A California Department of Fish and Game program permitting ranchers to divert water from two major tributaries to the Klamath River has been deemed illegal by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith, reports Klamath Riverkeeper in a news release this afternoon.
For years, diversions from the Scott and Shasta rivers were unregulated and, says Riverkeeper, endangered coho salmon were harmed. The DFG installed a permit program in 2009, intending to resolve the problem. But several environmental groups sued, claiming that permits issued under the new program were not leaving enough water in the rivers for the salmon.
The judge agreed, and further said that the DFG had violated the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) because it did not "quantify how many fish deaths the water diversions would cause, didn't show the sufficiency of mitigation measures to protect and restore coho, and didn't seek public input on whether the program would further jeopardize the salmon,"according to the release.
Notes Klamath Riverkeeper's Erica Terence:
"Though the programs proposed to do some good things for fish habitat, CDFG undermined their own success from the beginning by ignoring the fact that water diversions are making the rivers go completely dry at some points in the year. The simple fact is that fish need water."
So now the DFG has to redo the program. In the meantime it's limbo-time for farmers and fishermen alike, says Terence.