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In Drought-Stricken California, Court Rules Smelt Fish Get Water

03/14/2014 Reuters

Nossaman Partner Paul Weiland was quoted in the Reuters article, "In drought-stricken California, court rules smelt fish get water," commenting on the decision of the California appeals court to side with environmentalists over growers to protect Sacramento Delta smelt by reducing water exports from Northern to Southern California.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court should have been more deferential to the Fish and Wildlife Service and should not have overturned recommendations that the state reduce water exports.  The plan leaves more water in the Sacramento Delta for the fish, but has been blamed for worsening the effects of the drought on humans.

Mr. Weiland represented Kern County Water Agency and a coalition of Central Valley water users in this case. He noted that he hopes the ruling will clear the way for all sides to come together and make progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystems and secure California water supplies.

Mr. Weiland stated, "While these cases are pending it is difficult for the parties to make concessions.  To the extent that this hits the reset button, it works to everyone's advantage in the sense that parties don't have to be sticking to their litigation positions anymore."

Mr. Weiland noted that progress could be delayed if one or more of the parties in the case ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case or ask for a Supreme Court review.

According to the article, the ruling could influence the outcome of other similar pending cases involving the water needs of the state's wild salmon and steelhead trout.

This article also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

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