Central Valley

Judges rule three fish species risk extinction

A federal judge on Friday ruled that three fish species -- driven by drought conditions in the state -- are not recovering and are at risk of extinction.

At the same time, according to the 118-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno, operators of the state and federal water projects did not prove during a recent series of hearings that their combined operations are not jeopardizing the habitat, survival and recovery of the winter-run Chinook salmon, the spring-run Chinook salmon and the Central Valley steelhead.

The question now is: What should be done to assist the species' survival. Attorneys representing environmental groups -- who originally brought the suit to protect the species -- as well those representing the state and federal water projects and their agency allies, will come before Wanger Thursday to set a hearing date.

Environmentalists are seeking more than a half-dozen solutions to help the three species, including restricting water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a decision that, if approved, could adversely affect millions of water users in the Bay Area and Southern California, as well as in the Westlands Water District on the Valley's west side.