Three environmental groups say new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents ignore the Corps' responsibility for the effects of two Yuba County dams on fish habitat.
The groups are condemning two Corps biological assessments released last week that address the operation and maintenance of Englebright and Daguerre Point dams on the Yuba River. The assessments were required under a judge's ruling that tossed out an earlier National Marine Fisheries Service biological opinion on Yuba River fish restoration.
South Yuba River Citizens League, Friends of the River and American Rivers issued a joint statement decrying the latest biological assessments. They maintain the assessments amount to the Corps shirking its responsibility for the dams effects on salmon, steelhead trout and green sturgeon.
"These biological assessments represent a shocking reversal of the Corps' position on its own dams," said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the Citizens League. "Sadly, they indicate that the Corps is ready to abdicate its responsibility under the Endangered Species Act.
"The idea that the 260-foot-high Englebright Dam doesn't affect the river and its fish is absurd on its face," he said.
Corps officials said they were not able to prepare a response on Tuesday.
The federal court ruling in August came after a Yuba County Water Agency lawsuit that challenged the 2012 National Marine Fisheries opinion.
The opinion concluded that Englebright and Daguerre Point block the threatened and endangered fish from suitable habitat and suggested various remedial measures including removal of the dams.
But the Water Agency successfully argued in court the opinion was scientifically flawed.
The recently released biological assessments will be used by Marine Fisheries in developing its final opinion. In the assessments, the operation of the Englebright Dam is omitted.
The environmental groups' statement calls the exclusion of dam impacts "an attempt to prevent the National Marine Fisheries Services from requiring any protections for threatened fish" in its upcoming biological opinion.
CONTACT reporter Eric Vodden at 749-4769.