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Environmental watchdog group sues Valley Water over alleged fish-killing practices

San Francisco Baykeeper claims the district is causing creek and river temperatures to rise and flow levels to be too low

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is being sued for allegedly violating the California Constitution and the Fish and Game Code through management practices. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Bay Area environmental watchdog San Francisco Baykeeper filed suit on Tuesday against the Santa Clara Valley Water District for allegedly violating the California Constitution and the Fish and Game Code through its water management practices.

"Valley Water has failed for years to manage its waters in a manner that protects fish and wildlife," said Baykeeper in a statement.

According to Baykeeper, Valley Water is responsible for area creeks and rivers that support salmon, steelhead, longfin, smelt, riffle sculpin, rainbow trout and "many other public trust resources."

Baykeeper alleges that Valley Water "routinely" causes temperatures in the creeks and rivers it manages to be too warm and at flow rates that are too low, something Baykeeper says is "fatal to fish."

Valley Water released a statement about the suit, saying that it "smacks environmental justice in the face" by increasing project costs, which "directly impacts" water rates.

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"This lawsuit jeopardizes the work we've already done with our partners to improve habitats in our creeks and waterways. Because the suit seeks explicitly to mandate the management of Coyote Creek, which runs from Anderson Dam to San Francisco Bay, it could also cause delays to the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project," the agency said in a statement.

Valley Water asserts that any delays may threaten water supplies during a historic drought.

The agency didn't directly respond to Baykeeper's allegations of flow and temperature issues in waterways, but said it has "worked tirelessly and diligently" to adopt science-based policies to manage and protect Santa Clara County's watershed and aquatic ecosystems. Valley Water said it employs a "careful balancing act" between providing water to 2 million residents and businesses while acting as a guardian of the creek and stream environments.

Baykeeper attorney Ben Eichenberg called for "immediate" action from Valley Water.

"Valley Water's legal obligations are clear: They must take action immediately to prevent the destruction of fish populations in the rivers and creeks they manage. This is what the law demands, it's good for the Bay Area, and it's long overdue," he said.

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Environmental watchdog group sues Valley Water over alleged fish-killing practices

San Francisco Baykeeper claims the district is causing creek and river temperatures to rise and flow levels to be too low

by Katy St. Clair / Bay City News Service

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 29, 2022, 4:42 pm

Bay Area environmental watchdog San Francisco Baykeeper filed suit on Tuesday against the Santa Clara Valley Water District for allegedly violating the California Constitution and the Fish and Game Code through its water management practices.

"Valley Water has failed for years to manage its waters in a manner that protects fish and wildlife," said Baykeeper in a statement.

According to Baykeeper, Valley Water is responsible for area creeks and rivers that support salmon, steelhead, longfin, smelt, riffle sculpin, rainbow trout and "many other public trust resources."

Baykeeper alleges that Valley Water "routinely" causes temperatures in the creeks and rivers it manages to be too warm and at flow rates that are too low, something Baykeeper says is "fatal to fish."

Valley Water released a statement about the suit, saying that it "smacks environmental justice in the face" by increasing project costs, which "directly impacts" water rates.

"This lawsuit jeopardizes the work we've already done with our partners to improve habitats in our creeks and waterways. Because the suit seeks explicitly to mandate the management of Coyote Creek, which runs from Anderson Dam to San Francisco Bay, it could also cause delays to the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project," the agency said in a statement.

Valley Water asserts that any delays may threaten water supplies during a historic drought.

The agency didn't directly respond to Baykeeper's allegations of flow and temperature issues in waterways, but said it has "worked tirelessly and diligently" to adopt science-based policies to manage and protect Santa Clara County's watershed and aquatic ecosystems. Valley Water said it employs a "careful balancing act" between providing water to 2 million residents and businesses while acting as a guardian of the creek and stream environments.

Baykeeper attorney Ben Eichenberg called for "immediate" action from Valley Water.

"Valley Water's legal obligations are clear: They must take action immediately to prevent the destruction of fish populations in the rivers and creeks they manage. This is what the law demands, it's good for the Bay Area, and it's long overdue," he said.

Comments

Mike Shepard
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 30, 2022 at 10:20 am
Mike Shepard, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 30, 2022 at 10:20 am

Curious...just how do you go about reducing creek and river temperatures in a time of global warming?

Secondly, while it would be great to preserve the miniscule trout and steelhead population in our local creeks, the midpeninsula is not a haven for fishermen.

I would be more concerned if the NorCal rivers were overheating to the point of threatening the commercial and recreational fishing in that area.

This is yet another frivolous lawsuit brought about by progressive troublemakers with too much time on their hands.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:03 am
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 4:03 am

Mike, warmer temperatures in streams are caused by human interference, and human action is necessary to cool the water. For example, when a stream is diverted too many times, or the water is otherwise taken from it, the result is a lower amount of water flowing through. Shallower streams heat up more quickly. Similarly, Dams can lead to overheating both by diverting too much flow and by holding water stagnant in reservoirs. Stagnant water heats up more quickly than running water.

Another way that human behavior leads to overly warm streams is through the removal of tree canopy. As local authorities (e.g. VW) allow clearcutting and other forest removal, streams lose protection from direct sunlight. When streams are exposed to the heat of the sun during extended droughts like the one we are experiencing, evaporation happens materially more quickly. As stream water evaporates, less of it is left in the streams, and the cycle continues.

What to do? A successful approach is through regeneration of native ecosystems, reforestation, and carbon capture. We must stop building dams and diverting streams and other waterways, and give nature a chance to recover. This is what Valley Water should be doing, and will be doing with a change in leadership.

For an excellent historical overview this subject, many people recommend the book _Cadillac Desert_, and I join that recommendation: Web Link

For a more scientific exploration of these topics, a top recommended book (which I also share) is _The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water_ Web Link

Both of these books provide excellent overviews for a topic that is truly one of the most urgent and pressing matters of our time. And, let me know what you think after reading! :)


Lorraine Nichols
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:24 am
Lorraine Nichols, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:24 am

Agricultural irrigation necessities contribute to the diverting of rivers and streams. Farmers must learn to grow more hydroponic fruits and vegetables.

"A successful approach is through regeneration of native ecosystems, reforestation, and carbon capture."

^ So true as this will involve a mass exodus of human population from areas that need to be restored to their original natural state including many parts of the suburban SF Bay Area and beyond.

We will need to channel our 'inner Ohlone' to make this ecological restoration a reality.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:57 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2022 at 9:57 am

@Rebecca Eisenberg,

“What to do? A successful approach is through regeneration of native ecosystems, reforestation, and carbon capture. We must stop building dams and diverting streams and other waterways, and give nature a chance to recover. This is what Valley Water should be doing, and will be doing with a change in leadership. “

Since the City of Palo Alto is donating money for carbon offsets (usually in far away lands and many investigated for being scams) how about using our virtuous donations for local needs to address climate change?


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