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Environmentalists Score Win To Protect Endangered Fish

Judge James V. Selina in Santa Ana ruled that government agencies' suit lacked merit and upheld the government's action.

A federal lawsuit filed by a dozen Inland Empire water agencies challenging the Obama administration's decision to expand the habitat for an endangered fish species was rejected today by a U.S. District Court judge.

The suit, filed by the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, Riverside Public Utilities and 10 other area agencies, sought to stop the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from doubling the protected space set aside for the Santa Ana sucker, arguing that the expansion would cut deeply into water supplies available regionally.

Judge James V. Selina in Santa Ana ruled that the agencies' suit lacked merit and upheld the government's action.

"We are obviously troubled by the court's decision, which appears to give free reign to federal agencies to interpret scientific information however they see fit, regardless of the inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions or gaps in the data they use to support their arguments," said Douglas Headrick, general manager of San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

There was no immediate word on whether the agencies intend to appeal.

They contend a December 2010 ruling by federal officials effectively shut off 125,800-acre-feet of water, depriving the region of one-third of its current fresh water stocks. The reduced supplies could impact one million residents in Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, according to the lawsuit.

Court papers state that the Wildlife Service's decision to designate headwaters of the Santa Ana River as "critical habitat" for the sucker will disrupt reclamation operations along the entire channel and result in wasteful releases from the Seven Oaks Dam, located in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The water agencies allege the Wildlife Service violated provisions of the Endangered Species Act by refusing to consult with state and local parties and apply objective scientific criteria in figuring out how best to balance conservation plans against the economic and resource needs of affected communities.

Federal officials issued findings in 2005 that concluded state and local conservation efforts to protect the sucker were paying off. However, in 2010, Wildlife Service representatives reversed course.

Citing a 2004 study, they declared gravel and cobble substrate required for the endangered fish's survival had been drastically reduced since dam construction. Federal officials want higher volumes of water released from the dam to promote algae growth for the benefit of spawning grounds.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity prompted the Wildlife Service to review its habitat preservation efforts on behalf of the sucker.

The nonprofit center sued the Wildlife Service in 2007, arguing that the agency had failed to extend critical habitat to encompass stretches of the Santa Ana River and its tributaries where the fish population was plummeting.

According to a study by the Moreland, Idaho-based Western Legacy Alliance, which promotes private property rights, the Center for Biological Diversity filed more than 400 species protection-related lawsuits between 2001 and 2009.

A Wildlife Service spokeswoman said the critical habitat designation will not hinder agencies from drawing water from the Santa Ana or other areas where the sucker spawns; rather, the designation provides an "additional layer of review" before developers or municipalities can proceed with making any changes along channels recognized as critical to a threatened species.

Constant Comment October 23, 2012 at 07:51 PM
"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish.......and he sits in his boat out on the lake...... drinking beer all day!" }~)
Pickle Pusher October 23, 2012 at 11:13 PM
38 million people in California, Gas, grass or ass....nobody rides for free. It's time to rebuild manufacturing which can pay for all the tree hugging we need. Demand, oil drilling, pipelines, electric generation in California and all the business we need to sustain a vialble economy and environment. If the buid it elsewhere, our high standards are NOT followed!
One Voice October 23, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Environmentalists in California are killing this State. "which appears to give free reign to federal agencies to interpret scientific information however they see fit, regardless of the inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions or gaps in the data they use to support their arguments," kinda sounds like what the feds and State do to small businesses.
The Teller of Truth October 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM
My 'cod' CC! I heard you were a 'tad' bit under the weather. Glad you 'eel' better & was able to 'mako' a full recovery! It was real 'crappie' around here without ya! HA!
Constant Comment October 24, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Holy Mackerel Teller! Seems like while I was gone, there was a whole lotta CARPIN going on by one CLOWNFISH! Hope it's all in the past & clear SAILIN ahead my friend....if MINNOW what I mean! LOL }~)
John Marshall October 24, 2012 at 07:02 AM
Sounds to me like our already crazy high water rates are about to go higher. All because of some fish. Gotta love it.
tom October 24, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Wasn't this all desert before everyone came west? How much habitat did it have back then?
John Marshall October 24, 2012 at 04:57 PM
@Tom the head waters of the santa ana river are in the big bear mountains. Decidedly not desert up there.
tom October 24, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I use to work at azusa canyon stables. Its bone dry in the summer.
tom October 24, 2012 at 11:24 PM
It stays dry all the way to Whittier.
Linda Ridenour October 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Environmentalist are helping the State. Thank you, Center for Biological Diversity. If we all did a little we could protect our homes and the environment around them. Has anyone noticed the boxed Oaks on Lake street? They have been siting there for 3 years. Could we get the people who boxed them to plant them? One way to help our environment.
The Teller of Truth October 26, 2012 at 08:16 PM
So Linda, are you half of the citys new crime fighting team known as The Corruption Busters?

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