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A National Academy of Sciences review panel today announced findings that federal protections for salmon and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are scientifically justified. The determination by the panel comes after months of controversy sparked by the plan’s modest restrictions on massive pumps in the Delta. These huge pumps export water to farms and cities south of the Delta, but also cause Delta rivers to run backwards, pulling large numbers of baby salmon and other fish to their deaths.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

It’s a rainy week here in Oakland, as a storm system bestows California with some much-needed H2O. Our short supply of water has meant trouble for salmon. A new video by Salmon Water Now illuminates startling alliances between big agribusiness and the political interests controlling water and the fate of salmon in the San Francisco Bay Delta.

A wholly different marine creature in peril will get some help at last. The NMFS announced it will take measures to protect false killer whales from the commercial longline fishing industry, following years of Earthjustice litigation. Rarely seen by humans, false killer whales are close relations of dolphins.

Mercury pollution is a big problem for aquatic life (and people who eat fish), and a lot of it comes from medical waste incinerators. In September, the EPA set groundbreaking rules that significantly reduce air pollution from this source, but now these rules are being challenged in court. Earthjustice has intervened in the lawsuit.

And, the toxic green slime clogging Florida’s waterways might finally loosen its hold, thanks to a historic first step by the EPA to limit fertilizer, animal waste and sewage pollution in the state. While the proposed limits aren’t as stringent as they could be, they’re a big improvement.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

Today, the Savage Rapids dam—reputedly the worst killer of Rogue River salmon—died a well-deserved death at the hands of those who spent decades seeking its removal. Heavy equipment removed the last barriers, fully opening a channel for river and fish to flow through.

For Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood, who watched today's demolition, this is a sweet day. He spent years litigating its removal on behalf of WaterWatch of Oregon. "This is a great day for the Rogue River, and for its coho and steelhead," Sherwood said.

Here's an eyewitness report on the demolition.

 

In his final years of life, David Brower spoke of the need for Global CPR (conservation, preservation and restoration). What a shame Dave is not around to witness a few major river and stream restoration projects that are upon us.

As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the water buffaloes try to use our drought crisis to pave the way for diverting more precious Sacramento River water to Los Angeles and, especially, San Joaquin Valley growers with their lovely subsidies, some of the same interests are asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to empanel the God Squad.

The Squad, formally known as the Endangered Species Committee, can override the Endangered Species Act in time of great emergency, and the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that the biological opinions that order more water for salmon and smelt, constitute just such an emergency for agriculture. The salmon opinion, in fact, says that not only are protected salmon at risk from not enough water--but Puget Sound killer whales are,too, since the salmon are an important part of theiir diet. PLF has its work cut out for it.

Two experts on the plight of West Coast salmon fielded questions during a 30-minute online question and answer program with dozens of Earthjustice supporters. Attorney Mike Sherwood and media expert/former commercial fisherman John McManus offered insights on matters ranging from dams on the Klamath River to the proposed Peripheral Canal in the Sacramento Delta. Read the full transcript here.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.