Sacramento-San Joaquin delta: litigation abounds


Last week we noted the latest lawsuit aimed at limiting the beneficial use of Sacramento-San Joaquin delta water. Since then there have been several developments.

Articles in the Sacramento Bee and at the Environmental Defense Fund's blog, On the Water Front, stress that urgent action is needed to protect the delta smelt. Both analyses leave unclear how their respective solutions will ensure the non-extinction of the delta smelt and at the same time provide an adequate supply of water for Californians.

MediaNews and the San Diego Union-Tribune are skeptical of the attempt to use the public trust doctrine to shut down the water pumps.  The message is that a court of law is the wrong forum to address the delta situation.  From the Union-Tribune:

The public trust doctrine exists also to see that future generations can freely and safely navigate rivers, swim in oceans and enjoy wildlife in the Delta. But there won't be future generations if the court agrees with the activists that when it comes to water, the public trust doctrine means wildlife trump humans. Not that all competing needs should be considered and assigned their proper weight, but that humans don't even make the scale.

For months now, state and federal officials and citizen boards have considered ways to accommodate the Delta's need to heal and state residents' need for its water. A distribution system that skirts rather than transits the Delta will doubtless be part of any reasonable solution. An effort to dry up the population dependent on its water should be thrown out of any court.

Finally, the Stockton Record notes the newest lawsuit concerning the delta.  Several water districts have challenged future California Fish and Game Commission pumping restrictions on the basis that the restrictions do little to aid the longfin smelt species, the subject of the restrictions:

As few as 50 tiny longfin smelt would be protected by Delta pumping restrictions that could further crimp the water supply for 25 million Californians, water users said Tuesday in a trio of lawsuits filed against the state.

Districts that supply water to cities and farms from the Bay Area to San Diego say the restrictions, approved last month by the California Fish and Game Commission, are disproportionate and do not reflect the best science.

The water districts' petition for writ of mandate is available here.  The Water Education Foundation's blog, Aquafornia, has more coverage here and here.  In fact, Aquafornia is a good place to stay abreast of all the water developments discussed above.