District Court Finds Biological Opinion for Fish Hatchery Operations Is Invalid Based on Failure to Analyze Effects of Climate Change on Stream Flows
From Somach Simmons & Dunn:
On November 22, 2016, in Wild Fish Conservancy v. Irving, No. 2:14-CV-0306-SMJ, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162056 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 22, 2016), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington held that the biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) analyzing the effects of the operations of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (Hatchery) on endangered salmon and steelhead in Icicle Creek was arbitrary and capricious. Specifically, the court found that NMFS failed to adequately consider the effects of climate change on stream flows with regard to Hatchery operations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages and operates the Hatchery where it rears spring Chinook salmon. The Hatchery is located on Icicle Creek and is supported by a complex water management system, involving intake structures to divert water from Icicle Creek and supply water for the Hatchery, and high elevation reservoirs and groundwater wells to supplement surface flows. FWS and the Bureau of Reclamation engaged in a formal consultation with NMFS under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the operation of the Hatchery would not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered salmon and steelhead or adversely modify critical habitat. NMFS issued a final biological opinion and incidental take statement in May 2015. The biological opinion identified minimum instream flows in Icicle Creek and concluded that the operation of the Hatchery under these parameters would not result in jeopardy.
Modeling Groundwater: Key Step for Implementing Landmark CA Water Law
A new report recommends a framework for developing groundwater models, critical tools for long-term water management planning, under California’s ambitious groundwater management law.
From Stanford’s Water in the West:
Historic legislation intended to reshape how California manages a valuable water source is currently being implemented. However, political and physical complexities – including groundwater basin boundaries that span multiple jurisdictions, complex subsurface geology, and limited information about the resource – present daunting challenges to the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
A new report from Stanford’s Water in the West program provides a framework for developing groundwater models under SGMA.
“Groundwater models are an incredibly powerful tool for informing water management when developed appropriately,” said Tara Moran, Sustainable Groundwater Program Lead for Water in the West and author of the report. “They can provide critical information and insight into groundwater management in numerous ways. They can inform and educate stakeholders, improve an agency’s understanding of the groundwater system, identify data gaps, and enable water managers to explore management scenarios.”
Successfully developing groundwater models under SGMA depends on making their development accessible and transparent whenever possible, according to the analysis. The report recommends using consistent datasets provided by the state, open-source model codes, and expert reviewers to ensure model consistency and improve the state’s ability to evaluate models.
Reclamation Announces 2016 Long-term Operations Biological Opinions Informational and Update Meeting
The Bureau of Reclamation will hold an informal stakeholder meeting Dec. 6, 2016, to allow public input regarding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Specifically, there will be opportunity for input regarding the various regulatory actions prescribed by their respective Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs).
The review will enable Reclamation, NMFS, and USFWS to use lessons learned, incorporate new science and make appropriate, scientifically justified adjustments to the implementation of the RPAs. The BiOps and their RPAs were designed by NMFS and the USFWS to avoid the likelihood of jeopardy to listed species and adverse modification of critical habitat. NMFS’s RPA requires Reclamation and NMFS to host a workshop no later than Nov. 30 of each year to determine whether any measures prescribed in the RPAs should be altered in light of information learned from the prior year’s operations or research.
Under direction from the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior, this review has been expanded to include a review of the implementation of the USFWS Long-term Operations BiOp. The California Department of Water Resources also participates in the review because it operates the SWP. The intent of the annual review is to inform NMFS and USFWS as to the efficacy of the prior years’ water operations and regulatory actions prescribed by their respective RPAs, with the goal of developing lessons learned, incorporating new science and proposing scientifically justified adjustments to the RPAs or their implementation to support decision-making for the next water year.
In April 2016, Reclamation and NMFS agreed to temporarily modify the RPAs science review frequency from annual to biennial from 2016 through 2020. At that time, Reclamation and NMFS will evaluate whether to make this change permanent or consider additional changes. The next science review will be held in November 2017.
2016 Long-term Operations Biological Opinions Informational and Update Meeting
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. PST
980 Ninth Street
Second Floor Conference Room
Sacramento, California 95814
As a courtesy, this workshop will have a WebEx Conference link and a call-in line for audio. Click here for webex information.
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.