A federal judge in Fresno on Thursday rejected a request by the Westlands Water District to stop a water release from Trinity Lake in far Northern California that is intended to protect a large run of salmon.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill issued his 19-page ruling following a two-day hearing on the issue. O'Neill had issued a temporary stop to the water release until he heard legal arguments from biologists.
Westlands and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which represents many west San Joaquin Valley districts, sued to stop the planned water releases.
The releases were supposed to start Aug. 13 and were aimed at avoiding a big die-off of salmon in the Klamath River, downstream from Trinity Lake. Tens of thousands of salmon died under similar drought conditions in 2002.
Both water agencies said the federal government was not following its own rules for using the water. Westlands said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation couldn't make the water releases for fish while it still had legal obligations to Central Valley water agencies.
Members of the The Hoopa and Yurok tribes, as well as Northern California fishing organizations, joined the federal government in opposing Westlands.
Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Master thanked the court for allowing the water release to continue and recognizing tribal sovereignty.
"This decision has a positive impact along the Klamath River," she said. "It will restore the habitat for all."
Dan Nelson, executive director of San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said the impact of the water releases will be less than feared since federal officials reduced the amount of water to be released.
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