On 6 September 2019, CSPA joined by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Friends of the River, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, Institute for Fisheries Resources and Felix Smith prevailed in a major decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. The lawsuit, initially filed in 2011, maintained that the discharge of substantial quantities of selenium, salts, sulfates, mercury and other pollutants collected from 97,400 acres of farmland within California’s Central Valley required a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The pollutants were discharged into the San Joaquin River, the Bay-Delta Estuary, and ultimately San Francisco Bay.
The Court held that the Clean Water Action exception to discharges from irrigated lands did not apply when discharges were comingled with contaminates from other sources. Because the discharges also included wastes from highways, residences, groundwater and other sources, the exemption did not apply.
CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings observed “After decades of inaction by our federal government to halt the contamination that has destroyed habitat for our fish and wildlife, it is reassuring to see our federal court issue a strong ruling enforcing the Clean Water Act’s mandated for fishable and swimmable rivers.”