Health of South Bay Rivers, Creeks at Risk
What: The Santa Clara Valley Water Board votes to approve controversial EIR
When: 1 pm, Tuesday, August 8
Where: Agenda and live viewing links are here.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Board of Directors is voting tomorrow on whether to approve the environmental impact report for its Fish and Aquatic Habitat Collaborative Effort Project (FAHCE). This vote will come just days after a state court rejected Valley Water’s attempt to dismiss legal challenges to its water management practices. Environmental science organizations and other community interest groups are concerned that a vote to approve the environmental impact report for the project would perpetuate the District’s historic diversion of water from South Bay public waterways, which takes water away from popular recreational uses, and is fatal to local fish populations.
Valley Water is responsible for maintaining the health of area creeks and rivers, and is required under state law to keep fish populations “in good condition,” yet the agency has failed for years to manage its waters in a way that protects fish and wildlife. It routinely diverts water from Stevens Creek, Coyote Creek, and the Guadalupe River to industrial, agricultural, and numerous uses in violation of state law. These illegal diversions have decimated native fish populations.
“The environmental impact report that the Valley Water Board is set to approve fails to address the most basic question: How much water is needed in the creeks and rivers to support healthy fish populations?” observed Baykeeper managing attorney, Eric Buescher. “It doesn’t make sense for the Board to approve a plan designed to protect fish without knowing the specific objective of that plan. As it is now, they’re flying blind.”
San Francisco Baykeeper has sued Valley Water over its inadequate water management practices that violate the California Constitution, the Fish and Game Code, and the public trust. Valley Water asked the courts to dismiss Baykeeper’s lawsuit, but the court last week rejected the agency’s attempt to avoid accountability.
“The inadequate FAHCE project came about because Valley Water agreed two decades ago that it would improve conditions for fish,” Buescher added, “yet after years of study and process, the fish populations and our public waterways are more endangered than ever. It’s time for the agency to face reality and make necessary and long overdue changes to the way it manages—or mismanages—our environment.”