Federal agencies sued for violating Endangered Species Act with Delta activities
BAKERSFIELD, CA, June 3, 2009 -- The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and the Kern County Water Agency have formally sued a number of federal agencies for their failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act in relation to their activities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...
BAKERSFIELD, CA, June 3, 2009 -- The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta (Coalition) and the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) have formally sued a number of federal agencies for their failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in relation to their activities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Federal agencies, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Maritime Administration (MARAD), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were added as defendants to an existing lawsuit filed by the Coalition and KCWA challenging regulatory restrictions placed on the state's water pumping operations. The original lawsuit, filed in March, addresses the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to use the best available scientific data when determining the effects of water operations and other activities on the threatened delta smelt. The amended complaint, filed late last week in federal district court formally adds additional ESA violations to the broader suit's challenges.
"The amended lawsuit follows through on the notices sent to the federal agencies in March for their continued failure to address actions detrimental to threatened and endangered species in the Delta," said Michael Boccadoro, a spokesperson for the Coalition. "It makes absolutely no sense for federal agencies to continue proposing water pumping restrictions that harm the residents and businesses of California while they simultaneously take separate actions that further worsen the health of the Delta estuary." Those restrictions have greatly reduced water supplies for 25 million Californians, thousands of businesses, and millions of acres of San Joaquin Valley and Southern California farmland.
The amended complaint takes aim at a host of actions taken by federal agencies that may adversely affect the delta smelt and other listed, native fishes in the Delta. Specific ESA violations and issues addressed in the amended complaint now include, but are not limited to the following:
• Increasing use of pesticides which are highly toxic to fish and other aquatic species in the Delta region;
• Failure by MARAD to address adverse impacts of the moth-balled Naval Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay;
• Violations by FWS that result in actions to protect and enhance non-native sport fish, such as the striped bass and largemouth bass, which prey upon native protected species;
• Actions by FEMA enabling development within flood-prone areas without consideration of the detrimental affects on listed species;
• Harmful dredging activities by the Port of Stockton in the Stockton Deepwater Channel.
"All of these actions by the federal agencies are having a tremendous impact on the Delta estuary and listed species including the delta smelt. They represent clear violations of the Federal Endangered Species Act and must be addressed as part of any comprehensive effort to restore the health of the Delta." said Jim Beck, Kern County Water Agency General Manager.
The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta is an ad hoc group of water users who depend on conveyance through the Delta for a large portion of their water supplies. The Coalition is dedicated to protecting the Delta and is committed to promoting a strategy to ensure its sustainability.
The Kern County Water Agency was created in 1961 by a special act of the State Legislature and serves as the local contracting entity for the State Water Project. The Agency participates in a wide scope of management activities, including water quality, flood control and groundwater operations to preserve and enhance Kern County's water supply--the main ingredient for a healthy economy.