ANOTHER BIOLOGICAL OPINION CHALLENGE
August 17, 2013
New Biological Opinion for Yuba River Dams!
According to the Association of California Water Agencies, a federal court ordered a new biological opinion (BiOp) for Daguerre Point and Englebright Dams this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England set a May 12, 2014 due date for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to issue a new biological opinion, and told the federal government to not utilize the existing 2012 BiOp in the preparation of the new opinion or in any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing processes for the two dams.
Yuba County Water Agency, Nevada Irrigation District, Pacific Gas & Electric and other plaintiffs challenged the 2012 BiOp, which identified dam removal and other fish passage improvements as the preferred approaches to improve conditions for spring run Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.
The local water agencies argued that fish passage improvements or dam removal would negatively impact water deliveries and hydropower generation, and imperil the award-winning Lower Yuba River Accord, a regional agreement benefitting agriculture and fisheries. Furthermore, the plaintiffs said the 2012 BiOp was flawed and violated key elements of the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.
England issued a stay of proceedings until the new biological opinion is done, and he denied a related lawsuit from a local environmental group seeking enforcement of the 2012 BiOp. He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the two dams, to continue taking steps to improve fish habitat on the river.