The Yuba County Water Agency on Wednesday declared that it will challenge new federal rules that require two dams on the Yuba River to be modified for salmon passage.
The agency on Wednesday submitted a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service, citing potential harm to water supplies, water quality and flood control if the dams are modified. The notice is required under the Endangered Species Act, and water agency officials said they hope the notice produces a compromise and avoids court action.
"We really don't want to file a lawsuit," said Curt Aikens, Yuba County Water Agency general manager. "But the issues are so crtiical to us that if we have to, we will."
At issue are two dams operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Englebright and Daguerre point. They were built more than 70 years ago to contain sediment and debris eroded from the Sierra Nevada by hydraulic gold mining.
The National Marine Fisheries Service issued new rules in March, in response to a court ruling, to protect endangered salmon in the river. It ruled that the long-term survival of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in the river is in jeopardy unless the Army Corps to construct a way for the fish to migrate around the dams. The rules state that dam removal is the "preferred approach," but do not require this.
The Yuba County Water Agency operates New Bullards Bar Dam upstream on the Yuba River. This dam is not directly affected by the rules, but the agency argues that flow changes required by the new biological opinion could limit available water supplies. It is also concerned that sediment stored behind the Army Corps dams could cause water pollution and flood control problems if the dams are removed.
"We just received the notice and we are closely reviewing it," said Jim Milbury, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
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