Judge Issues Partial Ruling on Yuba

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Federal District Court Judge Karlton issued a partial ruling on Friday concerning SYRCL/Friends of the River’s suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

SYRCL and Friends have fought for years to get the responsible federal agencies to end management actions that jeopardize, and begin recovery efforts for, the three listed fish in the Yuba River below Englebright Dam – Chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon.

Most immediately, SYRCL and Friends have asked the federal court to mandate immediate actions to protect these fish, and also to set an earlier deadline for NMFS’ biological opinion (or BiOp, the document that, among other things, sets parameters and actions for recovery). NMFS and the Corps believed that they would need until June of 2012 to complete their BiOp, while SYRCL and Friends have argued that, considering how long they’ve already taken (work on the BiOp began around the turn of the millennium), the agencies could complete their work by June of 2011.

Federal Court Judge Karlton has split the difference, and has ordered a completion date by December, 2011.

SYRCL and Friends are pleased with this decision, but we are still concerned with the immediate dangers posed to fish. Since Judge Karlton’s ruling in July of 2010 that the current BiOp is “arbitrary and capricious”, we have been pushing for a robust and timely BiOp that takes into consideration NMFS’ own recovery planning research for Central Valley Chinook that suggests that without fish passage at dams such as Englebright, the prospects for averting extinction are dim. We look forward to a ruling on the remainder of our case with the hope that the court will see the need for quick action to pull these fish back from the brink.

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