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Attorney General Lockyer Issues Statement on San Joaquin Water Restoration Settlement

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following statement regarding an historic settlement among California water stakeholders to resolve a battle that has spanned decades to restore the San Joaquin River:

“Today history is being made in a landmark agreement to restore the mighty San Joaquin, California’s second-largest river. Once the lifeblood of the Central Valley, the San Joaquin teemed with native salmon and with riverboats, which ferried goods and people from San Francisco to inland communities. For the first time in 50 years, the San Joaquin will be re-connected to the Bay Delta system, a vital gateway to help bring back one of the largest Chinook salmon runs in the West. This agreement is a victory for the Chinook salmon, for farmers, and for Central Valley communities, which all rely on a stable water supply. It is also a victory for all Californians, who greatly value protecting and restoring the river ecosystems that contribute to both a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

“In addition, the settlement re-affirms California law requiring dam managers, such as the federal government, to sustain through ample water flows all fisheries living downstream. As stated by the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist in a 1978 Supreme Court decision, ‘the history of the relationship between the Federal Government and the States in the reclamation of the arid lands of the Western States is both long and involved, but through it runs the consistent thread of purposeful and continued deference to state water law by Congress.’”

In representing the State Water Resources Control Board for over 15 years in this case, the Attorney General's Office supported the plaintiffs’ argument that the California Fish and Game code requirement that an owner of a dam must release sufficient flow to keep fish below the dam in "good condition" applies to the United States' operation of the Friant Unit. Both the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, and District Court affirmed these arguments.

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