Description: Endangered Species Act citizen suit alleging that water diversions and infrastructure harm steelhead and flycatcher.
Wishtoyo Foundation v. United Water Conservation District
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/04/2018 Judgment Download Amended judgment and permanent injunction entered. 09/23/2018 Decision Download United Water Conservation District's actions found to constitute take of Southern California Steelhead but not of flycatcher. Federal Court Found That Water Diversions at California Dam Caused Unauthorized Take of Climate-Threatened Fish. In an Endangered Species Act citizen suit, the federal district court for the Central District of California ruled that the United Water Conservation District’s operation of the Vern Freeman Diversion Dam on the Santa Clara River resulted in authorized take of Southern California Steelhead. The court connected water diversions and operations at the dam to three types of effects that independently and cumulatively constituted take: an inadequate “fish ladder” at the dam that hinders and sometimes blocks upstream migration; the injuring and killing of steelhead as they pass through the dam’s infrastructure; and diminishment of the functioning of the downstream migration corridor. The court noted that the National Marine Fisheries Service had found that climate change was expected to increase air and water temperatures and decrease rain, potentially decreasing suitable habitat for the steelhead and that climate change was likely to exacerbate factors affecting the Southern California Steelhead’s continued existence. The court concluded that the operation and maintenance of the dam and diversion of river flows prevented the recovery of the species. The court found, however, that the plaintiffs did not establish that the defendant caused unauthorized take of flycatcher, a migratory songbird.