On April 15, Judge André Birotte Jr. of the United States District Court for the Central District of California determined that the operation of the Twitchell Dam by the US Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) with certain water flows had not resulted in an illegal take from Southern California Steelhead. trout, a species listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Applicants San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper and Los Padres Forestwatch asserted that the Office’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Twitchell Dam limit the timing and volume of releases from the dam in a way that has reduced trout habitat. and caused damage to the trout population by altering behavioral patterns including reproduction, spawning, rearing and migration.
The 1954 Dam Authorization Act (1954 Act) set its operating priorities for the Bureau, and the district court concluded that the provision of water for species protection was not among “other »Congress priorities. According to the 1954 law and historical sources, the court concluded that the purpose of the dam was to conserve water and that flows to the ocean were considered waste. Since the 1954 Act did not grant the Bureau discretion over water uses, Judge Birotte concluded that the Bureau’s actions under its SOP were not the immediate cause of a seizure. prohibited of a listed species. In addition, the notice stated that “applicants for use [for the protection of species] is not incidental to the express purposes of the project, but rather is an entirely different objective that interferes with the achievement of the express purposes of the project.
This decision underscores the importance of whether a federal agency is deemed to have sufficient leeway to act to protect species listed under the implementing legislation for a given project.