AW Intends to File a Citizen Lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act

Posted: 08/10/2012
By: Megan Hooker


On Thursday, August 9th, American Whitewater and Friends of the River notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and PG&E of their intent to sue for violations of the Endangered Species Act at the Pit 1 and Hat Creek Hydroelectric Projects. The projects, located in Shasta County California, have numerous impacts on the endangered Shasta crayfish and have operated without the required permits since 2005.

Shasta crayfish were federally listed in 1988. They are only found in the Pit River Basin, and have been in decline for decades. In addition to invasive crayfish, the species is impacted by the operation of the Pit 1 and Hat Creek Projects, which increase water temperatures, alter flows, and fragment habitat.

This is the latest episode in the saga over summer flushing/whitewater boating flows, which have been cancelled on the Pit River since 2010. Federal agencies are concerned that the flows were harming the endangered Shasta crayfish, but have largely ignored the significant and well-accepted impacts from the hydroelectric projects. Shasta crayfish populations throughout its range have seen perilous declines in the last decade - including populations in areas not impacted by summer flushing/whitewater flows. 

"We support having agencies set stringent standards when it comes to endangered species protection. We just don't like it when those standards are not applied equally to all interests," said Dave Steindorf, California Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. AW and Friends of the River have tried to meet with the agencies to discuss their concerns, but have been denied, contrary to agency policy. 

"We would really like to work this out, and are frustrated that we need to threaten a lawsuit to have a chance to discuss our concerns," said Steindorf. "We hope we can come to the table and find a solution that strikes an agreeable balance between hydropower and recreation that provides for the protection and recovery of endangered species."

- photo by Koen G. H. Breedveld, Spring Rivers Ecological Sciences, LLC, available through Creative Commons.

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