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Dan Bacher
10-03-2007, 12:06 PM
Judge Oliver Wanger will be holding a hearing in Fresno today to review the merits of a case filed by a coalition of commercial and recreational fishing groups, conservation organizations and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The coalition filed suit in federal court in 2005 challenging a long-term plan to strip away habitat protections from five imperiled species of salmon and steelhead to allow for increases in water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest and most significant estuary on the West Coast.

While delta smelt are on the edge of extinction because of massive increases in state and federal water exports in recent years, Central Valley salmon and steelhead are also in rapid decline because of export pumping increases from the California Delta. Here is the press release from Earthjustice:


Media Advisory
Contact:
Brian Smith, Earthjustice 510-550-6700

Central Valley Salmon Runs at Risk
Federal Court Hearing - Wednesday, October 3, 9:00 am - Fresno

Who:
Judge Oliver W. Wanger
Michael Sherwood, Earthjustice, representing a broad coalition of
fishermen, tribal interests, and conservation organizations.
Kate Poole, representing Natural Resources Defense Council
Bridget McNeil, Department of Justice attorney, representing National
Marine Fisheries Service and US Bureau of Reclamation

What:
Hearing on merits of the case.

When:
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 9:00

Where:
U.S. District Court, Courtroom #3
2500 Tulare Street
Fresno, CA

Background:
A coalition of commercial and recreational fishing groups, conservation
organizations and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe filed suit in federal court
in 2005 challenging a long-term plan to strip away habitat protections
from five imperiled species of salmon and steelhead to allow for
increases in water exports from the Delta estuary.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, also called NOAA
Fisheries), the agency charged with protecting imperiled salmon and
steelhead through the administration of the Endangered Species Act,
issued a biological opinion concluding that the project operations plan
would not harm listed salmon and steelhead species in October 2004.

In the wake of several negative independent science reviews and widespread concern over inappropriate political influences on the opinion, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the State Department of Water Resources asked NMFS to reinitiate consultation in April/May 2006. Yet the agencies continue to implement the new long-term plan without any lawful analysis of its impacts to listed fish species while a new opinion is written. In September 2006, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding claims against that the Bureau is violating the Endangered Species Act's requirements that the agency ensure the survival and recovery of the five salmon and steelhead species and not degrade their critical habitat.

If conservation and fishing groups prevail on the merits and that the
court invalidates operations under the 2004 biological opinion, another
hearing will be required to determine remedies to help the fish. *

The plaintiff coalition includes: Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations and the Institute for Fisheries Resources, The
Bay Institute, Baykeeper, California Trout, Friends of the River,
Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern California Council of the
Federation of Fly Fishers, and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

- end -
______________________________________
Brian Smith
Pacific/International Press Secretary
Earthjustice
426 17th Street 6th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612-2820
T: 510.550.6714
M: 415.320.9384
F: 510.550.6740
http://www.earthjustice.org

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