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Federal Water Transfers Challenged in Court
by AquAlliance
Thursday Jul 1st, 2010 12:03 PM
AquAlliance, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), and the California Water Impact Network (CWIN) have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) to protect the economy and the environment of the northern Sacramento Valley. Repeated water transfer projects in the last decade have all occurred without the benefit of thorough federal or state environmental analysis, which would require the establishment of baseline conditions, comprehensive monitoring, and the disclosure of impacts.
The Bureau’s Environmental Assessment (EA) and Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the 2010-2011 Water Transfer Program reveals plans to export 395,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) water to buyers south of the San Francisco Bay Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. To replace the water sold to San Joaquin Valley growers in low-priority water districts, the plan would permit Sacramento Valley surface water right holders to substitute 154,237 acre-feet of groundwater to continue rice production. The plaintiff groups allege that the EA/FONSI violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because, among other things, it:
• Fails to support the Bureau’s proposed finding of no significant impact,
• Contains a fundamentally flawed alternatives analysis, and
• Inadequately analyzes the impacts from implementing the two years transfer program.

The lawsuit seeks comprehensive NEPA environmental review for the water transfer program. Repeated water transfer projects in the last decade have all occurred without the benefit of thorough federal or state environmental analysis, which would require the establishment of baseline conditions, comprehensive monitoring, and the disclosure of impacts.

“The federal and state agencies and water contractors continue to see the Sacramento River’s watershed as the last exploitable solution to their manipulation of California’s water for urban sprawl and desert agriculture south of the Delta,” stated Barbara Vlamis, AquAlliance’s executive director. “This lawsuit is necessary because the agencies have failed to demonstrate that they will not leave the Sacramento Valley in the same disastrous condition as the Owens and San Joaquin valleys,” Vlamis concluded.

“This program walks like a drought water bank, talks like a drought water bank, and looks like a drought water bank,” said C-WIN executive director Carolee Krieger, “but the drought is over. There is no need for this program and the harm it can cause in the Delta. The governor expresses sympathy for Gulf Coast commercial fishing businesses harmed by the BP oil spill while ignoring the plight of California’s commercial anglers as their fisheries are ruined by Delta export pumping.”

“The Bureau's fallacious claim that massive serial water transfers from the Sacramento Valley to irrigate the southern desert have no significant impact on the farms, communities, fish and wildlife of the Sacramento Valley and the Delta Estuary evidences either a breathtaking incompetence or a flagrant contempt for the law, the environment and the people of the Sacramento Valley and Delta,” said CSPA executive director Bill Jennings. “We sue to compel compliance with that most basic of all environmental laws; i.e., the requirement to adequately analyze and disclose the impacts of a project,” he said.


CONTACT INFORMATION
AquAlliance
Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director
P.O. Box 4024, Chico, CA 95927
(530) 895-9420

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
Bill Jennings, Chairman/Executive Director
3536 Rainier Avenue
Stockton, CA 95204
(209) 464-5067

California Water Impact Network
Carolee Krieger, President
808 Romero Canyon Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 969-0824



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