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Valley Farmers Vindicated in Court Ruling on Salmon Biological Opinion

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressmen Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) and Jim Costa (D-Fresno) today reacted to the news that the United States District Court rejected a 2009 salmon biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and ordered the agency to develop a new opinion. In his ruling, Judge Oliver Wanger criticized the biological opinion as "arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful" while also citing the "equivocal or bad science" used to justify the agency's action.

Congressmen Costa and Cardoza have written letters and repeatedly called upon NMFS to use sound science and to analyze the wide range of factors, including pollution and invasive predator species, that are contributing to the decline of salmon in the Delta. Congressmen Cardoza and Costa, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), urged Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in March to revisit the 2009 biological opinion given the weak science used to justify the water reductions in the spring.

The decision issued by Judge Wanger settles a three-year battle over water rights in the Central Valley and its impact on salmon fisheries throughout California.

Congressmen Cardoza and Costa issued the following statement:

Yet again the courts have rejected the discredited science used to justify the implementation of a flawed biological opinion. We have consistently called on NMFS to implement the Endangered Species Act appropriately and with correct science. Thus far, the agency has done neither.

We feel our constituents have been vindicated now that the courts have finally settled this long-running legal dispute in their favor. We are hopeful that yesterday's ruling will compel NMFS to develop a biological opinion based on sound science that provides reasonable protection for salmon and meets the needs of our constituents in the San Joaquin Valley.

The economy of this state is tied to reliable water deliveries. The federal government's use of sloppy science to justify massive water cuts without any consideration of alternatives that would protect water deliveries to farmers is unconscionable. The 26 million people south of the Delta, which includes our farm communities, deserve better.

Congressmen Cardoza and Costa have argued that the Delta is affected by multiple environmental stressors including urban runoff, wastewater discharges, and nonnative predatory fish, such as the striped bass. Last year, they called on state and federal agencies to stop programs that protect the striped bass until they take into consideration their impact on native delta smelt and salmon. Click here to read the letter.

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