Court Affirms Seasonal Flows to Protect Endangered Salmon

On Wednesday, Judge Oliver Wanger of the Eastern District of California refused to grant the Westlands Water District and its co-plaintiffs a temporary restraining order on the biological opinion of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which describes seasonal water flows required to protect endangered spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead in the Delta.

Dispite claims to contrary from the plaintiffs, the Judge found that the NMFS opinion, expressed in written comments to the Delta Flow Criteria Proceeding as the absolute “…minimum flows necessary to avoid jeopardy,” was based on the best available science and takes the human impacts of seasonal flow regimes into account. 

Judge Wanger also noted that “the economic pain and hardship has been no less to the fishing industry that relies on salmon than has been the economic consequence to the Central Valley agricultural community.”   

Wanger’s ruling has confirmed the immediate necessity of spring flows, but the dispute over the comprehensive fisheries management plans will continue. Next week, Judge Wanger will hear further arguments from Westlands and its co-plaintiffs as they seek a complete injunction on the biological opinions that provide protective flow regimes for salmon, steelhead, and smelt.