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New tack in old battle over California delta pumping

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Add another lawsuit to the the seemingly endless legal battle over pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, the troubled heart of California’s water system.

In a complaint filed Monday in Sacramento County Superior court, two small but dogged environmental groups are taking aim not just at the pumping, but at agribusiness that uses water from the delta on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley.

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The suit argues that irrigation of several hundred thousand acres of west-side land should cease because it violates the state’s constitutional mandate that water be used in a beneficial manner. The land has a high water table and drains poorly, promoting the buildup of toxic elements such as selenium and boron that contaminate farm runoff and make their way into the San Joaquin River and eventually the delta.

The complaint, filed against state and federal agencies by the California Water Impact Network and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, also seeks to curb delta pumping to protect dwindling populations of several species of fish that swim in the delta.

Pumping has already been cut as a result of rulings filed in another environmental case dealing with the tiny delta smelt, which is found only in the delta and is nearing extinction.

Southern California water agencies say the cutbacks, coupled with a parched spring this year, may soon force them to ration water deliveries.

-- Bettina Boxall


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