Jan 13, 2015

Supreme Court Allows Protections for California's Bay-Delta Estuary Stand

This occurred when the Court did not hear an appeal from agribusinesses to overturn protections

california bay-delta estuary, endangered species act, NRDC, delta smelt fish

The Supreme Court let stand a federal decision to protect California’s Delta ecosystem when it did not hear an appeal brought by agribusinesses trying to overturn a federal appeals court decision that had upheld the protections for the Delta smelt under the Endangered Species Act, which limits pumping during certain times of the year to protect the native fish. 

The protections help maintain the health of California’s Bay-Delta estuary and the thousands of fishing and farming jobs that depend on its health. 

As a result of the population crash of numerous native fish in the 2000s, following several years of historically high levels of freshwater diversions out of the Delta, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion in 2008 to protect Delta smelt. 

Agribusinesses and water districts filed lawsuits challenging these protections for the Bay-Delta estuary, and litigation was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice, The Bay Institute and the federal government. 

The Supreme Court decision lets stand the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ March 2014 decision under the Endangered Species Act.