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Protect Piru Creek

Piru Creek Update - August 2009

Friends of the River and its conservation ally, California Trout, continue to battle in both federal and state courts to protect Piru Creek’s multiple endangered species and recreation values. Piru Creek is the largest tributary to the Santa Clara River, which is one of the few remaining natural river systems in southern California. The creek supports numerous endangered species and provides outstanding recreational opportunities for the residents of nearby Los Angeles.

In 2005, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) proposed a license amendment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to eliminate flow releases from Pyramid Dam, a State Water Project facility on Piru Creek. The amendment threatens to dry up the creek below Pyramid Dam during drought years, and harm the creek’s endangered species and recreational values. The DWR proposal also would harm a segment of the creek added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act by Congress and President Obama in March 2009.

In response to a lawsuit filed in state court, the California Water Resources Control Board recently reissued its Clean Water Act permit for DWR’s flow regime change, but this time with the necessary findings required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). At a recent meeting of the Water Board, Friends of the River and CalTrout testified that they believe the findings to be erroneous and furthermore, the Board failed to require a supplemental environmental study required by under CEQA in response to new information about the impact of the proposed flow change on all the endangered species found in Piru Creek. Friends of the River and CalTrout intend to renew their state court lawsuit to press for a supplemental study that will address this new information and proposed a flow regime to better supports all the endangered species found in the creek.

Both conservation groups are also pressing for protection of Piru Creek at the federal court level. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld FERC’s denial of late intervention by Friends of the River and CalTrout. Formal intervention with FERC is needed in order to oppose and push for changes in the DWR’s license amendment. Both organizations intend to request a rehearing before the 9th Circuit Court.
 
To date, these legal proceedings have cost Friends of the River and CalTrout thousands of dollars. But we believe that DWR cannot simply dry up a Wild & Scenic River that supports multiple endangered species and ignore the outstanding recreational benefits provided by one of the few catch and release trout streams in southern California.

For more information about this issue, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, (916) 442-3155, sevans@friendsoftheriver.org.

To learn more about Piru Creek, click here.

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