The first lawsuit in the San Joaquin River restoration has been filed by a West Side farming family, claiming the replenished flows are damaging 13,000 prime acres, buildings and crops. The Wolfsen family, which includes the Skinner and Mueller families, says the river has flooded, eroded and seeped into fields east of Los Banos. A dollar amount for damages is not included in the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C. An amount would be determined as the case proceeds. A Wolfsen spokesman said the family is not trying to stop the long-awaited restoration, which began in October, more than 20 years after environmentalists sued to return water and salmon to the San Joaquin. "This is a very narrowly focused lawsuit," Wolfsen spokesman Larry Harris said. "We want to preserve property and water rights." The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the lead agency in the restoration, declined to comment, saying it does not discuss pending litigation. The Wolfsens are known for cattle ranching and growing such crops as tomatoes, cotton and alfalfa.
-- The Fresno Bee