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Federal plan will protect chinook salmon

New California salmon plan replaces one thrown out by federal judge last year

Herald and News 6/5/09

SAN FRANCISCO — Federal regulators on Thursday released a court-ordered plan to help struggling chinook salmon.

The plan includes opening California dams and restricting pumping, prompting howls of protest from state officials because it will further reduce the amount of water available to farms and urban areas.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has “provisionally accepted” the findings of the National Marine Fisheries Service and will “implement actions required to meet the needs of the listed species,” said Don Glaser, regional director for the bureau, which manages some of the dams involved.

Glaser said the bureau will not formally accept the findings until the staff reads the entire 800 pages of the opinion.

The fisheries service had to redo its salmon management plan for the upper Sacramento River and Shasta Reservoir after a federal judge in Fresno threw out its previous plan last year.

U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger found that allowing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water pumps and dams to continue operating as they have would threaten the imperiled species.

Pumping restrictions

The fisheries service estimates that state and federal water regulators will lose 5 to 7 percent of the already limited water they have to manage under the new plan.Pumping restrictions this year due to another protected species, the delta smelt, already have meant a 17 to 20 percent reduction in water supply, said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California water regulators and Central Valley lawmakers immediately criticized the new plan, saying it would limit the amount of water pumped to farmers and Southern California residents and place an undue share of the burden on the valley ’s economy.

The plan “puts fish above the needs of millions of Californians and the health and security of the world’s eighth-largest economy,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “The piling on of one federal court decision after another in a species-byspecies approach is killing our economy and undermining the integrity of the Endangered Species Act.”

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