More litigation over Yuba River fish
The South Yuba River Citizens League has come full circle in its bid to improve the situation for endangered Yuba River fish species, filing an amended lawsuit this week harkening back to a complaint filed in 2006.
Citizens League Executive Director Caleb Dardick said the suit against the US Army Corps of Engineers and others said the amended complaint notes that apart from more recent discussions about dam removal, there are other steps the defendants could be taking to help endangered fish, but aren't.
"We have salmon below Englebright that need help," said Dardick, whose group is based in Nevada County. "These types of corrective actions need to be done now."
In the amended complaint, filed in US District Court in Sacramento, the plaintiffs contend federal agencies have half-heartedly or not at all complied with biological opinions on how to improve the lot of the spring-run Chinook and steelhead salmon, and green sturgeon.
Friends of the River, based in Sacramento, is also a plaintiff in the amended complaint, which is also filed against the National Marines Fisheries Service.
"The (biological opinion) states that the overall status of spring Chinook and steelhead has worsened since the last status review five years ago, while the status of green sturgeon is compromised by low abundance, limited distribution, and lack of population redundancy," says the complaint.
Chris Gray, a spokesman for the corps' Sacramento division, said he was familiar with the amended complaint, but could not comment, citing department policy on pending litigation.
He said he'd also point out the corps has been involved in previous efforts to help the fish, such as injecting gravel below Englebright Dam for nesting beds. Dardick said such steps are good, but haven't gone far enough.
A spokesman for the Fisheries Service, also named in the suit, said he wasn't familiar with it.
SYRCL leader: ‘We’d like to see all parties return to the table’
In filing an amended complaint against federal government agencies over endangered Yuba River fish populations, the executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League said the goal is an agreement, not a judicial ruling.
"We'd like to see all parties return to the table," said Caleb Dardick of the organization. "We're trying to move forward on reasonable short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions to help restore sustainable fish populations."
The new complaint, filed Monday, amends one filed by Dardick's group last month requesting cancellation of extended deadlines for the corps to follow a 2012 biological opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
That opinion, which suggested both the Englebright and Daguerre Point dams be considered for removal to aid salmon species, is also the target of a suit from the Yuba County Water Agency seeking revisions.
But Dardick said the 2012 biological opinion, and previous ones by Marine Fisheries, were consistent in describing steps agencies like the corps could take to help the three endangered species: the spring-run Chinook and steelhead salmon, and the green sturgeon.
Such solutions don't all include dam removal, but do require such steps as limiting water diversions and putting more nesting material in the river.
Officials with the Yuba County Water Agency have also said an agreement outside of dueling lawsuits may be the best solution.
But a previous such agreement, the 2008 Yuba River Accord, couldn't be followed under the recommendations of the most recent biological opinion, they've pointed out.
Water Agency General Manager Curt Aikens said Tuesday the new filing reflects how flawed the biological opinion is.
"As NMFS makes corrections, such as the extension of deadlines for the US Army Corps of Engineers, they are providing additional territory for new lawsuits," Aikens said in an email.
— Ben van der Meer