Mar 27, 2007

California State Water Contractors Dispute Court Ruling on Pumping Permits

The State Water Contractors, an association of 27 public agencies, are disputing a proposed legal decision that found the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) not in compliance with California Endangered Species Act (CESA) requirements related to its State Water Project (SWP) pumping operations. Specifically, the decision found that the agency did not have the appropriate paper permits in place for its operations.
In December 2006, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court against DWR alleging the state agency did not have the appropriate permits under CESA to take certain fish species (spring and winter-run salmon and delta smelt) during pumping operations from the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plan Operation, the core driver behind the SWP. The SWP supplies water to approximately 25 million Californians throughout northern, central and southern California and helps drive the state's trillion-dollar economy. In the proposed statement of decision, the judge ruled DWR did not have the appropriate take authority and granted a 60-day stay for the agency to come into compliance. It is important to note today's proposed ruling cites a lack of paper permitting, rather than impact on threatened species, as the basis for the judge's decision.
DWR asserts that the agency is in full compliance with all requirements of CESA. DWR has a series of programs in place to protect threatened fish species including the Bay-Delta Accord, Environmental Water Account and its recently released Pelagic Fish Action Plan.
In addition, the State Water Contractors, who purchase water from the State Water Project, also disagreed with the court's ruling and announced plans to file their own appeal. The organization also noted that there are processes in place for DWR to obtain the take authority requested by the court, if necessary.
The State Water Contractors is a non-profit association of 27 public agencies from northern, central and southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project. Collectively the State Water Contractors deliver water to more than 25 million residents throughout the state and more than 750,000 acres of agricultural lands.