and regulations prohibit them from using any of its impounded water for anything but human consumption. The dam was built before the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the listing of the steelhead as a endangered species. 

“This is huge,” exclaimed Linda Krop, senior counsel for the Santa Barbara–based Environmental Defense Center, which represented Forest Watch. Krop noted that she and her client had lost when the case was argued before four lower courts. “The fifth time, I guess, is the charm,” she joked. 

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