Yuba River lawsuit may not be only way to resolve issues
Just because the Yuba County Water Agency went to court on Wednesday over the question of whether dams and endangered fish can co-exist on the Yuba River doesn't mean the final solution will be in court.
Water Agency officials, as well as other groups interested in the issue, said it's still possible everyone might be able to work together on a solution, given past precedent for river issues.
Curt Aikens, the Water Agency's general manager, said one of the primary complaints in the suit over the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion is how it would run afoul of the Yuba River Accord, a long-negotiated document signed by environmental groups, federal and local government agencies, and many others.
"YCWA believes in interest-based, fact-based and science-based collaboration toward a conclusion," he said.
Even after Wednesday's suit filing became public, officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers said they, too, are still willing to talk — as is a group with its own potential suit over the biological opinion, the South Yuba River Citizens League.
"It's possible litigation could lead to a decision that works for everyone," said Caleb Dardick, the league's executive director.
Days after the Water Agency announced its intention in November to sue over the Fisheries Service's biological opinion, Dardick's group announced similar plans, but with the intention of seeing the opinion followed rather than dismissed.
So far, Dardick said, the league's board hasn't decided whether to proceed with a suit. He said Wednesday he was disappointed to hear the agency was moving ahead.
"My question to YCWA would be, 'What alternatives do they think need to be pursued to protect Yuba salmon?'" he said.
But it's not as simple as saying his group favors tearing down Englebright and Daguerre Point dams as the only solution, Dardick added. The answer lies in science and studies, he said.
Water Agency board chairman Roger Abe took the same tone on what he would consider a successful outcome of the suit.
"I think a win is if we have a biological opinion that's based on all the scientific data out there and takes into account the impacts of what's being proposed," he said.