As a result of a lawsuit filed by Stanford Law Students and the Center for Biological Diversity, Fish and Game had to run the entire state fish hatchery program through the California Environmental Quality Act process. Now, as a new round of legal wrangling begins, Fish and Game officials expect business as usual for trout planting in the Eastern Sierra.
Fish and Game published a final Environmental Impact Report in January. Since that time three groups have sued Fish and Game over this EIR. As previously reported, the Owens Valley Committee filed suit over the issue of groundwater pumping at the Black Rock Fish Hatchery between Independence and Big Pine. Two other lawsuits, one filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, move beyond this local issue to take on the entire EIR. The Department of Fish and Game had been sued by Stanford law students and the Center for Biological Diversity
The original lawsuit was over the impacts of the state hatchery system on native species like mountain yellow legged frogs, red legged frogs, steelhead and golden trout. When we spoke to Curtis Milliron of Fish and Game, he explained that the Eastern Sierra may be in the best shape of any region in the state as the department has worked for years to preserve native species like the mountain yellow legged frog, the Owens Valley Pupfish, Owens Dace, the golden trout and the tui chub. Stocking has not been impacting these species for decades, Milliron explained.
One issue to be worked out by the courts is when to start the clock as to when impacts of stocking began. Milliron explained that there are some who want the EIR to look at the impacts of 100 years of hatchery operations, while In the EIR, Fish and Game started the clock using the baseline of 2004-2008. Fish and Game believes that the stocking program is best depicted by what were doing now and plan to do in the future, according to Milliron.
This is an issue that is now set to be worked out in the courts.