Delta Water Cut Ruling Appealed To High Court
An appeal of a crucial Delta water use ruling has been made to the U.S. Supreme Court by western San Joaquin Valley growers.
Acting on behalf of West Side interests, the Pacific Legal Foundation asked the high court to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling validating the controversial 2008 Delta smelt biological opinion.
Because of the biological opinion in question, Delta water supply pumping exports have since been curtailed frequently in order to protect the tiny Delta smelt, listed as an endangered species.
FRESNO RULING OVERTURNED
The Ninth Circuit overturned a ruling in U.S. District Court in Fresno that favored the position of growers who rely upon Central Valley Project water exports delivered through the Delta-Mendota Canal. That decision would have compelled the biological opinion and its Delta smelt protections to be rewritten.
Federal fishery agencies and many environmental organizations have contended Delta pumping harms the Delta smelt and also threatens salmon and steelhead. The smelt, nearly transparent and only about three inches in length, has no commercial or sport fishing value.
Plaintiff water users obtain water pumped from the State Water Project and federal CVP pumps near Byron (northwest of Tracy) and pumping curtailments have contributed mightily to dropping supplies to none or very little for the past three years.
Pumping also provides the substitute supply of Delta water that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must deliver to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors for water to be diverted at Friant Dam into the Madera and Friant-Kern canals.
This year for the first time in the history of the Central Valley Project, the Exchange Contractors, holders of the river’s historic water rights, were partially supplied with water released from Friant Dam because the Bureau would not make available a full supply of the substitute water.
Friant Division water users ended up with a Zero supply allocation.
MILLIONS OF USERS
In all, Delta water exports provide water used to irrigate well over 3 million acres of farmland, mostly in the southern and central San Joaquin Valley.
Delta pumping also provides drinking water relied upon by more than 26 million Californians in Southern California and in portions of the Central Coast and Bay Area.
Valley water and agricultural interests claim that, in implementing the Biological Opinions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not follow its own regulations and ignored potential damages created by water supply impacts.