Russian River Estuary Project lawsuit settled

Brenda Adelman
THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
A year has gone by since the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) Board of Directors (County Supervisors) authorized the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Estuary Project, a plan to construct a channel to keep salt water from intruding into the Estuary, but allow fresh water to seep out.  The purpose was to raise fresh water levels in the estuary lagoon to benefit the growth of juvenile steelhead fish preparing for their ocean sojurn.
At that Board meeting in mid-August of 2011, representatives of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) made threatening statements to the Board of Supervisors, to the effect that they would be in violation of the Endangered Species Act if they did not approve the project, implying something horrific would happen if they did not approve the EIR.  They also strongly implied that anyone else trying to stop the project would also be in violation. Unfortunately, the Biological Opinion, requiring both the Estuary Project and Fish Flow Project (Low Flow) became federal law without any public environmental review; California Environmental Law is circumvented by the Endangered Species Act.
Nevertheless, RRWPC filed a lawsuit 30 days later challenging the decision, mainly because they had split the Estuary Project EIR off from the Fish Flow Project EIR, claiming that the lowering of flows was separate from the management of the Estuary.  We challenged water quality and recreational impacts repeatedly, but were faced with the fact that the “Fish Flow Project EIR” would address many of the issues we felt were lacking in this first EIR and the new EIR would be released before our case made it to court.
via Russian River at Jenner Estuary Project Lawsuit Settled.

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