San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 2009
Two environmental groups sued the federal government Friday seeking greater habitat protections for two San Francisco Bay-delta fish species, one of them the delta smelt, a small but important creature in California's water wars.
One lawsuit asks a federal judge in Sacramento to require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to the groups' March 2006 request to change the delta smelt's status from "threatened" to "endangered." That action would somewhat tighten federal standards for development or water-use permits.
A second suit, filed in San Francisco, challenges the federal agency's decision in April to deny protected status to the bay-delta population of the longfin smelt. The agency said the local population is not a distinct group entitled to protection because some of the fish migrate up the coast to breed with other longfin, a conclusion the environmental groups called a reversal of the government's longtime position.
"Formerly abundant fish at the base of the food chain in the San Francisco estuary are being driven to near extinction," said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suits along with the Bay Institute....
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