Westlands sues to halt higher Trinity flows Intended to prevent repeat of 2002 Lower Klamath Fish kill: Hoopa Valley Tribe intervenes!

LAWSUIT FILED TO HALT TRINITY FLOWS FOR LOWER KLAMATH RIVER UPDATED: JUDGE O'NEILL ISSUES TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER HERE. The judge issued an order halting the flows until August 23.  A hearing will be held August 21 inj Fresno.  He has put the burden of proof on the federal government/defendants.  This is not a good sign for the fish runs.  

Lower Klamath Dead Salmon and Fishermen, 2002
Trinity Dam Outlet Works May 10, 2005
Photo Courtesy  CA  Dept. Fish and Wildlife


Westlands Water District and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) filed a lawsuit against proposed water releases from Lewiston and Trinity dams into the Trinity River intended to prevent another fish kill like 2002.  You can read the lawsuit here.



"A well-stated editorial.

Taking it one step further, if the State of California stands idly by and does not intervene in this court case, it confirms our belief in Northern California that the Trinity, the Sacramento, the Feather and American rivers and their salmon runs will all be destroyed by the Governor Brown's Twin Tunnels (Peripheral Tunnels) project.

Concerned citizens should contact California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charles Bonham and let him know he should ask the state Attorney General's office to intervene on behalf of the Klamath-Trinity salmon and do the right thing. Failure to do so confirms our belief that CDFW is going to stand idly by and let the Twin Tunnels destroy the last of California's salmon stocks.

CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham 1416 Ninth Street , 12th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 653-7667 • Director@wildlife.ca.gov"


You can read the Hoopa Valley Tribe's intervention here.

You can read the Plaintiffs' Notice of Related cases here.

Read a letter from Northern California Congressional representatives here.

This is Deja Vu all over.  In 2002, Westlands, SLDMWA, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, Northern California Power Authority and San Benito County Water Agency obtained a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting additional Trinity River releases.  Additional Trinity flows into the Lower Klamath River could have prevented or at least abated the fish kill in which 65,000 adult salmon died.  It looks like Westlands and SLDMA are trying for a repeat performance!

C-WIN supports the higher flows and opposes the lawsuit.  You can view C-WIN's comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment here.

Here is some of the media coverage:

Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/08/1229904/-Westlands-files-lawsuit-against-Trinity-water-release#

Klamath Herald and News: http://www.heraldandnews.com/news/local_news/environment/article_776fe95c-00b1-11e3-b5f0-0019bb2963f4.html

Northwest Public Radio: http://www.nwpr.org/post/southern-oregon-farmers-suing-prevent-water-release

Environmental Protection Information Center: http://www.wildcalifornia.org/blog/klamath/

San Diego Union Tribune: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/aug/08/calif-farmers-sue-over-water-releases-for-salmon/ 

California Farm Water Coalition: http://www.cfwc.com/Current-News/

SF Chronicle Editorial: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Let-s-not-kill-fish-to-water-farms-4724587.php



Let's not kill fish to water farms



A decade ago, thousands of dead salmon lined the banks of the Klamath River, killed because federal dam operators steered needed water to farmers. It's a mistake that shouldn't be repeated.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the flows on the Trinity River, the Klamath's biggest tributary, is determined to learn from the fish die-off in 2002. Beginning next week, the floodgates at the Trinity Reservoir will gradually open, creating higher flows over the next month to accommodate a record salmon run headed upriver.
It's a sensible and justifiable course - more water for more fish - but it's riled Central Valley farmers, whose irrigation districts more than 300 miles south want a court order stopping the water releases which would otherwise be pumped their way.
A judge will hold a hearing next week on the bid for a last-minute court order to stop the water flows and quite possibly doom the salmon run. In this case, fish should win over farms.
There's no question that a drought year is hitting agriculture hard. The protesting irrigation districts in the Fresno area are receiving only 20 percent of normal-year water allotments, meaning acres of unplanted crops. Also, the decision to boost flows came quickly, announced on Wednesday.
But the Trinity water in question totals up to 100,000 acre-feet from a reservoir that currently holds 1.5 million acre-feet, a small amount to release in the name of safeguarding historic fish runs.
Because it's a federal agency running the dam, the dispute has drawn in Northern California's congressional delegation, which is deeply divided. Four House members - John Garamendi and Jim Costa, who are Democrats, and Jeff Denham and Doug LaMalfa, both Republicans - oppose the releases on behalf of their farm-heavy districts. But Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson and George Miller, all Democrats, favor the federal decision. Each group has written to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who oversees the dam-operating agency, to argue their side.
California's water wars are constant and intractable. But in this instance, the right choice is clear: release the water needed for the salmon to survive.

Editorial: If irrigators win, and salmon die, it will cost dearly

Dry conditions are bad for farmers, but the publicity disaster might be even worse.

San Joaquin Valley irrigators feel so squeezed by severe federal water cutbacks that they’re asking the federal courts to stop releases of extra water from Trinity Lake that aim to keep the lower Klamath River cool, flush out a fish-killing microbe, and ensure decent conditions for a bumper crop of chinook salmon.

The extra releases, which the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced last week, begin today, but Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority are seeking an injunction. The lawyers argue that the likely impacts of releasing the water downstream instead of hoarding it in the reservoir are much larger than Reclamation acknowledges and need deeper study, and that the whole process doesn’t follow the Endangered Species Act.

The bottom line is simple, though: The farmers think they need the water more than the fish do. From their perspective, it’s understandable. It’s precisely in times of scarcity that users fight most urgently for every drop of water.

But in the long run, the worst thing that could happen to these big Central Valley Project contractors is for them to win.

Suppose they convince a judge of legal flaws in Reclamation’s decision. Suppose the judge orders an emergency halt to the water surge. Suppose more than 100,000 king salmon wash up dead on the shores of the Klamath — of a disease the dam operators had a plan to prevent, a plan stopped by Big Corporate Ag’s lawyers.

How’ll that look in the East Coast papers? How’ll that help farmers’ plea for relief from a “Congress Created Dust Bowl”? How’ll that win the trust of Northern Californians fearful that the “twin tunnels” through the Delta will suck rivers dry with no regard for the consequences?

We’re talking hypotheticals, of course. Maybe everything would work out just fine.

But the fact is Reclamation over the past decade has periodically released these extra slugs of Trinity water downstream in comparable conditions, and in each year they’ve worked — avoiding a fish kill like the nationally notorious disaster of 2002. And if “area of origin” rights mean anything, it’s that the Trinity’s water should be used first for the Trinity’s needs — not those 300 miles south.

Reclamation’s doing the right thing in leaving enough water in the river for fish to thrive, despite the real costs. The Westlands lawsuit just confirms that down-state irrigators’ thirst, in a pinch, will be slaked at the North State’s expense. And if the suit succeeds and the fish suffer as the worst-case scenarios predict, a few thousand extra acre-feet of Trinity Water won’t be nearly enough to wash the stink of dead fish off the irrigators’ reputation.

Farmers sue on Klamath water releases for salmon

8:24 AM

A simmering feud over water rights boiled over Thursday when Central Valley agricultural interests sued the federal government in an attempt to stop releases into the Klamath River to protect spawning salmon.

At issue is a decision Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to release cold Trinity River water into the lower Klamath between Aug. 15 and Sept. 21 to prevent what biologists fear could be a giant fish die-off if river flows are not increased.

The lawsuit, filed by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the Westlands Water District, both of which represent farmers who receive water from the federal Central Valley Project, claims the Bureau of Reclamation does not have the legal authority to release water that should rightfully be used to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland.

Farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta have been allocated only 20 percent of the water they contracted for this year, claimed the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

"Orchards and vineyards are suffering severe stress, and row crops have been abandoned and other fields have been left fallow," the lawsuit says. "Given this calamity, it is unthinkable that the defendants would unlawfully release water from (Central Valley Project) storage to the ocean instead of delivering that supply to water users who desperately need it."

The fish-versus-farms dilemma has been heating up for two years as a lack of rain and snow has slowly reduced the amount of water available for spawning fish and for irrigation in the Central Valley. A percentage of the water from Trinity River, the main tributary of the Klamath, is piped over from Trinity Dam every year and released into the Sacramento River, where it is used for both agriculture and fish restoration.

The problem this year is that a huge number of chinook salmon, an estimated 272,000, are expected to swim up the Klamath this fall, but there does not appear to be enough water in the river for them to spawn. The conditions are similar to 2002, when as many as 65,000 salmon died from disease because of a lack of cold water, according to fisheries experts.

Environmentalists and fisheries experts have blamed the deaths on agricultural interests for blocking proposed water releases that year. The National Marine Fisheries Service predicts there will be 100,000 more spawning fish this year than there were in 2002.

"It's deja vu all over again," said Tom Stokely, the water policy analyst for the environmental advocacy group California Water Impact Network. "Back in 2002, these same water agencies blocked downstream releases of Trinity River water, which could have prevented the deaths of tens of thousands of adult salmon. Now they want to do it again."

The issue is a big deal for the Upper Klamath, Karuk, Yurok and Hoopa tribes, which hold traditional fishing rights along the Klamath and Trinity rivers and hold some sway when decisions are made about water usage.

"That's our livelihood; that's our life," said Terrance "Chitcus" Brown, a traditional fisherman and member of the Karuk tribe. "A die-off is a major concern."

Brown, Stokely and others have said the huge run of chinook can do wonders for the future of the beleaguered California fishing industry and for the ecosystem if the fish survive long enough to create the next generation. The key is water, and who has the right to use it.