Non-profit “citizen action group” Owens Valley Committee (OVC) filed a lawsuit Feb. 9 against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) challenging the “adequacy” of the DFG’s Hatchery and Stocking Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
A press release from OVC said the lawsuit “focuses on the group’s concerns about the effects of groundwater pumping used to supply DFG’s Black Rock Rearing Ponds and Fish Springs Hatchery,” both of which are located in the Owens Valley.
“Our concern is with the over-pumping to supply the Black Rock and Fish Springs facilities,” said OVC board member Mark Bagley. “Those facilities operated for decades on natural spring flows. Since excessive groundwater pumping by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power dried up the natural springs in the early 1970s, groundwater pumping has supplied those facilities.” He added that the annual average pumping since 1973 to supply the facilities has exceeded the prior natural spring flows by more than 6,000 acre-feet per year at each facility. Water that flows through the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatchery facilities flows directly into the Los Angeles aqueduct system and is exported to Los Angeles.
“There is no data to suggest that the excess flows to the hatchery facilities have provided for increased hatchery production. The data, however, do demonstrate that the excessive pumping has significant environmental effects,” Bagley said. “We’re certainly not trying to shut down the hatcheries. They play an important role in the local economy and in DFG’s statewide hatchery program.”
The OVC lawsuit seeks a court-ordered invalidation of the EIR certification based on four main assertions: 1.) The EIR uses a 2004-2008 baseline, and claims that “only impacts above and beyond the impacts during the 2004-2008 period” will be significant; 2.) The suit says the EIR “fails to provide sufficient detail regarding the foreseeable impacts that will arise from continued groundwater pumping. 3.) The EIR doesn’t include feasible alternatives, such as a plan for groundwater monitoring, and 4.) The DFG failed to adequately consider some of the public comments submitted during the environmental review process.
The EIR, which was certified on Jan. 11, is the first CEQA analysis ever done on the hatchery and stocking program.