A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Thursday upheld the science used in fish protection plans that sometimes cut back water pumping for San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California cities. [Opinion available here]
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturned a 2010 lower court ruling from Fresno, which had held that protections for the delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta were not supported in science.
The decision in Fresno would have forced a rewrite of 2008 protections for the threatened smelt, but there were no assurances that more water would have been made available.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Bay Institute had appealed the Fresno ruling from U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger. On Thursday, environmentalists applauded the appeals court.
"The decision today rejects the notion that water interests can buy a lot of scientific help to go over every fly speck of the science," said lawyer Trent Orr of legal watchdog Earthjustice, which represented the environmental groups. "The smelt protections should be judged on their merits and the science in the record."