On 21 August 2017, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Department of Water Resources (DWR) over the inadequacy of its 80,000 plus page Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the WaterFix project. The project envisions two 35 mile-long tunnels under the Delta to siphon millions of acre-feet of water from the Sacramento River for delivery to southern California cities and farms.
CSPA was joined in the lawsuit by AquAlliance, California Water Impact Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the River, Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Planning and Conservation League, Restore the Delta, Save Our Sandhill Cranes, and Sierra Club California. In all, seventy-eight different plaintiffs, grouped together in twelve lawsuits representing municipalities, counties, water agencies, fishing and environmental organizations sued over the adequacy of the EIR.
The CSPA complaint states that the project approval violates numerous provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, Delta Reform Act, California’s “Fully Protected Species” statutes, and the California Public Trust Doctrine.
The water diversions would significantly degrade environmental conditions in the Delta by reducing flows, increasing the concentration of salinity and numerous pollutants, damaging the food web and promoting harmful algal blooms. They would prevent flows needed for fish habitat and water quality, during critical life stages for protected fish species including chinook salmon, steelhead trout, green sturgeon, and delta and longfin smelt.
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance Executive Director Bill Jennings observed, “The environmental impact report is an 80,000 page omelet of distortion and half-truth pretending that massive water diversions won’t harm this severely degraded estuary. The Delta has already been deprived of most of its natural flow. This project would push native fisheries into extinction and significantly diminish the quality of water to farmers, municipalities and the environment.”