Court Extends Temporary Restraining Order Against Excess Storage Releases From CVP's Trinity River Division

On August 14, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California extended a modified temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting excess releases of stored water into the Trinity River from the Central Valley Project's ("CVP") Trinity River Division.

Citing likely violations of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act's Trinity River Restoration Program Record of Decision ("TRROD") and the National Environmental Policy Act, the court extended the TRO to August 23 after finding “that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable harm that is not clearly outweighed by the equities on the other side."

Some 453,000 acre-feet of CVP water is already being released from the Trinity River Division in 2013 for the benefit of fall-run Chinook salmon in the Trinity River system pursuant to the TRROD. The court extended the TRO despite opposition from the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and federal government contending that the excess CVP storage releases may prevent a possible disease outbreak that could affect Chinook salmon in the lower Klamath River.

The TRO prohibits the Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”) from releasing into the Trinity River up to 109,000 acre-feet of water from storage in the federal CVP's Trinity and Lewiston reservoirs, pending an expedited hearing in which Federal Defendants are ordered to show cause why the modified TRO should not be converted to a preliminary injunction.

In the modified TRO, the court acknowledges the potential economic and environmental harms to Plaintiffs if the water releases go forward, while acknowledging questions about “whether these augmentation flows are truly necessary to prevent fish kills like that experienced in 2002.”

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