Court decision halts federal efforts to increase water diversions in California’s Bay-Delta, which threaten endangered species including winter-run Chinook salmon

May 13, 2020 – Alexandria, Va. – On May 11, a U.S. Federal Court placed a temporary block on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s water diversion plans that would have placed additional stress on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and its fisheries.

In an effort to provide more water capacity for California agriculture, the diversion plans, announced in February 2020, further threaten winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta Smelt and several other native fish populations.

The California fishing community, including the Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA) among others, filed a motion to force the Trump Administration to comply with the requirements of the 2008/2009 biological opinions, which better protect these imperiled species.

“The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) greatly appreciates the efforts of the California fishing and conservation community to protect the Delta’s fisheries,” said Danielle Cloutier, ASA’s Pacific Fisheries Policy director.  “While there is still a big fight ahead, Monday’s ruling sends a strong signal that these federally mandated protections for fish and wildlife must be followed.”

The Department of the Interior’s plan would allow for expanded water diversions from the Delta by more than half a million-acre feet despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the plan poses a clear and significant threat to federally protected species in California – many of which have already seen declining populations for many years. These protections for threatened and endangered fisheries also benefit the entire Delta ecosystem, including many important recreational fisheries.

In addition to GSSA, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Bay Institute and Institute for Fisheries Research have also joined in the ongoing legal battle to protect these natural resources in California.