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Federal judge: Russian River dam releases are violating Endangered Species Act

Andrew Graham, PRESS DEMOCRAT

A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has violated the Endangered Species Act by disturbing salmon populations through flood-control releases from Coyote Valley Dam into the Russian River.

Those releases, which relieve pressure upstream from the 66-year-old dam during rainy months, kick up sediment from the bottom of Lake Mendocino, a reservoir that serves as critical water storage for Sonoma County.

The sediment increases turbidity in the river that harms and harasses coho and chinook salmon and steelhead trout in violation of the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to protect the imperiled species, U.S. District Court of Northern California Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled.

Corley ruled on a lawsuit brought by Sean White, who has spent much of his career involved in the Russian River in one way or another, serving as general manager of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District before moving in 2015 to direct sewage and water services for the city of Ukiah.

White brought the lawsuit as a private citizen. The Endangered Species Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, allows for citizens to sue governments, businesses or individuals they believe to be violating the act.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/russian-river-protected-salmon-dam-releases/