Deadline nears in Yuba River dams battle
Days before groups have to decide whether to proceed with lawsuits over endangered fish and Yuba River dams, parties are talking, waiting and hoping, but not yet filing.
By Jan. 13, separate 60-day notices of intent to sue by the Yuba County Water Agency and the South Yuba River Citizens League will have both elapsed, filed over a biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service a year ago.
While water agency officials believe the opinion needs revisions, representatives of Nevada County-based South Yuba River Citizens League have suggested they will sue if the opinion's recommendations are not followed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
"The future's not getting any better for the fish while we delay," said John Regan, president of the south yuba's board of directors. "That's really the concern."
But he said his group is also still talking to the water agency about the issue and is still concerned about a notice from the fisheries service last month giving the corps more time to comply with what is termed "reasonable and prudent alternatives" in the biological opinion.
Regan said he could not be sure whether his group, which supports removing Englebright and Daguerre Point dams, will proceed with a suit.
Water agency general manager Curt Aikens said he could not say so yet either, though his agency's 60-day notice elapses before south yuba's does.
He said the water agency, too, continues talking with other agencies and supported the fisheries service's decision to push back compliance by the corps.
"I'm an optimistic guy, and there's always a possibility for a good outcome," he said Friday.
A spokesman for the fisheries service said requiring the corps to comply with the opinion would be difficult, so the agency made what he termed minor modifications.
The south yuba filing has no effect on fisheries service work with other stakeholders, Jim Milbury, the fisheries service's southwest region spokesman, said in the email. Complying with the Endangered Species Act relative to the endangered Yuba fish runs would be based on best science, above all else, he said.
Corps spokesman Chris Gray said his agency continues to work with the fisheries service on disagreements over technical issues in the biological opinion.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.