Federal Judge Oliver Wanger has ordered the federal government to stop depriving people in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California of water.
The judge made the ruling on Friday, allowing pumping limits intended to protect native salmon, to be lifted for two weeks in order to boost irrigation supplies for California's farmers.
The judge said that even with the substantial amount of rain the areas have received over the last month, the water has not gotten to where it needs to be due to a biological opinion issued to protect the salmon.
The restrictions issued in the biological opinion were created to protect Chinook salmon as they breed and swim out to the Pacific Ocean.
"It is undisputed that every acre-foot of pumping that is foregone during this time of year is an acre-foot that does not reach the San Luis Reservoir where it can be stored for future delivery to users during times of peak demand later in the water year," Wanger said. "It is recognized that reduced deliveries caused by the 2009 Salmonid BiOp make up only a portion (the parties disagree as to the magnitude) of overall delivery reductions, to which severely dry hydrologic conditions and other legal constraints have and will continue to contribute. However, it is also undisputed that any lost pumping capacity directly attributable to the 2009 Salmonid BiOp will contribute to and exacerbate the currently catastrophic situation faced by Plaintiffs, whose farms, businesses, water service areas, and impacted cities and counties, are dependent, some exclusively, upon CVP and/or SWP water deliveries. The impacts overall of reduced deliveries include irretrievable resource losses (permanent crops, fallowed lands, destruction of family and entity farming businesses); social disruption and dislocation; as well as environmental harms caused by, among other things, increased groundwater consumption and overdraft, and possible air quality reduction."
Farmers throughout the valley say the water crisis had led them to leave a quarter-million acres of land idle; and thousands without work. Some cities have even reported unemployment rates as high as 40%.
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