San Francisco, CA
Fishing and conservation groups announced today the filing of a petition in state court to protect native fish populations in Deer Creek, a tributary of the Cosumnes River. At issue is a temperature amendment approved by state and regional water boards allowing the El Dorado Irrigation District to discharge hot effluent from its wastewater treatment plant into the creek, despite the impacts on several coldwater fish species including rainbow trout, chinook salmon, and steelhead trout.
From its headwaters east of Sacramento and north of Highway 50, Deer Creek flows south into Cameron Park Lake and then some 35 miles southwest to its confluence with the Cosumnes River near the town of Elk Grove.
In 1994, a water quality control plan for the Central Valley was enacted that generally prohibited any activity that degraded water quality by increasing temperatures by more than five degrees Fahrenheit. But on May 17, 2006, the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board gave its final approval to an amendment which allows daily maximum temperatures on Deer Creek that are significantly warmer than those permitted under the 1994 plan. Monthly average temperatures for Deer Creek could now exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit in eight out of twelve months, and the amendment threatens to destroy an already imperiled coldwater fishery.
“Deer Creek is an essential coldwater breeding habitat for native fish enjoyed by all Californians, especially anglers in the Delta. Deer Creek should not be treated as a private sewer system for one wastewater treatment plant,” said Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.
“With all the efforts currently underway to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to ecological health, it makes no sense to allow changes that destroy habitats of upstream tributaries. It’s all one watershed and everything is connected,” said Carrie McNeil of Baykeeper’s Deltakeeper Chapter.
George Torgun, an attorney with Earthjustice, is representing the fishing and conservation coalition in court, said, “This temperature amendment fails to protect the coldwater habitat of Deer Creek, and that is not only a violation of the federal Clean Water Act, it is also a misuse of a public resource.”
Read the petition online