Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Temporary Restraining Order Granted in Lawsuit Challenging the Bureau of Reclamation's Planned August and September 2013 Supplemental Releases from Lewiston Dam

On August 13, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a temporary restraining order ("TRO") prohibiting the Bureau of Reclamation ("Reclamation") from releasing into the Trinity River up to 109,000 acre-feet of water from storage in the federal Central Valley Project's ("CVP") Trinity and Lewiston reservoirs between August 13 and September 30, 2013.

The TRO follows the filing of a Complaint on August 7, 2013, by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Westlands Water District (“Plaintiffs”) challenging the Reclamation’s decision to make Trinity River storage releases above and beyond the existing 453,000 acre-feet of releases dedicated to fall-run Chinook salmon fishery restoration and maintenance in 2013.

Reclamation had described the additional 109,000 acre-feet of excess releases as needed for fall-run Chinook salmon located below the confluence of the Trinity River and Klamath River (i.e., lower Klamath River).  The TRO cites the Complaint's argument that a year 2000 federal Record of Decision already dedicates 453,000 acre-feet of CVP water from Trinity Reservoir for restoration and maintenance of fall-run Chinook salmon this year, and that Reclamation could have used that water to provide the late summer flows at issue in the litigation.  The TRO also cites the Complaint's argument that Reclamation decided to make the excess late summer CVP storage release without analyzing and disclosing resulting impacts to CVP water users under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The TRO enjoins Reclamation “from making releases from Lewiston Dam to the Trinity River in excess of 450 cubic feet per second (‘cfs’) for fishery purposes through and including August 16, 2013.”  The short duration of the restraining order is designed to allow Plaintiffs to file reply papers and will afford the court an opportunity to perform a more detailed analysis of the issues.

The TRO was issued despite opposition by federal defendants and defendant-intervenors (Hoopa Valley Tribe, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, and Institute for Fisheries Resources).

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