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Court to Hear Challenge to Water Diversion Permits on Scott and Shasta Rivers
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Nov 30th, 2010 4:06 PM
"The permits would allow the 'incidental take' (i.e., killing) of coho by agriculture, so long as these water users abide by a list of generic, unstudied, and inadequate mitigation measures," said Park. "Ultimately, the permits allow the continuation of the destructive activities that resulted in the collapse of the coho fishery in the first place."

Scott River photo courtesy of the Klamath Riverkeeper (http://www.klamathriver.org).


Court to Hear Challenge to Water Diversion Permits on Scott and Shasta Rivers

by Dan Bacher

The Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, December 1 will hear a court challenge to salmon-killing water diversion permits approved by the California Department of Fish and Game on the Scott and Shasta Rivers on September 22, 2009.

Earthjustice Attorneys Wendy Park and Greg Loarie will be in court challenging the permitting programs that are driving endangered wild coho salmon extinct. The de-watering of the two major Klamath River tributaries has resulted in major fish kills over the years. During the past two years, DFG staff were forced to rescue juvenile salmon from certain death in drying pools on the rivers.

Earthjustice is representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Klamath Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, the Quartz Valley Indian Tribe, Northcoast Environmental Center and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in the case.

"The permits would allow the 'incidental take' (i.e., killing) of coho by agriculture, so long as these water users abide by a list of generic, unstudied, and inadequate mitigation measures," said Park. "Ultimately, the permits allow the continuation of the destructive activities that resulted in the collapse of the coho fishery in the first place."

Local ranchers divert so much water from both rivers to grow hay that the rivers often dry up during part of the year, according to Park. Coho salmon that historically spawned in these two rivers are at, or close to, extinction.

"The California Department of Fish and Game is issuing permits to ranchers to continue dewatering the rivers based on historic diversion levels which leave baby salmon high and dry and block the return of adult fish to spawn," Park added. "Last year only nine adult coho salmon returned to the Shasta River to spawn."

In April 2010, water conditions on the Scott and Shasta became so inhospitable that DFG staff relocated what few endangered coho salmon could still be found in the two rivers, transplanting them dozens of miles down the mainstem Klamath River to supposed safety.

"At this point, coho are so close to extinction and the Scott and Shasta are so severely dewatered each year that this type of rescue action may be warranted, but it cannot be a substitute for rewatering, and in the long term it's not likely to be a viable survival strategy for coho in these basins," said Klamath Riverkeeper Erica Terence. "It's a band-aid solution at best on what has become a major water hemorrhage."

Wild steelhead have also perished in fish kills on the Scott and Shasta, most notably in 2001 under the Gray Davis administration. For example, Game Warden Renie Cleland said he was told to "back off" from citing ranchers on the Scott and Shasta for killing off fish, according to an article by Tom Stienstra and Glen Martin in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 22, 2001 (http://articles.sfgate.com/2001-06-22/news/17604602_1_shasta-rivers-major-klamath-tributaries-scott-and-shasta).

"This has gone all the way to Sacramento," Cleland was quoted. "It's extremely politically sensitive. I was told to take no enforcement action on it. These fish are dying. We've got five or six thousand steelhead trout dead on the Scott, and (dead juvenile steelhead) everywhere on the Shasta."

The latest permit to dewater the Scott and Shasta was granted by the DFG under the administration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the same Governor who has attacked the biological opinion protecting imperiled Delta smelt and Central Valley salmon, has relentlessly campaigned for a peripheral canal and new dams, and has fast-tracked his corrupt and unjust Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

Schwarzenegger, who is worshipped by the corporate media and some environmental NGO's for his grandstanding about "climate change" and "green energy" corporate greenwashing scams, has pursued a "scorched earth" policy towards California's fish populations that has resulted in the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail, young striped bass, and other fish species in recent years.

I applaud the Earthjustice attorneys for constantly standing up for the fish, fishermen, Tribes and grassroots environmentalists in court!

The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Superior Court, 400 McAllister Street, Dept 618, in San Francisco. For more information, call Wendy Park, Earthjustice, 510-550-6792, or John McManus, Earthjustice, 510-550-6707, http://www.earthjustice.org.
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The Legal Solution Fiction will soon be exposed.SludgeWednesday Dec 1st, 2010 9:32 PM