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Protecting Central Valley Steelhead

A male steelhead ready for release.

A male steelhead ready for release.

Photo courtesy of Nils Rinaldi

What’s at Stake

In a case that lasted seven years, Earthjustice succeeded in maintaining Endangered Species Act protection for Central Valley steelhead.


Steelhead once returned from the ocean in the millions every year to the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems in the Central Valley. Today, these fish have been lost from 95% of their historic habitat, and they continue to face threats from unchecked water use, blockage by dams, urban sprawl, and polluted rivers.

A group of irrigation districts filed suit to strip Endangered Species Act protections from steelhead trout that spawn in rivers that flow through the Central Valley in California.

Earthjustice represented fishing organizations and conservation groups trying to maintain the protections.

Case ID


Case Updates

June 16, 2011 | Article

Awash In Water and Profits, Cal Growers Denied More

It’s hard to view the recent actions of some big agricultural operations in California’s San Joaquin Valley as anything but hostile to the state’s wildlife. Some of the biggest growers are refusing to take an overflowing allotment of irrigation water as enough and are cluttering up the court system with lawsuits aimed at wringing every last drop of water for themselves, no matter what damage that causes native fish species. 

October 27, 2008 | Legal Document

CA Steelhead Delisting Rejected Decision

A U.S. District Court judge has rejected an attempt by California irrigators and logging industry groups to strip protected status from five populations of wild steelhead trout.