August 9, 2013

Trinity Water Release Lawsuit Filed
The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday to stop the Bureau of Reclamation from illegally releasing Central Valley Project (CVP) water from Trinity Reservoir to the Klamath River.

“We regret being forced into this avoidable defensive action but Reclamation is acting illegally. It has failed to properly exercise its legal authorities. It has failed to adequately assess and mitigate for the harms this action will cause. And, most importantly, it has failed to equitably balance the greater public good,” said Dan Nelson, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

Reclamation announced that it will release up to 100,000 acre-feet of CVP water from Trinity Reservoir to diminish the effect of a naturally occurring disease endemic to the Klamath River system to which the Trinity River is connected in an attempt to help a near historic number of returning non-listed Chinook salmon. The action, which is outside of Reclamation's authorized place of use, is intended to help avoid an event, which is documented to have occurred once in 2002.

“The sad fact is this was a completely avoidable situation," lamented Nelson. “Since 2000, a significant supply of water has been set aside each year from the Trinity Reservoir for fishery protection purposes. Reclamation knew it could use that water to meet this year's request for supplemental flows on the Lower Klamath River. They consciously chose not to. Instead, they chose to take more water illegally from CVP customers already suffering from chronic water supply shortages. This conflict we have before us results directly from Reclamation's poor water management decisions.”

“In its ‘Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact’ (FONSI), Reclamation concludes that there is no downside to this action, that nothing and no one will be harmed,” Nelson added. “This is simply false. The potential for significant impacts to endangered species, water and power customers, including wildlife refuges, disadvantaged communities and recreational users are irrefutable. Simply trying to dismiss these impacts as insignificant without adequate support is unconscionable.”

The water planned for release is enough to irrigate more than 30,000 acres of farmland or serve the domestic needs of three-quarters of a million people for an entire year.

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority serves 29 member agencies reliant upon water conveyed through the California Bay-Delta by the United States Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project. These public water agencies deliver water to approximately1.2 million acres of prime farmland, 2 million California residents, and millions of waterfowl dependent upon the more than 100,000 acres of managed wetlands within the Pacific Flyway.