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Federal Judge Says Army Corps Not Taking Needed Action to Aid Yuba Salmon

Sacramento, CA – Last week, Federal Judge Lawrence Karlton issued another ruling in the Endangered Species Act lawsuit brought by the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and Friends of the River that aims to protect threatened salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon on the Yuba River.

SYRCL and Friends of the River had recently requested the Judge remedy the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ latest failure to take actions needed to protect these threatened anadromous fish species.  A Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service required the Army Corps to add large wood pieces to the Yuba River by November 21, 2011 to enhance spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead downstream of Englebright Dam.  Englebright Dam interferes with the natural transport of wood material downstream in the Yuba River.  Fallen logs in natural stream courses provide important habitat value for anadromous fish as they interact with flow and river topography to create a variety of places for fish to spawn and take refuge.  The Army Corps has failed to comply with this deadline and still has not added any wood material to the Yuba River as required.  SYRCL and Friends of the River sought a court order requiring the Army Corps to promptly add wood logs to the River as required

In a thoughtful 13 page order, Judge Karlton agreed that SYRCL and Friends of the River were rightly concerned that the Army Corps’ failure to comply with the woody material addition requirement is posing risks to threatened fish that are in precarious condition, noting: “the court is persuaded that any actions that defendants have taken to restore woody debris to the subject area have not resulted in an improvement of habitat for the listed species, and…prompt action is needed to protect the species from jeopardy.”  However, the Judge declined at this stage to order additional action by the Army Corps.  The Judge noted that NMFS would be issuing a new biological opinion on February 29, 2012 and that this new biological opinion would very likely have new requirements concerning the Army Corps’ addition of wood material to the river.  The Judge found it preferable to wait to see what the new terms of this biological opinion would be before ordering any additional action.

NMFS is preparing a new biological opinion pursuant to an earlier court order won by SYRCL and Friends of the River.  Pending this new biological opinion, the Court has ordered the Army Corps to implement several protective measures sought by SYRCL and Friends of the River to aid the threatened fish species:

(1) installation of flash boards on Daguerre Dam to improve flow conditions that will help the anadromous fish navigate Daguerre Dam’s fish ladders,

(2) frequent manual inspections of the Daguerre Dam fish ladders and removal of any debris in the fish ladders that block fish passage,

(3) prompt dredging of the channels leading from the fish ladders to the main Yuba River channel should the channel silt in,

(4) installation of metal grates over the Daguerre Dam fish ladder bays to prevent fish from jumping out of the bays and to prevent poaching, and

(5) development of a plan to allow threatened spring-run salmon to spawn separate from fall-run and hatchery salmon. Interbreeding threatens spring-run salmon because Englebright dam blocks these fish from migrating to higher reaches of stream and naturally segregating.

Contacts:

Christopher Sproul, Environmental Advocates: 415 533-3376; csproul@environmentaladvocates.com

Caleb Dardick, SYRCL Executive Director

530 265-5961, ext. 207; caleb@syrcl.org

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