27 May 2010, 12:05pm
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Fresno judge lifts delta pumping restrictions

By John Ellis, The Fresno Bee, May 26, 2023 [here]

A federal judge in Fresno on Tuesday temporarily lifted Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumping restrictions designed to help endangered salmon, siding with urban and agricultural water users who said the move would not harm the fish.

The order by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger will be in place until June 15. For west-side agriculture — including farmers and ranchers in the Westlands Water District — that could mean an extra 200,000 acre-feet of water, said Tom Birmingham, Westlands’ general manager.

In real-world terms, he added, it will mean an additional 75,000 acres of farmland could be put back into production — and with it more people put to work.

“I am thrilled with the ruling,” he said.

But in the complicated world of water law, whether the increased water deliveries actually happen is still unclear.

Pumping restrictions designed to protect another threatened fish, the tiny delta smelt, have been on the back burner because they are less restrictive than those covering the salmon. But now that the salmon restrictions have been lifted, “in theory, the smelt restrictions should limit” pumping, said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposed the water users’ request.

Even Birmingham admitted as much, saying the possibility exists that the smelt pumping restrictions could wipe out every drop of water gained by Tuesday’s ruling. … [more]



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